Reposted from: South Asia Analysis Group (SAAG)
Paper no. 3571
‘MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD’ – An ideological Protectorate of Saudi Arabia?
By Ramashray Upadhyay
‘Muslim Brotherhood’ (MB), an Egypt-born Islamist organization founded for launching Jihad against the infidels in general and Christian West in particular has been an ideological protectorate of Saudi Arabia for over half a century.
It was founded in 1928 by an ultra Islamist reformer school teacher Al Hussain Banna(1906-1949) who strongly believed in Wahhabist interpretation of militant Jihad. Deeply disturbed with the collapse of Ottoman Empire in 1924 followed by the end of Caliphate system of Islamic Government, the Treaty of Jeddah in 1927 between the Saudi King and British Empire further stirred his anti-West Islamist mindset.
The Treaty in which the Saudi King agreed to hold back his forces from attacking and harassing the neighbouring British Protectorates and in return the British Empire recognized the Saudi sovereignty over the region what was then known as Kingdom of Hizaj and Nejd was regarded by Banna as surrender to a Christian power. Accordingly, he formed this organization with a view to mobilize the Muslims of the world by preaching puritanical Islamist movement of political Islam for launching Jihad against the infidels.
Dedicated to the credo – The Prophet is our leader. Qur’an is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope”, Muslim Brotherhood gradually emerged as one of the internationally known militant organizations. Although, Muslim Brotherhood differed with Saudi Arabia over the latter’s business relation with Christian West particularly USA, the common ideological Wahhabi link between the two brought them closer to each other. In fact in mid nineteen fifties when the Naseer regime of Egypt cracked down the MB activists due to their suspected attempt on his assassination, thousands of their members fled to neighbouring contries including Saudi Arabia. Since then the Saudi King used them against Nasserism and also funded them for their independent faculty in the Islamic University in Medina.
With financial help from Saudi Kingdom, MB emerged as an Islamist force for chalking out Jihadi strategy against the infidels and became an organization of international concern due to its global network and close connection with various violent Jihadi groups like al-Jihad and al-Gama’at al-Islamiyya in Egypt, HAMAS in Palestine and Islamist terrorist groups in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and India.
Since violence is central to the history and culture of Islamists, many fundamentalist Muslim establishments in different parts of the world including Jamaat-e-Islami Hind and Students Islamic Movement of India and Islamic Chhatra Shibir of Bangladesh also drew inspiration from MB. Even Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan drew inspiration from Muslim Brotherhood and said, “Mosques are our barracks, minarets our bayonets, domes our helmets, the believers our soldiers” (Pioneer dated December 6, 2009). Apparently these slogans approve the relentless shift in the focus of Islamists from the five pillars of the faith – Kalama, Namaj, Roza, Zakat and Haz to the obligation and rewards of Jihad.
Historically, the term Muslim Brotherhood is rooted to the Quranic concept of ‘Umma’ which originally meant community but later referred to the followers of Prophet Mohammad. In fact the Prophet in his last pilgrimage address had said, ‘Oh ye people, a Muslim is another Muslim’s brother and thus all Muslims are brothers among themselves’ (M.R.A. Baig, The Muslim Dilemma, 1974, p.12). Although, moderate Islamic scholars interpreted this address as spiritual message of the Prophet for creating brotherly fraternity among the warring Arab tribes, over the years, the politically ambitious Islamists twisted its meaning for uniting the Muslims against the infidels for self-seeking political gains.
In the early years of twentieth century even Saudi ruler Abd al Aziz had organised Ikhwan (brotherhood) movement by spreading militant Wahhabi Islam among the Bedouin Arab tribes for fighting against the different Muslim warlords in Arabian Peninsula and to consolidate his rule in the region.
Despite the Quranic concept of brotherly relation among all the followers of Islam, the Muslim world always remained divided due to their political and material ambitions. Those who interpreted Islamic scriptures by separating Islam from social and political life of the Muslims from spiritual life always faced confrontation with the conservative Muslims dedicated to the creed that ‘Islam is the complete way of life’. De-facto inimical relation between two Muslim countries namely Saudi Arabia and Egypt may be an example.
