The Hudson Institute hosted an all-day event addressing the future of the Muslim Brotherhood in
light of recent developments, such as the election of Hamas in Gaza and Iran's new assertiveness
in the region. Panel topics included "The Brotherhood within the Sunni-Shiite Rivalry," "The
Brotherhood State in Gaza and Its Impact on Islamist Politics," "The Brotherhood and the
Turkish Model," and "The Brotherhood in an Era of Al-Qaeda's Relative Decline." The
following notes are focused on the second panel, "The Brotherhood State in Gaza and Its Impact
on Islamist Politics," which included Jonathan Schanzer of the Jewish Policy Center; Ahmed
al-Rahim, a Yale graduate and scholar of Arabic and Islamic studies; and was moderated by
Hassan Mneimneh of the Hudson Institute.
In discussing the compatibility of Islamist movements and democracy the panelists outlined the
implications of the electoral victory of Hamas. Jonathan Schanzer addressed the current
breakdown in governance and the "systemic violations of human rights" that have taken hold in
Gaza since Hamas assumed power. From the imposition of vice squads and vigilante groups that
seek to maintain moral order to the closing down of newspapers critical of the government –
Schanzer termed the current situation as the "Talibanization of Gaza." The implementation of
two separate Palestinian governments and limited interaction between the West Bank and Gaza
are leading to an erosion of Palestinian national identity. Schanzer explained that the rivalry
between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority can be traced back to the creation of Hamas as an
offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. He pointed out that the Muslim Brotherhood has essentially
done what many have accused Israel and the West of doing – dividing the Palestinians so that
they are weakened and harder to negotiate with.
Meanwhile, Ahmed al-Rahim focused his talk more on the Muslim Brotherhood. He explained
that it is not a monolithic organization but more pragmatic, consisting of regional, independent
offshoots with varying policies adapted to local issues. While not an official political party the
Brotherhood has adopted the electoral process and has met relative success in this endeavor
(especially with Hamas, its affiliate in Gaza); however, because it is not formally recognized as a
political party it can maintain its status as a social movement.
As the Muslim Brotherhood and broader Islamist movement seeks to incorporate different
elements of democracy, the panelists questioned whether this could lead to a broader, long-term
acceptance of democracy or would this acceptance end after electoral victory. As the process is
ongoing and relatively new, the answer to this question remains to be seen.