Hamas as a Muslim Brotherhood Movement

By Nathan J. Brown
Submitted to Session P2317 (Perspectives on Islam and Politics in Palestine, Part II, 2010 Annual Meeting
Pol Science
Hamas is treated internationally as a pariah because of the perceived terroristic behavior and extremism of its program. Yet Hamas presents itself quite differently: as a "centrist" (wasatiyya) organization spawned by its "mother movement," the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. Yet even this alternative image of Hamas has its limits: while the movement has recently moved to achieve full membership in the Muslim Brotherhood and has increasingly stressed its fealty to the international confederation of Brotherhood organizations, Hamas was also born in partial reaction against the patterns of behavior established by the Palestinian Brotherhood. And its current status as a majority and governing party in Gaza is forcing it to depart from the Brotherhood model; most Brotherhood branches have deliberately limited their participation in elections (in order to guarantee minority status) and react somewhat warily to the prospect of participating in government.

This paper will place Hamas in comparative perspective to other Muslim Brotherhood movements in the Arab world. Four elements will receive special attention: organizational structure, ideology, electoral participation, and attitude toward governing. The goal is to understand the extent to which Hamas's self-image as a Brotherhood movement elucidates the movement's behavior and the extent to which Hamas's behavior must be explained by other factors.

The paper will rely on a study of ideological documents emanating from the movement, statements of leaders regarding movement goals and decisions, and a close examination of the pattern of Hamas decision making at critical points (the decision to form Hamas; the construction of a separate armed wing; the establishment of the Islamic complex in Gaza; the decisions to abstain from and enter elections at various points; the composition of an electoral platform; the seizure of power in Gaza in 2007; the decision to seek separate status within the international Muslim Brotherhood organization).