Since its founding in 1928, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood has been a persistent object of fascination. At best, that fascination stems from legitimate curiosity about a resilient, long-lived, and influential organization; at worst, it descends into predictable Orientalist concerns, if not outright Islamophobia. What is often lacking in conversations about the Brotherhood, however, is actual information. Between Egypt's grinding authoritarian restrictions and the Brotherhood's defensive secrecy, careful research on the subject has never been easy—and has only gotten more difficult in recent years.
Victor J. Willi offers a new solution to this problem. Unsatisfied with conventional sources—Brotherhood leaders and accessible Egyptian elites—he instead grounds his account in a series of oral history interviews with mid- and low-level Brotherhood cadres. The result is compelling: a modern history of the organization from the inside and from below. The activists' perspectives make for a nuanced account that will educate and surprise even those who know Egypt well. Willi's gift for exposition further enhances The Fourth Ordeal; in his hands, even well-trodden territory feels fresh and engaging. He treats the progression of Islamic modernism from Jamal al-Din al-Afghani to Rashid Rida, for example—boilerplate material for every
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Winning Hearts and Votes: Social Services and the Islamist Political Advantage, Steven Brooke Reviewed by Sofia Fenner
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