Over the past couple weeks, a major issue discussed by the Arab (and especially the Egyptian and Gulf) press is the public spat between the leaders of the UAE and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. The UAE has been nervous about the MB (it has a small domestic version) for a long time, as last year's stripping of nationality of the UAE 7 (alleged members of the group) showed. These tensions mounted to the surface after the UAE rescinded the residency visas of Syrians who held a protest outside the Syrian embassy in Abu Dhabi. This was condemned by UAE Islamists (some of the Syrians are believed to be Syrian MB) and by Sheikh Youssef Qaradawi in Qatar, promoting the UAE authorities to threaten him with arrest for attacking the country should he visit. This incensed Qaradawy's followers in the global MB movement, and Egyptian MB spokesman Mahmoud Ghozlan (one of a handful of MB leaders who really matter) countered by threatening (unspecified) action against the UAE should anything happen to Qaradawy. A story in this week's Economist provides more detail:
Yet the action against Syrian protesters, despite strong public sympathy with their plight, points to a broader intolerance for political activism of any kind, including internal dissent. This is particularly so if it is perceived to involve the Muslim Brotherhood. Over the past year, dozens of teachers believed to have Islamist tendencies have been removed from their posts, and activists said to have ties to the Brotherhood have been harassed, arrested and even stripped of their Emirati nationality.
In early March outrage over the treatment of the Syrian protesters led to the arrest of a sympathetic Emirati, as well as to a full-blown diplomatic spat between the UAE and Egypt. After Sheikh Youssef Qaradawi, the Qatar-based Egyptian preacher revered by the Brotherhood, made a critical statement against the Emirates, police in Dubai, the emirates’ commercial hub, threatened him with arrest if he visited the country. This prompted a Brotherhood spokesman in Egypt to threaten retaliation “from the entire Muslim world”. The affair has now subsided, but not before Dubai’s flamboyant police chief warned on his Twitter account that “since the Muslim Brotherhood has become a state, anyone advocating its cause should be considered a foreign agent.”
The Brotherhood has since toned down its rhetoric, although it stopped short of contrition. The Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to which the Emiratis complained, is washing its hands of the whole affair, saying it is not responsible for the statements of the MB. The government is of course worried about getting UAE financial support (none of which has been delivered yet, perhaps in part because the UAE only wants to give it in kind for specific projects, not as general budget support). And the Emiratis are not over it at all, as the endless attacks on the MB in their papers show. For them, it's not just a question of national pride — it's a real worry about the regional MB block becoming a powerhouse and the Egyptian mothership boosting similar movements elsewhere. The Emirati MB may be small and operating in a society that is largely ruled according to tribal traditions and oil power, but it represents the seed of something that seems to really scare the Emirati establishment. The article below, from the Emirati paper al-Ittihadi, is typical in its defensiveness.
As always, the translation is provided by the amazingly talented folks at Industry Arabic. Don't get your translations anywhere else.
The Muslim Brotherhood… and the Exploitation of Turmoil
Dr. Abdullah al-Awadi, al-Ittihad, 16 March 2012
No country in the world – least of all a country the size of Egypt – allows a political party, even if it prevails in “democratic” elections, to control its destiny or jeopardize its higher interests. When the party of the Muslim Brotherhood wages a battle in the name of the Egyptian state to defend a “cleric” who interfered in a sovereign matter in the Emirates, how could any state stand on the sidelines and watch while its back is exposed to the MB’s attacks — as if they had won the whole world, and not just the “Mother of the World”?
It seems that the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has forgotten they are living in the Arab country of Egypt, and not in the country of a “political party” that is drunk with victory, even though it has not yet done anything of note for Egypt.
The revolution that swept political Islam into parliament still has not yet determined the form of Egypt’s government. Rather, a cloak of chaos is what has emerged from the likes of the MB’s official spokesman to violate the most basic diplomatic norms, which do not allow anyone whosoever in any country whatsoever to violate the sovereignty of any country, whether it is a sister country or a friendly one. Not to mention that there are no issues between Emirates and a country as great as Egypt to upset their continual friendship. Furthermore, however much some people may try to elevate partisan interests above the greater good of the Arab nation, it is not desirable now, especially at this stage, to impose agendas steeped in extremism to stoke tension that is not in the interest of the two countries or peoples.
The Emirates have not once taken sides in the situation in Egypt, which still has not stabilized. However, this also does not mean that it has become possible to meddle in other countries under any pretext.
Both the leadership and the people of the Emirates stand shoulder to shoulder in professing loyalty to one side. They have been such since the country was founded, and they will not allow anyone from anywhere to disrupt this solid structure.
The Emirati people is aware of a danger that targets their security framework. This security is fortified by insightful, discerning leaders who are at the helm of a society that has not experienced one day of divided or splintered loyalty, or even two opposing camps.
Those who are riding high off the ballot boxes must all realize that the people of the Emirates hold a warm place in their hearts for their faithful leadership. This cannot be replaced by ballot boxes stuffed with ideas that disrupt security and stability in societies that have nothing to do with the ferment taking place in some countries, and which some people are using as a tool to gain influence over others.
Whoever does not possess troubled ground under his feet has no right to meddle with a country that engages the world from the shelter of security, peace and stability – not just regionally, but also globally. The Emirates has hints and indications that testify to this, which we saw in Bosnia in the 1990s, and which we see today in every spot that is looking for a drop of security from the Emirates’ outreached tap.
The ones who are exploiting the troubled situation in some Arab countries to export their extravagant ideas to the countries in the Arab world that enjoy security and safety should not be given the least chance to achieve their agendas, which transgress all the red lines of nations and societies without exception.