Madawi Al-Rasheed writes: Hours after the Muslim Brotherhood president of Egypt, Mohammed Morsi, was deposed, the Saudi regime hurried to congratulate newly appointed interim president Adly Mansour. The Saudis must have felt comfortable with the quick downfall of a political Islamist party that found itself in power after several decades in the opposition.
It is ironic that a regime that prides itself on ruling according to divine law fears most the rise of Islamism to power. It must be said that like most Western governments, Saudi Arabia was more than confortable coexisting with the Egyptian military dictatorship under deposed President Hosni Mubarak. But when a democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood president was sworn into office in 2012, Riyadh was alarmed. Saudi Arabia had always had a troubled relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood version of Islamism, its organizational capacity and its increasingly accepted message that combined Islam with an eagerness to engage with the democratic process.
Saudi Arabia hosted Arab Muslim Brotherhood exiles during the repression of the 1950 and 1960s. They came not only from Egypt but also from Syria, Iraq and other Arab countries where they had been prosecuted. Brotherhood cadres played a pivotal role in Saudi educational institutions and later the transnational organizations set up by King Faisal to counter the spread of Arab nationalism and leftist movements. Saudis used the exiled Islamists as tools to weaken such movements and undermine their credibility, while emphasizing their un-Islamic character. During the anti-Soviet jihad in the 1980s, Saudis used the worldwide networks established by the Brotherhood to inflame the imagination of its youth and channel aid and weapons. Yet Saudi Arabia never allowed the Brotherhood to establish branches there as they did in other Arab countries and in the West. [Continue reading…]