A Brotherhood Upbringing, Christian Compared

From EgyptSource, a personal testimony of growing up in the Muslim Brotherhood:

The Guidance and Light School, in which I spent my third year of preparatory school after our return from Kuwait, was a Brotherhood school which my father helped establish. Since the 1980s, schooling and educational services had become a key aspect of Brotherhood activities and a means of proselytizing. We followed the same curriculum as the public schools, except that we took two additional courses twice per week; one was entitled ‘The Holy Quran’ and the other was a mixture of Islamic stories and proverbs. The only other change was that Music class was replaced with another class titled ‘Hymns.’

Except for drums and tambourines, musical instruments were banned and discouraged. Flyers and posters hung on the school’s walls warning about the dangers of listening to stringed instruments. The hymns which we were forced to memorize consisted of the most widely known nationalist melodies and songs except any mentions of ‘Egypt’ were replaced with ‘Islam.’ The school was of course populated with the children of local Muslim Brotherhood leaders in addition to other Muslim students of diverse backgrounds.

Only now do I realize that until the age of fourteen, I had never once met a Christian. I was in an exclusive world with its own moral values, worldviews, and perspectives on what it meant to be a good person.

There are many similarities to traditional Christian upbringing in the United States. I never found it to be as insular as described here, but there are parallels. It is important to remember that there is a good and proper place for the inculcation of values, which should happen early before being balanced by a broad and diverse education. Of course, it matters what values are being inculcated.

Here is an example of what the author learned, and why he finally broke from the group:

A Brother brought several copies of the newspaper Elshaab and placed them beside him. Like any other meeting, that day’s session began with one Brother reciting from the Holy Quran, followed by a second interpreting a hadith, and a third explaining an aspect of Islamic jurisprudence. Then the Brother opened the newspaper and read it aloud to the group.

He read that the Egyptian Ministry of Culture had published a novel by the Syrian writer Haidar Haidar. Aside from sexual references, the novel contained heretical insults directed at God and the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him). In response, preparations for public rallies were made which would protest the publication of the novel and demand it be burned.

Word for word, this is what the Brother demanded, and I instantly objected. At that time I was the group’s writer, and I refused to write any chants which called for the burning of this book or any other book for that matter.

To this day, I do not know what compelled me to take this firm stance.

I showed one of them some excerpts from Haidar Haidar’s novel which were published in Elshaab. From what I read, I found his writings ridiculous, but I insisted that this in no way justified it being burned. I entered into a long discussion with the Brothers which developed into shouting. The argument between me and the group’s leader grew increasingly sharp, and in an angry outburst he forbade me from taking such a stance. The argument grew even more hostile, and he told me, “Either give up these books you read and your stance on them, or do not meet with us!”

I left the room, and never went back.

I remember growing up in a culture where the ‘secular humanists’ were out to destroy religion, where popular music was a tool of the devil, and I felt like a rebel because I did a report on Jean-Paul Sarte in high school.

Looking back, I am very thankful for my upbringing, which was full of love and nurture. I went to youth group, memorized Bible verses, attended Christian summer camps, and idealized Ronald Reagan. I recognize in my adult worldview many shades of agreement with the pronouncements of danger I received growing up. I can only imagine many of the Muslim Brothers have similar experiences and warm memories. I’m sure this author does.

There are many points to compare and contrast, and I hope to do so later on in a full essay. But I’m glad to read this very human picture of what it is like to grow up in the Brotherhood. Please do read the whole article.

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