Al Hussain Banna was profoundly upset with the effects of westernization and rise of secularism in the kingdom of Egypt under the influence of the British. He felt that such influence was detrimental to the traditional values of Islam. Althogh, he was inspired with the success of Wahhabism under the temporal leadership of Saudi kingdom; he nursed reservation against the pro-West policy of Saudi Kingdom particularly after the Treaty of Jeddah and its business with western countries particularly after the discovery of oil in the region. Thus, when he founded Muslim Brotherhood with immediate objective to bring down the Government of Egypt and then preach ultra Wahhabism to mobilize the Muslims of the world for launching violent Jihad against the infidels in general and west in particular he became very popular among the Muslim orthodoxy in the region.
Supplementing the traditional Islamic education among the Muslim youths with his Wahhabist ideology and hate-waste campaign Banna gave specific emphasis on Jihadi training . By interpreting the trilogy of Islam namely Quran, Hadith and Sharia as a strategy for establishment of Islamist power all over the world he like Maulana Wahhab, the founder of Wahhabism was also responsible for turning the five pillars of the faith – Kalama, Namaj, Roza, Zakat and Haz subservient to violent Jihad.
Concerned with the growing popularity and assertiveness of the MB and prevailing rumours of its plot to stage a coup against the Egyptian monarchy, the Prime Minister disbanded it in 1948 which led to his assassination. In return Al Banna was also assassinated in 1949.
Against the ongoing turbulent situation in Egypt, Gamal Abdel Naseer became president of Egypt in 1954 after plotting a bloodless coup against the monarchy and gained immense popularity when he heralded a new period of modernization and socialist reform in his country. Reacting against the new secular regime the MB members declared it un-Islamic. However, when they were suspected behind the attempted assassination of Nasser, the Government of Egypt began their mass arrests and persecution thousands of MB activists fled to neighbouring countries including oil rich Saudi Arabia.
Initially, the Saudi King was hesitant to give them shelter as he was aware of the Jihadi potential of the Muslim Brotherhood which could be a constant irritant and source of danger to his pro-West monarchy. However, at the behest of the World Muslim League, which was created by Saudi Arabia for promotion of its Wahhabi hegemony over the Muslim world and the Saudi elites to convinced the Saudi King that Naseer was misusing Al Azhar University in Cairo to dilute Wahhabism by internationalising his own concept of Pan-Arab Nationalism and was also preaching that Islam was compatible to socialism.
Ever since the rise of Nasser inspired Arab nationalism and his left wing leaning following nationalization of Suez Canal, the pro-West Saudi Kingdom with a view to keep their regime intact closely watched the anti-Nasser activities of the MB and therefore courted them seriously. Accordingly, the Saudi King with an objective to counter Nasserism funded the MB members for establishing their faculty in the Islamic University of Medina and also allowed them to propagate in various public forum that communism and socialism were totally antithetical to Islam. Since then the MB maintained very good relation with royal family and became its ideological protectorate. Saudi Monarchy’s financial and ideological support to MB worked as catalyst in making the organisation very popular among the Muslim youths and students all over the Muslim world.
Islamic University of Medina is known to be the centre from where MB teachers are launching targeted campaign among a significant section of Muslim students from different parts of the world resulting in the prevailing ‘political activism’ among them. Thus, taking advantage of their position in this university where “approximately 80% of the 6,000 enrolled students are international students from all over the world” (Wikipedia the free encyclopaedia), the MB established branches in “over 70 countries all over the world, including: Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Tunisia, Sudan, Indonesia, the Philippines, Britain, Switzerland, Lebanon, Pakistan, Morocco, France, India, Jordan, Nigeria, Bangladesh, and the United States”.
Although, it has been an open secret that Saudi Arabia promoted MB with its financial power, it tries to maintain a safe distance from them to show the world that it has nothing to do with this Egypt-born organization. But factually, in the absence of modern education and knowledge of foreign languages to Wahhabi Ulema, the Saudi Kingdom has been using qualified and well traveled MB leaders not only in dealing with modern world but also in asserting its leadership in Muslim world.
