War against the Muslim Brotherhood Divides the Gulf
Abdel Bari Atwan, al-Quds al-Arabi,
11 January 2013
Whoever has been following the media in the Gulf – and the Saudi media in particular – has probably gotten a sense of the fierce campaign being waged against the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamist currents more broadly, as well as the major preachers in the Gulf. Their influence has been on the rise recently thanks to social media such as Facebook and Twitter, and yet the dedicated security apparatuses of the various countries in the region have had a harder time controlling and blocking these outlets than they did with newspapers and websites. Dubai’s chief of police Lieut. Gen. Dahi Khalfan Tamim pioneered this campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood and was one of the first to issue vehement warnings about the danger they represented, but many articles appearing in the Saudi and Emirati press have begun to follow in his wake. This is happening in such a way as to suggest that there are bodies high up in the state that would like to open up a front against them, whether in Egypt – where they are sitting at the threshold of power – or within the Gulf itself.
This war against the Brotherhood, and perhaps later upon the Salafi currents, represents a break with the historical alliance that has existed between conservative Gulf regimes and these figures. This alliance ensured the stability of these regimes and helped combat all the leftist and nationalist ideas that constituted a threat to this stability in the eyes of the rulers. The question that is now on everyone’s mind is why has there been a sudden reversal of opinion in the Gulf against the Muslim Brotherhood ideology, when this ideology was embraced and supported over the past 80 years. In the aim of helping control Gulf youth, Muslim Brotherhood intellectuals and professors were even allowed take over the education sector, set curricula, and establish proselytizing and charitable associations, not just within Gulf countries but throughout the entire world.
How did this relationship of warm, strategic friendship morph into a bitter fight – at least on one side, for now — between the ruling regimes in the Gulf and the Muslim Brotherhood? The response to these questions can be summed up in the following points:
Governments in the Gulf have realized that the Muslim Brotherhood is a “global” movement governed by an international organization. This means that the loyalty of the organization is to the Supreme Guide in Egypt, and not to local authorities, not even to the head of the group in these countries.
The Islamist Muslim Brotherhood has taken control of the process of forming the next generations by setting local curricula. This has led it to dominate the armies and security services, which has left it more prepared than ever to overthrow the ruling regimes and seize power. This is the main fear of the Gulf regimes
With the liberal and leftist currents in Gulf countries weakened by decades of repression and persecution, the organized Islamist currents have become the leading candidates to launch Arab Spring revolutions for change in the countries of the Gulf.
Religious and Brotherhood currents in particular enjoy a financial independence that sets them apart from the other currents, due to their intricate organizational networks and the fact that their backers possess considerable financial resources due to their control of large companies and financial institutions in Gulf countries especially. This has allowed them to combine political and economic power.
Islamist movements enjoy significant support in popular milieus because their ideology centers on the Islamic faith. Their control over mosques — whether directly or indirectly — translates into five miniature daily meetings and one large weekly meeting every Friday.
Non-jihadist Islamist movements – and the Muslim Brotherhood in particular – practice self-control and avoid any collision with the state. This explains the Brotherhood’s silence in Egypt concerning the attacks in which it has been targeted. It has kept calm and sent delegations to the Emirates to solve the arrests crisis through diplomatic means.It was no surprise that Saudi writers accused the Muslim Brotherhood of employing the "principle of taqiyya” among its organizational practices.
Gulf countries – to put it briefly – are worried about the MB’s control of Egypt, Tunisia and Sudan, and its attempts to gain power in Jordan, Yemen and Syria. This would leave the countries of the Gulf surrounded on all sides, and at risk of falling into the new orbit of the Muslim Brotherhood, in a sort of political “domino” effect.