Martyn Frampton


On his book The Muslim Brotherhood and the West: A History of Enmity and Engagement

Cover Interview of May 14, 2018

The wide angle

In examining the evolving relationship between the West and the Brotherhood from the perspective of both sides, I was conscious of the fact that my subject did not fit easily within established historiographical boxes. I tried to engage with a range of literatures. First and most obviously, I hoped to provide a new perspective on the history of the Brotherhood itself and the worldview of Islamism more broadly. In this regard, the works I aspired to emulate were those classic studies of the Brotherhood by scholars like Richard Mitchell and Brynjar Lia. The first objective I set myself with this book was to understand better the mindset of the Brothers—to comprehend how they viewed the world.

Secondly, I think the book offers an insight into Anglo-American foreign policy-making towards Egypt, and in the Middle East generally, during the “long” twentieth century. One of the key themes of the book is the way in which the British and the Americans have deployed a particular “language of diplomacy” when trying to secure their interests. At the core of this is the effort to uncover, or anoint “moderates” with whom they can work, as opposed to “extremists” who were to be opposed or defeated. Reflections on the Brotherhood were usually framed with this paradigm in mind. And where once it was almost invariably classed as an “extremist” organization, latterly there have been a number of debates about its putative “moderation”. Often, these debates have involved a kind of “Kremlinology”—the attempt to delineate internal “moderates” and “extremists” within the Brotherhood. In all of this, we can learn something important about the Anglo-American method of foreign-policy making and force projection. And in this regard, my book built on important insights from scholars like Robert Holland and John Darwin (in the British context), and Matthew Jacobs and Peter Hahn (for the US). Relatedly, the book also offers a perspective on how both the British and American governments have considered ‘Islam’ in policy terms—and in so doing, builds on recent invaluable studies by William Inboden and Andrew Preston.