The Muslim Brotherhood was started in Egypt in 1928, after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, as an anti-colonial, transnational Sunni Islamist movement to integrate Islam into politics and governance. Thus, the group believes that the Quran and Sunnah should be the basis of government, and Islamic governments should strive toward the caliphate. This, according to its founders, is a conservative practice of Islam that segregates male and female students, cracks down on dress code, includes "the prohibition of dancing and other such pastimes," and prohibits women or Coptic Christians from being president of Egypt. To the Brotherhood, many of the Muslim nations have become too secular. The group's motto is: “Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. Qur'an is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.”
The Brotherhood has branches in 70 countries and reaches out for new followers via prayer meetings, social engagements, civic work and political involvement. Its founder, schoolteacher and imam Hassan al-Banna, saw the revivalist movement as a populist tool for social justice, advocating for workers and founding hospitals and schools. During World War II members spied on the British for the Nazis and also distributed Arab-translated copies of Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf." In 1948, Egyptian Prime Minister Mahmud Fahmi Nokrashi ordered the dissolution of the Muslim Brotherhood. Soon after, he was assassinated by a member of the Brotherhood. Then Al-Banna was killed, with his supporters linking the death to the government. In 1954, the Brotherhood was convicted of trying to kill secular Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser. At this point it became an illegal party, banned from elections, though its members have run as independent candidates and the Brotherhood today is the largest opposition party in Egypt.
The Brotherhood is hardly limited to Egypt, though. During the growth of the organization and spurred by troubles in Egypt, members spread out to Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, the Palestinian territories, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and more. The mujahedin movement that fought the Soviets in Afghanistan was linked to the Brotherhood. Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Egyptian doctor who serves as the No. 2 man in al-Qaeda, was a member of the Brotherhood, and Hamas was founded as the Palestinian offshoot of the Egyptian Brotherhood. There are actually three members of Israel's Knesset that hail from the Islamic Movement, which sprang from the Muslim Brotherhood. In the United States, the Muslim Brotherhood helped establish the Muslim Students Association. The Brotherhood has also ably used the Internet to spread its message across the globe.
Today, the Brotherhood states as its two key principles: "1) The introduction of the Islamic Shari`ah as the basis controlling the affairs of state and society. 2) Work to achieve unification among the Islamic countries and states, mainly among the Arab states, and liberating them from foreign imperialism."