MB and the Gulf States
MB and the Gulf States
Tuesday, February 7,2012 22:24
By Sultan al-Qassemi

As the Muslim Brotherhood ascends to power, a question remains on how the once “banned” group will handle the issue of ties with the Arab Gulf states.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are today the two states in the Gulf that are most skeptical of the Muslim Brotherhood. And yet these are precisely the two countries that Egypt's Brotherhood must try its best to build bridges with. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are, after all, the two largest economies in the Arab world, and the biggest investors in Egypt despite what other Gulf countries claim. Almost 500 UAE firms operate in Egypt with investments valued at US$10 billion, the same amount invested by Saudis. The latter have additionally promised to grant Egypt several billion dollars in aid. It is also worth noting that 1.5 million Egyptians work and live in Saudi Arabia, while 250,000 Egyptians are residents of the UAE.

The Muslim Brotherhood, however, does enjoy a semi-recognized status in two other Gulf states. For instance, although it suffered a recent elections setback in Bahrain’s previous parliament, the Menbar Society, a Bahraini offshoot of the Brotherhood, had previously held six seats out of a total of 40, in addition to the post of second deputy speaker. In Kuwait, Islamists won an overwhelming majority of seats in parliament this month with the Kuwaiti Muslim Brotherhood, known as the Islamic Constitutional Movement, winning all four seats it contested in the 50-seat body, doubling the number they had earlier held.

As of today, though, representatives of Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been alone among Gulf states in announcing their skepticism of Egypt's Brotherhood. A recent opinion column by Tariq al-Homayed, editor of the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that is owned by Saudi Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz, criticized what he called “disciples” who “come out to defend the Muslim Brotherhood, acting as if they are the Muslim Brotherhood ambassadors to Saudi Arabia or other Gulf states.” Additionally, in a widely circulated video recording of a recent speech in Bahrain, Dubai’s police chief, who enjoys close relations with the country’s prime minister, warned against the Muslim Brotherhood, stating that their “threat” to the region was just as serious as that of Iran’s. Additionally, I outlined in an article in Gulf News last year how a petition calling for reform sent to the UAE government by 130 academics was stillborn due to the fact that some of the signatories were affiliated with the Brotherhood in the country.

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