Although the Muslim Brotherhood is officially opposed to Al Qaeda and tends to take a legalist and democratic approach to obtaining power, the organization is nevertheless very radical and many radical Muslims gravitate to the MB as the only game in town. In turn, as they radicalize in the MB, the more radicalized people spin off to Al Qaeda, ISIS and other radical jihadi groups. Then some of the Al Qaeda people spin back into the Brotherhood, this time hiding their radical views.
It is not well known, but Hamas is nothing less than the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood. The MB is illegal in Saudi Arabia, Syria and Qatar. They led an uprising in 1982 in Syria where 30,000 people were killed. The survivors went to Europe and also to Saudi Arabia where they met up with Egyptian MB members who were working and teaching in the Kingdom. These MB religious folk were then in turn influenced by the allegedly quietist Wahhabism, the official doctrine of Saudi Arabia. The MB religious teachers then supercharged Wahhabism while Wahhabism itself radicalized the MB teachers in terms of Islamic doctrine. It was this mixture of the Ikhwan and Wahhabism that eventually morphed into bin Laden’s Al Qaeda. From and around Al Qaeda all sorts of other radical jihadi groups emerged, especially in Iraq and Syria. Most of the groups in Syria are either Al Qaeda linked or inspired or if not, are not a great deal different from Syrian Al Qaeda, now called Al Nusra.
Another origin of Al Qaeda was in Egypt where as above, the MB served as a nursery of sorts for Islamic radicals. Radicals kept spinning off the MB and forming more radicalized splits. Sayed Qutb was one of the first, and Al Qaeda is simply Qutbism writ large. He was executed by Nasser in the 1950’s.
Another split occurred in the late 1970’s, when another radical group spun off of the MB and evolved into various factions. One of these factions developed the Qutbist notion that the entire Muslim world was now living in a state of jahaliyya or pre-Islamic ignorance. The entire society of Muslim Egypt was tainted by infidel and anti-Islamic influences. Some of these people dropped out of society and went to live like hermits in caves in the desert. They saw the entire society as corrupt and evil, so they had no alternative but to completely drop out of it and live in isolated hermitage like early Christians.
It was here that Zayman al-Zawahiri, the Egyptian eye surgeon and bin Laden’s 2nd in command, got his start. He developed some followers in the city he lived in and he eventually dropped out of society and went to live in caves with the rest of the radicals.
Around this time, a lot of these radicals got wrapped up in plot to assassinate Anwar Sadat, mostly for the crime of making peace with Israel. The assassins, of which there were several, were ex-MB members who had spun off from the group. About 1,000 radicals were rounded up after the assassination. Al-Zawahiri was one of them. There is footage of a wild-eyed Zawahiri in a crowded jail cell with ~40 other men. He is gripping the cell bars and shouting along with many others.
After his release, Zawahiri went on to form the Egyptian Islamic Jihad. This and several other very radical jihadi groups waged war on the Egyptian state in the early 80’s. Zawahiri’s movement, which had ~1,500 members, was crushed by the state. Jihadis were taken out into the Egyptian desert, tied to a pole and left there. It didn’t take long for them to perish from lack of food or water. In this way, the movement was crushed. Zawahiri fled Egypt and may have taken up with bin Laden in Sudan for a while.
The remains of Islamic Jihad combined with the nascent Al Qaeda forming in the Kingdom via the mixture of Egyptian and Syrian MB and Saudi Wahhabis to form the nucleus of the early Al Qaeda.
Al Qaeda got increasingly radicalized during bin Laden’s stay there. Finally both men went to Afghanistan for the Afghan jihad which radicalized huge numbers of Muslims all over the world, mostly in the Arab World. As they fought in Afghanistan, they become increasingly radicalized. Zawahiri had always argued for fighting the “near enemy” first – the secular Arab regimes, but bin Laden’s radical theory was to switch from a war only against the near enemy to a war against the “far enemy,” which bin Laden called the US for its support for Israel and the secular Arab dictatorships.
The MB is hated and outlawed in Qatar and Saudi Arabia more on the grounds of rivalry than anything else. Qatar and the Saudis see the Ikhwan as a threat to royal power. After a military coup overthrew the elected MB government in Egypt, the new leader Sisi has formed a major alliance with the Saudis and the Qataris. The Saudis have responded by flooding Sisi’s government with oil money.
In Jordan, most of the Parliament is made of the MB members, which is one reason why the powers of the Parliament have been severely limited by the King.
The MB is quite active in north Lebanon near Tripoli where Lebanon’s 20% Sunnis live. These people have become increasingly radicalized and are now engaged in open warfare with Alawis living in some of these cities. Some of these Sunnis also seem to have gone to Syria to join up with the jihadi groups. The MB in this part of Lebanon is known for its dislike of Lebanon’s Shia and Hezbollah.
The MB was formed by Hassan Al-Banna, an Egyptian schoolteacher, in 1922. It is one of the oldest radical Muslim groups in the world.