Martyn Frampton


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

Cover Interview of May 13, 2018


The book is written first and foremost as a work of academic history, and I endeavored to maintain the highest standards of rigor and objectivity. Equally, though, I was only too aware that its subject matter is of direct political relevance today, and that the policy debates I examined in the latter sections of the book remain “live”. I hope that the book can offer a fresh perspective on those more contemporary debates.

Moreover, I think the issues that are at stake are likely to be of enduring importance. The outworking of the Arab Spring has encouraged a view in some quarters, I think, that the Muslim Brotherhood and its brand of “mainstream” Islamism has been eclipsed. It is tempting to think that it has been overtaken by more exotic, violent groups like ISIS. Equally, the Brotherhood’s removal from power in Egypt could be seen as marking the end of the movement as a socio-political force. And yet, there are reasons to hesitate from making such a judgment. The Brotherhood has a long history of surviving repression, and while it may not reappear in exactly the same form as previously, it may be premature to write its epitaph. For this reason, western policymakers and analysts will likely still have to confront the challenge of dealing with the Brotherhood—or a movement of its ilk. That being the case, I think they can be well serviced by a better appreciation of the historical relationship between the West and the Brotherhood of the kind on offer here.

Within the academy, meanwhile, I hope the book will be seen as a useful contribution to the literature on the Brotherhood, and that it opens up further lines of inquiry into the subject. There is still so much that scholars have yet to explore about this group; it is striking that the book everyone still refers to as seminal, was Mitchell’s 1969 study. Without in any way wishing to diminish the importance of that brilliant book, I think this speaks to the gaps that remain to be filled, notwithstanding the invaluable efforts of scholars like Carrie Wickham, Hazem Kandil, Khalil al-Anani and Beth Baron. My own book can hopefully be read as providing important insights into an otherwise neglected dimension of the Brotherhood’s history.