Let us begin by emphasizing that the best known Islamic Party in the Muslim world, al-Ikhwan al-Muslimeen (the Muslim Brotherhood), is not an agent of any foreign or imperialist power or government.
Let us begin by emphasizing that the best known Islamic Party in the Muslim world, al-Ikhwan al-Muslimeen (the Muslim Brotherhood), is not an agent of any foreign or imperialist power or government. Some individuals in the worldwide Islamic movement of the past two decades have convinced themselves that al-Ikhwan al-Muslimeen are agents of Saudi Arabia, and thus of America. Regrettably, they are not on the mark here because it is not that simple. Let us explain what this means.
First, let us understand some of the terms more clearly. An agent is a person or organization that knowingly and willingly works for a (anti-Islamic) government or sub-government department, for reasons that are Machiavellian or mutually agreeable or in the general interest of the ultimate (Islamic) end. Al-Ikhwan al-Muslimeen does not fit this definition, even though at times they have come very close to it. In the past, their disqualification was due to their ideological principles; more recently it is due to their assumption that they are playing politics with their opponents. There have been many sincere and dedicated members of the Ikhwan who bailed out of the party simply because they saw it lacking vitality and energy. Others felt that politically, the Ikhwan were dragging their feet, lacked resolve and did not have the spine to launch or sustain a struggle.
The internal lines of communication within the party are clogged. Their prima facie shura is limited to their top-tier leadership in Egypt, which has not only alienated the lower rungs of the organization, but has also resulted in breakaway Islamic organizations in such countries as Sudan, Syria, Algeria, and even in Egypt itself.
When one takes a closer look at the Ikhwan, one is both sorry and disgruntled at their performance throughout the past half-century or more. Despite undergoing many trials and tribulations, the most striking circumstance that has shaped the Ikhwan’s attitude in the last 60-odd years has been their reaction to the brutal and humiliating treatment of detention, torture, and exile by successive Egyptian regimes. Their long years of guarded patience and passive resistance have gained them the popularity they are now using to good effect. There are many chapters and sagas to this history — some of which are too long to breach, and others that are only for “off-the-record” remarks.
For our purposes, we turn to a current issue that has been in the public eye for the past few weeks, and that is the Ikhwan openly finding itself, all of a sudden, in the political arena — generally as it pertains to the popular awakening during the past year, and more particularly as it dovetails with the Syrian context and its ramifications in the Persian Gulf tribal states. It all came to the surface when a number of Syrian expatriates demonstrated against their country’s diplomatic mission in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This incident developed into a heated exchange of words between officials of the UAE on one side and the Ikhwan (primarily from Egypt) on the other.
The words then escalated into “threats”. This led the UAE to withdraw citizenship from certain “Islamists” (Ihwanis) who were perceived to be a threat to the cohesion of the statelets that make up the UAE. Reacting to this, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qardawi came out publicly to denounce the UAE and its expulsion of members of the Syrian Ikhwan.
To further demonstrate that there is no love lost between the Ikhwan and some Khaliji officials, the Dubai Chief of Police, Mr. Dahi Khalfan, threatened to legally pursue Sheikh al-Qardawi if he ever were to set foot in the UAE again. Rubbing it in, Mr. Khalfan reminded his listeners of his version of events saying that al-Qardawi eloped with a young (Algerian) girl, thus dealing a black-eye to his personal history.
Al-Qardawi was “foolish”, in the words of Dubai’s police chief.
In this charged atmosphere other Khalijis stepped in, pointing fingers at the Ikhwan. This tension flared up because of a legal technicality: the Ikhwan, we are told, did not go through the legal channels and obtain a permit for their demonstration in front of the Syrian diplomatic mission. With al-Qardawi taking sides in this issue, he interfered in the UAE’s internal security affairs, according to UAE statements. And who is in charge of these UAE internal affairs? Is it the Brits or the Americans? Or could it be the Israelis? Only a few years ago, news circulated about the Israelis training UAE personnel and supervising the emirates’ internal security matters.
Tensions began to rise until the British-anointed sheikhs of the Gulf could not control themselves any longer and released their pent-up feelings against the Ikhwan. They essentially charged that the Ikhwan’s understanding of religion (Islam) was polluting the political domain of the UAE. The chieftains of the sheikhdoms were existentially alarmed to hear and watch any sheikh or preacher spoil the public mind with their “political nonsense”, their partisan differences, and with their sectarian divisions. No longer are the Ikhwan the reliable immigrants that sought refuge in Arabia a generation or two ago. The UAE banned al-Qardawi — for their own good reasons — from entering their tent-state. The police boss,
al-Khalfan, said that he caught some members of the Ikhwan in compromising positions with prostitutes! This was also an admission that the UAE is infested with prostitutes imported from Russia and other former Soviet republics.
With unprecedented access to the media, especially al-Jazeera, the Ikhwan went from underground to sky-high, via satellites and the worldwide web. Even some more-salafi, less-ikhwani types let loose words that in previous times would have never made it to the public airwaves. It is reported that Dr. ‘Abdullah al-Nafisi (well known in the Khaliji warren) likened the Ikhwan to a vocal phenomenon; they are like a cannon that can destroy but not build.
The Khaliji elites began to throw words at al-Qardawi. Some of them coined the word Qardawiism. They verbally railroaded him for legitimizing the original Ikhwan in Egypt, then for legitimizing the Ikhwan in Sudan, and then Hamas.
And here is where it becomes much more interesting, as we part from the tribal and elitist politics of the Gulf. The perception of the tribal chieftains and the Arabian sheikhs has developed into a phobia that sees two threatening crescents: the Shi‘i crescent and the Ikhwani crescent. They would love to play off the Ikhwan against the Shi‘is. And there may be some Yahudi advisers who are working on this scenario via the Syrian connection. And let us not forget the salafi sleeper-cells that are in and out of the Ikhwani circles almost everywhere. Telltale signs of the estrangement between the Khaliji elites and the Ikhwan reaching its crescendo are that these elites feel that their Shi‘i citizens owe their loyalty to Iran and their Sunni citizens owe their loyalty to the Ikhwan. If there is any truth to this, they will have to make do with their Hindu and non-Muslim immigrants who, to their relief, make up about 80% of the population in the UAE.
The loaded and affluent Khaliji elites view the Ikhwan as spoiled guests who are ungrateful to their prosperous hosts. The court-clergy in Arabia and the Gulf are at a loss. They cannot explain how the “Sunnis” have parted from their “status quo” fiqh of centuries, a fiqh that abhors revolution in order to avoid its destructive and calamitous social consequences, and are now in “revolt mode!”
The ripple effects of 9/11 have finally reached the western shores of the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula. The Ikhwan have not learned from their previous superficial entanglements with American and Israeli client regimes. Instead of seeing a natural and historical ally in the Islamic Republic of Iran they are ushered into parliaments and seats of power here and there only to set themselves up for a painful lesson. The American and Israeli ruling administrations will burn the bridges over which the Ikhwan worked their way to cabinets and parliaments in North Africa and elsewhere. The Prophet (pbuh) has said, “A committed Muslim is not stung from the same burrow twice.”
O our Sustainer! Lay open the truth between us and our people — for YOU are the best to do so (7:89).