The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) won the Egyptian parliamentary and presidential elections in 2012, alarming Israel and western countries. The Egyptian army and the liberal classes too were scared because the MB meant an end to the looting the army has been indulging in since 1952 and, with the army, the fate of the liberal classes too was going to be sealed. These liberals, in return for some favours and insignificant posts, had allowed members of the army to play with Egypt’s honour and to plunder its resources.
Gamal Abdel Nasser’s administration clearly comprised of army officers. The situation continued with (Colonel) Anwar Sadat and (Air Marshal) Hosni Mubarak. As a result, the Egyptian army, directly or indirectly, controls over 50 per cent of the Egyptian economy today. Former army officers are occupying top posts in public and private sectors.
For some time it seemed that all this was going to change as a result of the Arab Spring. Free elections were held for the first time in the country’s history. The Brotherhood secured a majority in parliament, Shura Council and presidential elections. A constitution prepared by the parliament and Shura Council was approved by the majority of voters in a free and fair referendum. In spite of this, the “Deep State” continued to control and rule the country. The judiciary was dominated by handpicked judges appointed by the outgoing President Hosni Mubarak.
This deep state did not allow, MB member and newly elected president, Muhammed Morsi to govern. The judiciary started annulling his orders. So much so that on mere technical grounds it dismantled parliament. The Shura Council was the next target of Mubarak’s judges which would have created a huge political vacuum in the country. At such a juncture, Morsi issued a presidential decree outlawing challenge to his decrees in a court of law for a short period until the draft constitution was prepared and approved in a referendum.
Now all hell broke loose. Accusations flew thick and fast in and out of the country that Morsi was enforcing the dictatorship of MB in Egypt; this in a country where no individual or judge had the courage to challenge a presidential order from 1952 to 2012.
Because Morsi and his government had no real control over the army, police and intelligence departments, the situation took such a turn that the intervention of the armed forces became acceptable. While the indigenous liberal class and army supported this intervention wholeheartedly, foreign powers, especially the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states supported it without reservations. Israel knew that the MB was the only force which had fought against the Jewish terrorist militias in 1948 while Arab armies were either helping the Jews or standing idly by.
Gulf rulers assured Egyptian army generals of their full political and financial support. They were apprehensive that their family sheikhdoms would be endangered if MB rule took root in Egypt.
These Gulf sheikhdoms are run on principles from the Middle Age, even today. Although local populations have been silenced by economic and trade facilities, all political and administrative powers are in the hands of an individual or a single ruling family which treats the national treasury and wealth as if it was its personal or family property. They offer help to Islamic organisations or individuals so that no one criticises them, although this help is a pittance when compared to the western political parties and influential individuals who receive very generous help from these very rulers. Again, the aim is to silence them.
In these circumstances, the Egyptian army overthrew the elected president, killed thousands of protesters in broad daylight and packed off thousands of MB leaders and workers, including the deposed president, to jails under charges of treason and terrorism.
Then, on December 25 last year, Egypt declared the MB a “terrorist organisation”. Now MB members are being arrested inside and outside the country, especially in the Gulf countries, on charges of “terrorism”.
An Egyptian court has gone a step further and declared Hamas, the Palestinian movement ruling the Gaza Strip, as a “terrorist” organisation. Naturally, Israel is very pleased by these developments. Israeli leaders have openly expressed their joy over the developments in Egypt and have declared that Israel feels safe again.
Saudi Arabia followed suit and banned the MB as a “terrorist” organisation on March 8. This was quickly followed by the UAE and Kuwait although the MB has no political leverage in these Gulf countries. As a legal entity, the Brotherhood is found only in Sudan and Jordan, and both these countries have not changed their stand on the MB.
The fact is that the MB never said or did anything against Saudi Arabia or the other Gulf countries. The historical fact is that in the 1960s, when Arab regimes were collapsing, one after the other, under the pressure of Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Arab Nationalism had reached Yemen and a powerful guerrilla war was raging in Yemen/Oman’s Dhofar region in the southern Arabian Peninsula. At that crucial time, the MB forcefully sided with the Saudi and Gulf rulers. They became their envoys and helped them by speaking and writing in their favour all over the world.
Nasser’s pressure eased after the defeat of 1967 and the MB felt the relaxation in Egypt too. Members of the MB who had become fugitive began returning to Egypt and soon, under Anwar Sadat, they opened their office in Cairo, although they did not get permission to form a legal party. Their publication, Al-Da’wah, started appearing and MB leaders began contesting elections from the platform of other political parties.
MB relations with Gulf rulers were good all these years and Saudi aid flowed freely to the MB and its charitable institutions. But all this suddenly changed once the MB won the Egyptian elections in 2012 and formed the government.
The Brotherhood was committed to a democratic and consultative (Shura) form of popular government and this frightened the Gulf rulers from day one. So much so that, no sooner had they won the elections, than Dubai Police Chief Dahi Khalfan openly said that he would not rest until the fall of the MB government in Egypt. After assuming power in Egypt, the MB’s enemies and opponents found refuge in the UAE where they fled with their ill-gotten wealth.
This change in Saudi and Gulf policy is not only anti-Islam and anti-democracy; it is also the worst example of ingratitude. The MB stood by them all over the world when these rulers were in dire need and created an atmosphere in which these rulers managed to survive. But when the MB won the elections and formed the government, these rulers became its worst enemies and opened their coffers for the enemies of the MB.
Today, the MB is surrounded by enemies but all this will change one day. No popular movement can be suppressed for long. The MB will prove successful in this trial just as it braved the tyranny of Gamal Abdel Nasser and survived. And when they will enter the portals of power again, a lot of cobwebs and misgivings in their minds will have been removed.
Muslims outside the world of Islam should take a clear stand on this injustice. If an honourable, moderate, enlightened group which is free from deviations is allowed to go down, it will be a great crisis and trial for Islam and Muslims. Organisations and individuals who are supporting Saudi and Gulf rulers now for a pittance of monetary benefits, or are at least silent at this juncture, should revise their stand and support the truth.
I have been participating in Saudi conferences since 1978, but I have never taken any financial help from the Saudi or Gulf governments or rulers or taken any personal benefit from them. Now, in the current situation, when I received an invitation in February to attend a conference called by the Makkah-based Muslim World League in early March, I declined.
A plethora of Saudi personalities visited our country one after the other and I received many invitations for meetings and dinner parties but I declined to attend any of these. The reason was simple: at this juncture, when the Saudi rulers are perpetrating this great injustice, any such meeting will be considered supportive to their stand.
The writer is chief editor of The Milli Gazette, New Delhi
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.