In the science and art of marketing, there is a significant saying often used by major multinational companies, along the lines of “think globally, act locally.” The precise meaning of this saying is that an alluring, clear and dazzling slogan must first be agreed upon, and then leeway is given to the company’s different branches across the world in line with the circumstances in each specific country, the status of the market, and the target customers. For example, branches of the well-known fast food company “McDonalds” in the Philippines once served the famous Italian dish spaghetti together alongside their famous hamburgers, as spaghetti was extremely popular among the Filipino people, as in other parts of the world. What applies to this giant company also applies to other companies.
I remembered this whilst regarding with astonishment and wonder the exceedingly disparate attitudes of the Muslim Brotherhood branches across the Middle East, in accordance with the countries they are based in. For example, we have seen the new discourse of al-Nahda party in Tunisia, which has moved to adopt an explicit civil discourse to the extent that the current government, of which the Brotherhood constitutes the majority, says that Sharia law will not be the main source of the country’s new constitution. Of course, everyone also saw the extremely significant historical declaration that the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood issued in a striking press conference held in the Turkish capital Istanbul. In this declaration, the Brotherhood pledged to take into consideration the absolute rights of minorities in Syria, to never allow the majority to prevail at the expense of others, and to give full and equal citizenship rights to everyone, regardless of racial, ethnic or religious orientation. Such a discourse represents a dramatic turnaround from the Brotherhood’s traditional rhetoric, which is clearly apparent in Egypt for example, where there is currently a political impasse, arousing the fears and criticisms of other parties affiliated to different minorities and political currents. The Brotherhood in Egypt is overtly and explicitly seeking to dominate all posts and powers until it transforms into the reincarnation of the former ruling National Democratic Party, which the Egyptian people revolted against and ousted from power on account of its neglect for their voices, and for denying them the right to participate in deciding the country’s future.
There is also the Brotherhood movement in Kuwait that developed its own special blend taking into consideration the country’s circumstances and mixing this with tribal elements, in order to establish a support base. There are also Brotherhood movements in Jordan and Morocco that rely primarily on universities and unions, without having much influence upon general political discourse.
Of course, the Brotherhood is also active in Yemen, where it relies on the old legacy that gained a foothold in the country through Hassan al-Banna’s disciples, and then became part of the core of Yemen’s tribal structure. The Brotherhood “exploited” this situation and formed a truly unique Brotherhood discourse, especially for Yemen.
It is not acceptable anymore to say that there is one Muslim Brotherhood discourse, for when the slogan “Islam is the Solution” was applied on the ground; it was clear that there were dozens of ways to interpret it. This controversial issue continued to be the subject of debate for decades and produced nothing, as Islam has no political legacy, and politics has nothing to do with the core of religion. Accordingly, politics is purely a secular issue, and this is becoming clear in the various Brotherhood movements and their pragmatic and Machiavellian approaches. The Muslim Brotherhood is a political company that is searching for its customers. It keeps diversifying its goods according to the tastes of its customers and their changeable moods. What was once forbidden has become acceptable today, and so the Brotherhood continues to prove to us that it can produce enough excitement, diversity and adaptability to make us say “You won’t be able to look away.”