This article argues that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's policy changes towards the Muslim Brotherhood were based on their ability to effectively challenge the legitimacy of the regime. This rested on the Islamists’ ability to provide social services via a well-organized structure and network of contact with the ultimate result being that the Muslim Brotherhood garnered a de facto societal legitimacy, if not an official one from the state. In the 1990s, this social Islamist legitimacy was politicized and employed to impel the state to officially recognize the banned Islamists. However, instead of conceding to Islamist pressures, the state launched an offensive campaign to uproot their influence.

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