Martyn Frampton


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

Cover Interview of May 14, 2018

A close-up

The book ended up longer than I anticipated—in part because the evidence that I accumulated in Cairo, London, and Washington, proved to be so rich and the story so compelling (and because I had a very tolerant and sympathetic editor at HUP!). Partly because of this, I took care to make sure that the introduction and conclusion, if read together, provided succinct but thorough overviews of the key themes that run throughout the book. I thought back to my days as an undergraduate, when often, it was the only part of a book I had time to digest, and I wanted to make sure that someone with limited time, or perhaps just browsing, could glean the essentials from those critical chapters.

Beyond that, I think readers will be guided in their approach by those areas of greatest interest to them. Chapter 8, for example, which covers the period from 1989 down to 2010, is of the greatest immediate chronological relevance to those considering contemporary policy challenges. Conversely, those wanting to understand in greater depth, the way that the Brotherhood thinks about “the West” will want to read Chapter 1, which deals with this issue during the formative era of the group. (One of the insights of the book is the remarkable degree of ideological continuity that the Brotherhood demonstrates on this issue.)

Personally, Chapter 2 was perhaps the section of the book I enjoyed writing the most. This covers the period 1940 to 1944, and examines the debates taking place among British officials—both political and military, in Egypt and in London—over the Brotherhood, and the best way of dealing with them. Particularly interesting to me was tracing the genesis of a strand of thinking within officialdom that later became far more widespread. This favored engagement with, and perhaps even patronage of, groups like the Brotherhood—on the assumption that they might thereby be tamed, and perhaps even brought to “moderate” or “liberalize” their behavior. In the 1940s, that viewpoint does not prevail, but it is fascinating, I think, to hear it being debated at that time. So, I would perhaps recommend this chapter as a good snapshot of the book’s substantive content.