Politics and the Brotherhood in the Sadat Era

When President Nasser passed away in September 1971, a confluence of factors made conditions conducive to the spread of Islamist politics. The the defeat of 1967 was widely portrayed by Islamists as God’s punishment for the departure from religion, the secularism of Nasser’s regime, and the on-going government persecution of Islamists. Sadat was no match for Nasser’s charisma, and he understood that the strength of various leftist, Nasserite, and nationalist groups could undermine his regime’s legitimacy. To counterweigh the strength of these groups, Sadat opened up the political space for Islamists, released their leaders from prison, and encouraged them to take over trade and student union bodies from the leftist and pro-Nasser groups. In 1976, Sadat allowed opposition parties to function. Umar al-Tilmisany, the third general guide of the Brotherhood between 1972 until 1986, supported the politically moderate, as opposed to the Jihadi, orientation of the group, but he still failed to overturn the 1954 ban on the Brotherhood. Hence, the Muslim Brotherhood remained a banned group, but they were able to recover some prominence. Soon enough though, a number of militant groups turned against Sadat for his failure to implement Sharia law and his having made peace with Israel.  These groups, and not the Brotherhood, were responsible for Sadat’s assassination in 1981.

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