An article by Jimmy Jancovich, a communist born in Egypt and living in Paris, called “The Egyptian Revolution and the National Bourgeoisie” in Communist Review is a short review of Egyptian history in the last two centuries describing how Egypt has had several economic advantages since Napoleon, but has been held back by British and now US imperialism.
Jankovich describes how, after WW1, a delegation of Egyptian nationalists went to Versailles to attend the Peace Coference in 1919 to ask for independence. Not surprisingly the request was refused and the British Protectorate re-imposed, causing massive protests—like the ones we have seen recently—that were brutally suppressed by our “heroes”, the British army. In the course of all this trade unions and a communist party were set up, but both were suppressed. Even so they sprang up again a decade or so later in the 1930s. Jancovic goes on:
It was in this context of repression of the democratic and egalitarian national movement that the Moslem Brotherhood (Ikhwan el-Muslimeen, in Arabic) was formed as part of the reactionary backlash. For all its anti-British rhetoric, it was part of the repression of the national movement. Even its Moslem pretensions are fake. In fact, the Ikhwan’s ideology developed into a copy of Wahabism, to such an extent that, in the mid-1930s, its leader Sheikh Hassan al-Banna was so severely criticised that he stopped preaching religion and concentrated on campaigning on the Palestine issue in support of Husseini, the pro-Nazi leader of the revolt there.
The Wahabi sect, created in what is now Saudi Arabia, was (and is) so retrograde that, from the outset, it was condemned as heretical by all other Moslem trends—and there are a lot of them—be they Sunni or Shi’ite. It only became respectable when its main disciples, the Saudi Arabian and Qatari ruling clans, became rich enough, thanks to oil and US backing, to buy friends and influence people. The financing of the Moslem Brothers began via purely charitable associations in the 1960s and became more openly political in the 1970s.
This is why I object to the use of the term Islamist or Jihadist to describe these various extreme right-wing terrorist groups. They should be called Wahabists, thus placing the blame where it belongs—at the door of America and its main ally in the region, Saudi Arabia. Al Qaida, et al, were from the start US creations. To call them Islamists is to play their game of pretending that they are the true interpreters of the Islamic religion—and to feed Islamophobia in our own country.
In any case, the Ikhwan was just an extreme rightwing group with a taste for gratuitous violence and assassination, and a habit of doing the monarchy’s dirty work for it, while pretending to be ultra-nationalist. Apart from the Ikhwan’s violence against critics and opponents at local level, it assassinated Prime Minister Nokrashi Pasha, a moderate conservative suspected of links to the more liberal-democratic Wafd (“Delegate”, after the Versailles Independence Delegation) Party. It also organised the Cairo fires in 1952 which provided king Farouk with the excuse he needed to dismiss the Wafdists government and replace it by a more conservative one. It was their attempt to assassinate Nasser in 1954 that almost led to the sect’s extinction and made its leaders flee to Switzerland for asylum—you have to be pretty rich to get accepted as a foreign resident in Switzerland! From there they continue to play their old game in Europe while trying to give it a “modern intellectual” image—for European consumption only.