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Just "Helping": Rethinking the Relation between the Society of the Muslim Brothers and the State in the Aftermath of 2011 Uprisings
Religion has long catalyzed political mobilization. Scholars have questioned how and under what conditions religion compels people to challenge or reproduce social orders. In the aftermath of the 2011 Arab uprisings, Islamic movements capitalized on their growing cultural power to acquire political power while promising a new social order. The new social order, scholars and leaders of the movement argue, is based on a legitimate Islamic democratic project that is in opposition to that of the modern/secular state. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork among rural dwellers in and around the village of al-Ab`adiyya Wālī Mizār in Fayyūm governorate from August 2011 until 2017 in this presentation, I will trouble this opposition. Focusing on the relationship between the Society of Muslim Brothers, the leading Islamist movement in Egypt, and the ‘state’ in al-Ab`adiyya, I argue that the counter-hegemonic strategies that the Society employed over the years inadvertently positioned them as vital agents of the ‘state.’ Members of the MB occupied critical positions in the village- and district-level bureaucracies provided welfare services through charity work, and ran the post-uprisings elections as, in lieu and/or on behalf of the ‘state.’ The paper thus contributes to an understanding of how religious movements are refracted through local contexts with specific social, political, and economic dynamics.
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