This week, UK Prime Minister David Cameron had refused to label the Muslim Brotherhood as an extremist threat. A review on the activities of the multi-national group, notorious for sponsoring extremism in many parts of the world, was instigated in April of 2014. While a few individual details have been released from it, Downing Street has suspiciously chosen to withhold the full report.
“The main findings of the review support the conclusion that membership of, association with, or influence by the Muslim Brotherhood should be considered as a possible indicator of extremism,” Cameron said in a written ministerial statement to MPs. “Parts of the Muslim Brotherhood have a highly ambiguous relationship with violent extremism.”
Unsurprisingly, this watered-down evaluation has attracted criticism. For a while now, David Cameron and a few senior members of his entourage have echoed the same chorus: that we need to clamp down on the threat of extremism in our own country, stamp out radicalization, come down strong on mosques, and shut down terrorist networks online.
Yet there’s little evidence that progress has been made in this endeavor. In fact, if they are inconspicuously ignoring one of the greatest sponsors of extremism across the world – then they will clearly struggle to remove the threat on a macro level.
While the Muslim Brotherhood is not the type of organisation to carry out violent practices itself, it has targeted Muslims in the West (many of whom are keen to peacefully assimilate with the rest of society) with efforts of radicalization; and supports groups like Hamas, and the Freedom and Justice Party of Egypt (which recently ruled Egypt until it was ousted in 2013). In fact, the brotherhood has been in conflict with Egypt since being founded in 1928 by Hassan Al Banna. In 1938, it pledged to establish an Islamic State in Egypt.
Watch the video below for a brief overview of the group:
Yet while Britain, (and the US, for that matter) turns a blind eye to the actions of the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic terrorism has roots in a much more sinister entity. And that is none other than Saudi Arabia, supported by its neighboring Gulf states.
The Wahhabist Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and its allies Qatar and the UAE, have certainly had their differences with the Muslim Brotherhood in the past. While both supporting the idea of a caliphate, the Muslim Brotherhood advocates it on an electoral basis, as opposed to the ideals of the Gulf states. Earlier in July however, Saudi Arabia held a welcomed reception with many leaders affiliated with the brotherhood – including Rachid Ghannouchi, the leader of Ennahda party in Tunisia; Abdul Majeed Zindani, the leader of al-Islah party in Yemen; and Khaled Meshaal, the leader of Hamas. Perhaps the two sides are warming to each other, in the face of an Iran with the ever-growing threat of extending its nuclear capabilities; after having sanctions lifted around the same time.
Despite lifting the sanctions on Iran, the West helplessly enables Saudi Arabia to carry out its global expedition of spreading Islamic extremism. The Kingdom spends billions each year doing so. Not only that, it is notorious for carrying out barbaric practices in its own country. While it only recently extended the franchise to women, and enabled them to stand in elections, the regime is still regressive in many departments. As of the beginning of November, it had executed 151 of its own civilians (that’s more than ISIS). And the kingdom is currently barraged with pleas to stop it from executing 19 year old Adbullah al-Zaher, for protesting against the government.
Yet what does Britain do? Get Saudi Arabia elected onto the UN Human Rights Council. Clearly we can see where Britain’s priorities lie.
One might ask – why on earth does Britain support them? Simply because Saudi Arabia is a vital ally not just for Britain, but for the entire Western World. The nation is our greatest supplier of oil, and holds the largest oil reserves in the world (so say if there is a shortage of oil in other parts of the world, we will be at the mercy of the Saudis).
After 9/11, it was revealed that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi, and the attack was perhaps partially orchestrated by the Saudi government. Yet it was Afghanistan which was singled out as the target of the 14 year old ‘War on Terror’.
The issue is, not only is Saudi Arabia a great sponsor of extremism, it was actually founded on terrorism, spawning from an ideology labelled “Wahhabism”, named after the founder Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhāb. For Wahhabism was formed in the 18th century, on the grounds of establishing a puritanical interpretation of the Qu’ran into the Arab world. It was based on Sunni Islam, so naturally the 1400 year old hostility between Sunni and Shiite Muslims was reignited. Al-Wahhab believed returning Islam to its “former glory” would re-establish order, yet his patron Muhammad Ibn Saud wanted to base it on the principles of Jihad/foreign warfare. While Al-Wahhab’s regressive philosophy lingered, the newly founded Wahhabist state focused its efforts on foreign conquests within the Middle East. After much conflict with the Ottoman Empire, the Saudi Kingdom all but abandoned jihad, and directed its focus to internal and economic issues. Soon after the Ottoman Empire’s downfall, Saudi Arabia became a trading partner of the West – greatly boosting the prosperity of the nation.
Despite this transformation, Saudi Arabia still aggressively pursues its spread of Wahhabist ideology – by flooding much of its riches each year into mosques, radical preachers, and terrorists organisations in the Middle East and across the globe. ISIL is one benefactor – who directly share the Wahhabist ideals of the Saudi Kingdom, and have contributed to much of the chaos in the Middle East, as well as being held responsible for the Paris attacks on November 13th.
A brief comparison between Islamic State and Saudi Arabia
Yet how does Saudi Arabia remain strong enough to spread its ideology?
It’s oil trade and incestuous relationship with the West clearly helps it maintain its vibrancy as a Middle East power, and a prime sponsor of terrorism.
Clearly David Cameron is stuck in a dilemma. He wants to appease the dissent among the masses back home, yet is powerless to prevent extremism from spreading on a macro-level.
This is a downfall of our globalized world. Much of the products we use are made of oil, so we are dependent on Saudi Arabia’s abundant supply. The only way we could prevent widespread influence of Wahhabism is for the House of Saud to collapse, or for the Qu’ranic influence intoxicating their society to be removed (yet that is indeed a long shot).