Region | Egypt

Rise and fall of Muslim Brotherhood in UAE

Its influence has declined over the span of 40 years in the country

  • By Samir Salama, Associate Editor
  • Published: 17:41 April 13, 2013

Abu Dhabi: While the Muslim Brotherhood enjoyed a lot of freedom and influence in the early 1960s and 1970s, its popularity was dealt a sharp blow in the 1990s after the government became highly suspicious of its alternative motives.

The Muslim  Brotherhood’s “conspiracy against the UAE” goes back to the late 1960s and early 1970s, an Emirati analyst said.

During those years, “the global movement of the Brotherhood decided to invade the UAE and other Gulf states, through recruiting students who studied abroad. Those students operated secretly through front organisations like mafia-style gangs, money-laundering and espionage rings,” Dr Ali Salem Humaid, chairman of the Al Mezmaah Centre for Studies and Research, a Dubai-based think-tank, told Gulf News.

Dr Humaid added that the Brotherhood’s cell in the UAE influenced the country’s education and judiciary until its political society Jammiyat Al Islah, was dissolved in 1994.

Mansour Al Nuqaidan, a Saudi writer, quoted Mohammad Bin  Ali Al Mansouri, a former member of the Islah Society’s board, as saying that the Islah had been dissolved  after a complaint from Egypt that it provided financial support to Al Jihad militant group, which was affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and was involved in terrorist acts.

Recruitment

Most members of the movement are recruited during high school or college years and, in many cases, serve in top administrative positions within the Brotherhood’s nationwide structure before being promoted to the Guidance Office, the organisation’s top executive authority.

They also could be nominated for political office to ensure leaders have all been vetted over the course of decades in their willingness to comply with the internal Shura committee’s decisions, said Tharwat  Al Kherbawi, a  lawyer who has written memoirs exposing the secrets of the Brotherhood after he left the movement, addressing a recent symposium titled ‘Challenges and threats posed by the Muslim Brotherhood to UAE and countries of the Region’.

“Emirati members of the Muslim Brotherhood take a proxy allegiance oath, where these members swear allegiance before another veteran leader in the UAE, who in turn swears allegiance before the Supreme Guide in Cairo,” said Al Kherbawi, who is among the most vocal critics of the organisation.

He said that young initiates were taught that joining the movement was a religious obligation, like prayer, and that the supreme guide is above any mistakes.

“These novices are raised on obedience and allegiance to the supreme guide, accepting no critique of him or his acts. They are taught to regard the movement as their home and that standing to the national anthem of their country is polytheism,” he added.

Al Kherbawi says that the Muslim Brotherhood runs three groups in each country where it has a presence — a national group made up of citizens of the particular country, a clandestine cell comprising expatriate Egyptians in that country, and an international group that is based in New York.

Quoting a report submitted to the last meeting of the international Muslim Brotherhood in Madinah, Saudi Arabia in 2008, Dr Abdul Rahim Ali, director of the Arab Centre for Research and Studies, said there were 1,700 expatriate members in the UAE, including 300 initiates, 300 novices, 150 associates, 500 regular associates and 350 working members.

Only working members are entitled to vote and run for office in the Egyptian organisation.

Currently, more than 100 Emirati members of the Muslim Brotherhood are standing trial after being charged with conspiracy to overthrow the government.

Disruptive agendas

Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Foreign Minister, said recently that the Muslim Brotherhood does not believe in the nation state. “It does not believe in the sovereignty of the state.” Shaikh Abdullah has also called for concerted efforts to identify individuals or organisations which were using the GCC countries for their disruptive agendas.

Qinan Al Gamidi, former editor of the Saudi London-based daily Asharq Al Awsat, said any clandestine organisation regardless of its intentions was in the wrong, stressing that all GCC member countries should tackle the threat of the Muslim Brotherhood in the region.

“Political reforms are a must and the GCC states should unify their foreign policies,” he said.

Dr Ali Bin Tamim, editor of an Emirati online news portal, said that reading and critical thinking would help fight claims of the Muslim Brotherhood.

“Members of the group present themselves as the best leaders and today it turns out to be a lie with eight members in Egypt’s presidency, 18 governors and nine ministers and [having] seized as many as 13,000 senior jobs,” Bin Tamim said.

Timeline

1960s-70s - Many students returned home after studying in Egypt and Kuwait, bringing with them the teachings of the Muslim Brotherhood.


1974 - First MB political society formed in Dubai which called itself Jamiyat Al Islah meaning ‘Society of Reform’. Later two more branches were formed in Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah.

1980s - In the early ’80s Al Islah had gained control of the public education system through Ministry of Education.

1988 - The society launched its first periodical called Al Islah which served as the propaganda wing of the MB in the UAE. It was shut down by authorities due to its belligerent style but after its editorial stance was moderated it began publishing again.

1990s - During this time authorities became increasingly concerned with the MB’s potential for subversion and began to limit its activity.

1994 - Al Islah was officially disbanded after a complaint from Egypt that it was funding a Al Jihad militant group involved in terrorist acts.

2003 - Authorities transferred more than 170 in the education system believed to have links with Brotherhood members to other government ministries.

2006 - The government removed some of the movement’s supporters from the Ministry of Education.

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