Alwaght– The Saudi Arabian relations with the Muslim Brotherhood have always been challenging, experiencing many highs and lows over the time. Even a large part of the recent Saudi political crisis with Qatar is motivated by Riyadh anger at Doha’s financial and ideological support for the Islamist movement that spreads across the Arab world.
The Saudi-Brotherhood relations that saw periods of cooperation, rivalry, and even confrontation have played a major role in the history of the Sunni political Islamism.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s presence in the Arab kingdom has given rise to a Sururi movement inside the kingdom with a full-fledged agenda, raising the hackles of the Saudi rulers.
Saudi-Brotherhood relations experienced four major periods during the History.
First period: 1950s
This period started with meeting of King Abdulaziz, the founder of third Saudi state, with Sayyed Qutb, the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. The period witnessed its climactic point when first group of the Brotherhood scholars migrated to Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf Arab states due to the Egypt’s developments caused by the wave of Arabic nationalism encouraged by ideas of Gamal Abdel Nasser, the revolutionary president of Egypt. In this period the Muslim Brotherhood engaged in limited cooperation with the Saudi leaders and even made their way in some of the Saudi Arabian educational institutions.
Second period: 1970s and 1980s
The period started after signing the Camp David Accords between Egypt and the Israeli regime in 1978 that gave rise to confrontation between the movement and Anwar Sadat, the third president of Egypt who reached deal with Tel Aviv to recognize Israeli regime. The period ended in Hama massacre in Syria and Hafez al-Assad’s large-scale purge of Muslim Brotherhood in 1982. Saudi Arabia accepted a large number of the movement’s migrants in its territory.
Muhammad Surur bin Nayf Zayn al-Abidin was the Brotherhood leader who departure to Saudi Arabia and founded the Sururi movement, a combination of Salafism and Brotherhood ideology. In this period, additionally, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, another Muslim Brotherhood leader, moved from Egypt to Qatar and founded Al-Wasatiyyah (moderation) movement there.
Third period: 1990s
The period coincided with the first Persian Gulf war and liberation of Kuwait from the Saddam Hussein forces’ occupation by the US-led international coalition. The war led to eruption of struggle between the alliance of the Saudi government as well as the Salafi scholars on the one hand and the Sahwa movement, an affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood, on the other hand over presence of the Western forces in the Islamic territories. The Saudi government and the Salafi clerics saw the Western military deployment to the region as crucial to liberation of the Islamic territories but on the opposite side the Sahwa movement that was founded by students of Muhammad Surur, Sheikh Salman al-Ouda and Naser al-Omar, came against the idea. The situation stirred a real confrontation between the opposing sides, and ended after Riyadh detained top figures of Sahwa movement. Since then the Muslim Brotherhood turned into a rival and later to an enemy of the Saudi regime.
Fourth period: from 2011
This period, playing a major role in shaping Saudi Arabia’s political and security approaches in the region, is directly related to uprisings that swept through the Arab world in 2011. In this period, the Muslim Brotherhood was blacklisted by the Saudi interior ministry as a terrorist group. The Saudi antagonism to Brotherhood was intensified after the movement rose with its rejuvenated ideology with backing from the post-revolution government of Mohamed Morsi in Egypt, and Turkish and Qatari governments.
Driven by concerns about possible inspiration of the Sururi movement for anti-government actions, ideological confrontation, and regional rivalry with the pro-Brotherhood camp, the Saudis moved to take tougher stance against the movement. Even now, a large part of the anti-Qatari Saudi measures are aimed at cracking down on Muslim Brotherhood and limiting regional role of Doha as movement’s regional sponsor.
Therefore, it should be noted that Al Saud dynasty moves toward eliminating the Muslim Brotherhood as Riyadh leaders fear power gain of Sururi movement among the youths as well as the new generation of the kingdom’s Islamists. This Saudi leaders’ zeal to remove the movement is emboldened particularly by Sahwa movement’s agenda that prefers open and dialogue-based dealing with the modern civilization, wider organization, and a focus on the social and political issues. On the other side, regionally, the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology has always stood as rival to the Saudi ideology both in Muslim and Arab worlds. The problem is doubled as Saudi Arabia understands that this rival ideology has roots in its close allies like Turkey, Egypt, and Qatar.