Moreover, the royal family after placing the qualified MB activists in the faculty of Islamist University of Medina allowed a cross-fertilisation of Islamist ideas between the exiled MB members and the austere teachings of Wahhabi Ulema which had gradually become an ideologically dominant religio-cultural force in Muslim world. The recorded history of MB “working under the doctrine of concealment (Kitman)” (Rachel Enherenfeld) to create a global Islamist state also suited the royal family to satisfy the Wahhabists of Saudi society. Even though, Saudi kingdom is an USA ally, the Wahhabi society of Saudi Arabia are happy with MB for mobilizing even the western educated Muslim youths for Jihad against the infidels. “Wahhabism, which R. James Woolsey, former CIA Director identified as “IslamoNazi” ideology, may turn out to be the new emissaries carrying the fanatical Wahhabi creed that is bound to advance the MB agenda in the U.S.” (Ibid.)
“Wherever the MB operates, it engages in subversion and proselytization”. (Dr. Rachel Enherenfeld in frontpagemag.com on December 27, 2005). Due to its violent political vision which recommends establishment of a totalitarian Islamist empire that denies all political and religious freedom by terrorism, subversion and insurgency, it is also known as an Islamo-Fascist movement. Advocating the use of terrorism as means of advancing its agenda of global Islamic domination, it emerged as the largest popular radical movement in the Islamist world and attracted not only leading Islamist intellectuals like Osama bin Laden and others but also well qualified Muslim youths who are now involved with various Islamist terrorist groups operating in different parts of the world particularly in Europe, USA and South Asian countries.
Today, “The MB is the fountainhead from which Sunni terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Gamaat Islamiyyah, Hizb-ut-Tahrir, and the Abu Sayyaf group have sprung. Their ties to the MB are clearly evident from their identical strategic agenda” (Dr. Rachel Enherenfeld in frontpagemag.com on December 27, 2005). Inspired with the doctrine of the MB, Osama bin Laden of Al Qaida formed the International Islamic Front of Jihad against the Jews and Crusaders in January 1998 and mobilized the Muslim youths from different Islamist establishments of the world particularly from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. In an article ‘Jihad against non-Muslim is obligatory’ (No. 2085 dated October 17, 2008) in a Muslim Brotherhood website (www.ikhwanweb.com) it is argued that “a Muslim can come closer to Allah by halting all non-Muslims –Christians, Jews, atheists, or polytheists – and by waging Jihad against them in any possible manner”.
It is said that Maulana Maududi, the founder of Jamaat-e-Islami in India maintained close links with the Muslim Brotherhood. “Both organizations still consider themselves branches of the same movement. At times the Muslim Brotherhood even recognized Maududi as the legal successor to its ideologists al-Banna and Sayed Qutb.”(The British, the Middle East and Radical Islam – http://www.redmoonrising.com).
Saudi Arabia may deny its relation with MB but it can not escape from the folly of allowing them to establish an independent faculty where they taught its education theory –“Islamisation of society and knowledge”. This refer to “its strategic vision and plan that a minority Muslim group infiltrates, through legitimate legal processes, a society’s majority secular institutions, starting with its universities. Over time, “Islamized” Muslim and non-Muslim university graduates enter the nation’s workforce, including its civil service sectors. From there, those “Islamized” graduates are poised to subvert a host society’s law enforcement branches, intelligence community, military branches, and foreign services”. (Dr. Rachel Enherenfeld in frontpagemag.com on December 27, 2005). Had Saudi Kingdom not placed the MB activists in Islamic University of Medina, some modern educated Muslim youths might not have followed the militant course of Jihad and joined the Islamist terrorist groups operating in different countries including India.
During an international conference of jurists on terrorism held in Delhi on November 21, 2009, a senior jurist and former Union Law Minister Ram Jethmalani called Maulana Wahhab of eighteenth century an ‘evil man’ ideologically responsible for on going Islamist terrorism in the world. He also urged upon Indian Government to dissociate itself in its fight against terrorism from countries that preach Wahhabism. Saudi ambassador to India Faisal-al-Trad who was present in the audience walked out of the conference hall in protest against the remark of Jethmalani. Although, the ambassador returned to the conference after persuasion by the Law Ministry representative on the plea that it was not the stand of Government of India, can Saudi Government deny that MB’s faculty in Islamic University of Medina was without the approval of Saudi Monarchy?
Muslim Brotherhood which continues to remain the ideological protectorate of Saudi Arabia is known to have played an important role in the prevailing political activism as we see today among a significant section of Muslim students and youths.
(The author can be reached at e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org)