The role of the International Muslim Brotherhood (IMB) may be shifting to become the center of the movement’s sphere in the post-Mohammed Morsi era. The arrests of most of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood leaders not only created total organizational chaos in the IMB, but also implicitly encouraged an already existing group among the IMB leadership to assert more influence. This grouping consists of the International Shura Council (ISC) and the International Guidance Bureau (IGB). The ISC, which is similar to the Central Committee, is composed of around 130 members (90 of them are Egyptians), and the IGB has 13 members (8 of them are Egyptians).
The 1970’s and 1980’s witnessed the rise of the so-called the European wing of the IMB, this wing, which was comprised of European Islamic organizations affiliated with the movement, but this faded quickly when the “mother organization” in Egypt asserted its leadership over the European organizations.
It was the role of two former Mursheds (Guids), Mustafa Mashhur (1996-2002) and Mohammed Mahdi Akef (2004-2010) that resulted in the brief rise of the European wing (when Akef was the Imam of Munich, Germany Mosque). But it was also their role that put the Egyptians into almost absolute control over the IMB.
The brief European period was important for developing the Egyptian MB’s financial capabilities: they gained time and some seed money to build a vast national network of companies and profitable fronts. According to Egyptian records, some 8000 MB-affiliated companies were under surveillance by Mubarak’s security forces.
Things now appear to be gradually changing. Reducing Egyptian control over the IMB will be slow and difficult, but the Egyptian “mother organization” has lost a substantial part of its ideological supremacy and immunity after its tragic failure in ruling Egypt.
This, in turn, affects the IMB. While there have been voices in the IMB since about 2009 calling for a greater degree of independence from the mother organization, there had been no sign this would happen. When the Egyptian leaders were arrested after Morsi’s ouster, the IMB quickly rushed to assist the Egyptian brothers in their moment of need, but at the same time, the center of gravity shifted more to the International. This may now shape new realities and make the return to the status quo ante more difficult.
The fact that a troika of Egyptians—Ibrahim Munir, Jom’a Amin and Mahmoud Ezzat— presently leads the IMB does not silence questions about the MB’s failure in Egypt nor about the validity of continuing the Egyptian absolute rule over the international organization.
Today, London, Doha, Istanbul and Lahore, not Cairo, host the majority of IMB support activities done for the mother organization. And, for operational purposes, the IMB has formed a new branch called the Islamic Council. This Council is meant to be the nucleus of a wider coalition that is able to enlist non-MB groups in a tactical joint platform and also to work to solve theological differences between the different participants.
It is difficult to predict the consequences of the two parallel developments: the MB’s failure in Egypt and the rise of the IMB’s role. We may find a real Islamic “International” taking the center stage away from the old stars of the movement. But the focus of the MBs everywhere has now shifted away from always following the course of their Egyptian brethren to viewing how the IMB will save them. That may point to a potential structural change in the MB movement worldwide.