European Eye on Radicalization
After a long career steeped in the Muslim Brotherhood and its ideology, Ahmed Ibrahim Munir Mustafa, better known as Ibrahim Munir, passed away on 4 November 2022.
Munir was born in 1937 in the city of Mansura, Egypt. He graduated from the Faculty of Arts at Cairo University in 1952, and worked for a period in the agricultural establishment.
Munir joined the Muslim Brotherhood at an early age and became involved in their violent activities. He took part in many Brotherhood activities, in Egypt and abroad.
Frequent Prosecutions for Acts of Violence
Munir was prosecuted and sentenced to prison many times in his life. In 1955, at the age of 17, he was sentenced to prison because of his involvement in the assassination attempt against Egypt’s ruler, Jamal Abdel Nasser. A decade later, in 1965, he was arrested as a member of the Brotherhood organization then-led by Sayyid Qutb, and Munir was brought to trial, where he was sentenced to ten years in prison in what was known at the time as the case of “the revival of the Brotherhood”.
Munir was released from prison in 1975 and left Egypt, first to the Gulf region and afterwards to the United Kingdom in the early 1980s, where he applied for political asylum. Upon his arrival to the UK, Munir continued his support to the Brotherhood activities and tried to establish a front in the UK to represent the Brotherhood in Western countries. Munir’s work intended to infiltrate the UK and other states of the European Union, to try to convince the Muslims living there to adopt the Brotherhood’s ideology and to partake in its activities and goals.
During the era of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak (r. 1981-2011), Munir was again brought to trial, charged as part of a case against the international organization in 2009. The court sentenced him at that time to five years in prison. During the brief presidency of Brotherhood operative Mohamed Morsi, a pardon was issued for Munir in August 2012.
In September 2021, the Public Prosecution office in Egypt referred Munir in absentia, as well as Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, Mahmoud Ezzat, and 23 other Brotherhood defendants in Case No. 1059, to the Emergency State Security Criminal Court. The Egyptian authorities accused them of being, between 1992 and 2018, inside and outside Egypt, part of a “terrorist group that aims to use force, violence, threats, and intimidation at home with the aim of disturbing public order”.
Division Between Ibrahim Munir and Mahmoud Hussein
The Brotherhood has reached a state of virtual collapse. Since Ibrahim Munir was chosen as the group’s acting Supreme Guide, days after the Egyptian security services arrested the former leader Mahmoud Ezzat in August 2020, the group has been in disarray. Munir, based in London, dissolved the General Secretariat and formed a committee to manage the group, but a faction of the Brotherhood in Istanbul, led by Mahmoud Hussein, protested this move. The crisis deepened as the faction around Hussein declared him the acting Guide, and the Hussein faction then began trying to seize the financial resources and administrative and organizational levers within the Brotherhood.
Hussein’s faction has even called on the group’s youth in Egypt and Turkey to renew their pledge of allegiance to Mohamed Badie, who is still formally the Brotherhood’s Supreme Guide, despite his arrest in 2013 for his involvement in terrorist activity. (It was after Badie’s arrest that Ezzat became the de facto leader.) One researcher, Ahmed Ban, has argued that the key to resolving the Brotherhood schism is a ruling from the group’s imprisoned leaders in Egypt; only that could give Munir or Hussein the legitimacy they need to stabilize their position. But this underlines the trouble the Brotherhood is in.
On 12 July 2022, the Muslim Brotherhood announced in a statement to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s Shura Council that Munir’s membership in the Brotherhood had been suspended, that he no longer represented the Brotherhood, and gave as the reason his “non-compliance with the decisions of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Shura Council and the formation of parallel entities far from legitimate entities.” This decision was rejected by Munir and a sizeable group within the Brotherhood.
Whatever the outcome of this conflict, this is an unprecedented public disagreement: in the history of the Brotherhood there has obviously been prior internal disagreement at the leadership level—but it has always remained private. The Munir and Hussein dispute has been completely public, and played out over many months, gravely damaging the group.
The Successor of Ibrahim Munir
The death of Munir is a significant symbolic event for the Brotherhood, the loss of an important and long-standing, if controversial, figure within the organization. It has been announced that Mohieddin Muhammad Mahmoud al-Zayt will temporarily succeed Ibrahim Munir as leader of the Muslim Brotherhood faction in London until a new person is appointed. Mahmoud El-Zayt, an Egyptian national, helped Munir run the Brotherhood’s Supreme Committee, and was part of the administrative management in Munir’s absence.
Al-Zayt is considered one of the participants in the “second founding” of the Brotherhood in the 1970s, along with Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, and had earlier been one of the leaders of al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya. Many analysts consider al-Zayt to have the support of internal administrative offices because he does not engage in the group’s internal disputes. However, given his modest experience in the organizational issues of the group, it is unclear if he will be able to withstand the pressure from Hussein’s faction.
Al-Zayt is, as well as one of the most prominent figures in the Muslim Brotherhood, a prominent figure in its cases of terrorism and violence. His name is included on the lists of Brotherhood-related terrorist activity, and he was convicted in several criminal cases by Egyptian courts. Al-Zayt has claimed that he and his group will not struggle for power in Egypt, as an attempt to restore image of the Muslim Brotherhood as victims and ascetics, an image based on deception, given their real intentions and goals.
Practically speaking, Munir’s death is unlikely to lead to the healing of the rift, and unity behind Hussein, because the internal crisis is not a personal issue around Munir: it is related to a deep disagreement within the whole organization about the Brotherhood’s tactics, vision, and goals in an environment where the Brotherhood is, East and West, much restricted by security and political measures than at any time in its history.