The UAE Fatwa Council, a state led religious body which critics say is used by the repressive Gulf monarchy to rubber stamp its policies, has declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation.
The highly controversial decision came during a virtual meeting on Monday led by Sheikh Abdullah Bin Bayyah, chairman of the council. The move follows a similar pronouncement earlier this month by Saudi Arabia's Council of Senior Scholars.
Eighteen scholar and ulama unions, including the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS), issued a joint statement against the decision of the Council of Senior Scholars rejecting the designation of the Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation.
Meanwhile, Israel's Foreign Ministry Arabic Twitter account hailed the Saudi council's statement and said that it was "pleased" with the decision.
In its decision, the UAE Fatwa Council declared its full support for the Saudi council statement and called on all Muslims to reject the Brotherhood which they claimed "works to divide the ranks and inflame discord and bloodshed".
The movement has strenuously denied these allegations. "The Brotherhood… is far from acts of violence and terrorism, and the dissemination of division within the [Muslim Ummah]," said spokesman Talaat Fahmy. "It is a reformist advocacy group that calls for obedience to Allah through sharing wise and pious advice without excess or negligence."
In response to the decision, activists have circulated previous fatwas (religious opinions) to highlight the political motives behind the move and to suggest that the scholars designating the Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation have become a tool for Gulf autocrats to justify their repressive policies.
A previous fatwa by Saudi Arabia's most eminent scholar Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bin Baz (1910-1999), who was the Chairman of the Permanent Committee for Scholarly Research and Iftaa, described the Brotherhood as "the most righteous Islamic groups and the closest to the teachings of the Prophet are Ahl Al-Sunnah, including Ahl Al-Hadith, Jamaat Ansar Al-Sunna and then comes the Muslim Brotherhood."