Mohammad Pervez Bilgrami
The tragic fall of decades-old allies, Ben Ali in Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt shocked the Gulf Monarchies to the core. It made them wonder with an inquisitive desire to know as to which segment of their own society has the potential or audacity to ignite the revolution. To the Bahraini government, it was obvious that the Shia community is capable of revolting, but whom else? From within the Sunni segment, the Jameah Salafiests could not possibly be considered a threat because their ideology restrains them from opposing the state leaders in governance.
To Jameahs, protesting is a sin. They argue, no matter whatsoever; even if the state leaders grow to become corrupted, stealing public money and abusing people, a revolt should never be allowed to take place. What a preposterous ideology which is still alive and being used blatantly to enslave the masses! Jameahs live in a bubble of their own. This ‘self-enslaved’ group interprets the Hadiths (Prophet’s Traditions) and the Quran in its own way to argue for and spread the culture of obedience. Thus, from within the Sunni segment, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and those who do not share this dogma of ‘blind obedience’ become the immediate suspects.
With secularists and nationalists failing to get the attention of the ordinary Arab, Islamists emerged as a leading force in both politics and society. Secular parties are losing seats in parliaments and losing their appeal in society. To Arabs and Muslims, Islam is not just a religion, it is a cultural heritage; the Golden Ages of Islam have never left the imagination of the Arab and Muslim. Further, the Arab Spring showed that secularists of Egypt, Bahrain and Saudi are nothing but mouthpieces of their authoritarian regimes; fascists in disguise. On the other hand, the ordinary Arab appears to have come to the conclusion that neither Saudi nor Iran is representing the Political Islam which they have long dreamed about. In abandoning the dichotomy between the ‘misrepresented secularism’ and the ‘misinterpreted Islam’, Arabs are gradually moving towards a force which falls in between and to many ordinary Sunnis the MB fit the profile.
However, it is obvious from observation that the collective mass which is pushing for liberal ideals is not strictly coming from the MB, but rather a diverse group of open minded individuals are contributing. Shias and Sunnis who aspire for coexistence, secularists and Islamists who are open minded, ordinary individuals and religious scholars are all contributing towards an intellectual revolution which might endure in the wake of the Gulf erupting into a sectarian civil war. This collective mass is pushing for liberal ideals and tracing them back to Islam encouraging freedom of thought, expression, equality, justice and tolerance. But the governments under the monarchies are afraid of such ‘talks’. That's why they are prosecuting them, banning their TV shows, harassing them on social media and tarnishing their reputation on local newspapers, accusing them of belonging to MB, and being terrorists or traitors who are planning to do evil!
Islamists in general are emerging as powers after the Arab Spring and, that is why the Gulf Monarchs are suffering from a sort of fear psychosis that makes them to hate the destabilizing forces such as the MB. And the crackdown has already started in the United Arab Emirate (UAE). But the crackdown is not restricted to the MB only; anyone who shows a sign of wanting to criticize the government is hunted and imprisoned. To the extent that the family members in the UAE are living in fear while suspecting each other to such an extent that a father would not reveal his political opinion to his son. If someone is searching for an Orwellian state, the UAE is a living example!
On Friday, the Saudi government issued a decree declaring the MB as terrorists. The draconian decree clearly violates article 19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the right to peaceful assembly and association; and the right to freedom of expression and opinion. The decree has gone as far as prohibiting the ‘Rabia’ sign as also prohibiting the sympathy for the MB! The Saudis who do not agree to the decree are now forced to go against their will and self-censor their opinions due to fear of government surveillance and punishment.
The MB of the Gulf has never been involved in acts of violence; it is therefore ridiculous and utterly unfair to enlist them as terrorists while sparing the Hezbollah groups in Bahrain and Lebanon. “Why these groups were deliberately excluded from the decree?” the MB asks with disillusionment.
However, by alienating and disempowering the MB, the Bahraini Monarchy in particular is putting a final nail in its coffin! The Jameahs and their loyalists are in a minority and their rhetoric does not appeal to the masses who are longing for freedom and democracy. If MB were crushed or forced underground, the Shia oppositions will rise as the only and legitimate power to substitute the Monarchy, and hence the Shia community has no interest in supporting a Sunni regime of Muslim Brotherhood.
Bahrain has not yet declared such a decree but the propaganda against the MB has since started. Local newspapers and some twitter accounts have also started hate speeches. One of the accusations which are being leveled is that the MB are disloyal to the country and seeking to topple the government and that they have allegiance to one supreme leader residing in Egypt!
In a bid to punish the tiny state of Qatar for its support to Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and elsewhere, the leading member of GCC, Saudi Arabia along with UAE and Bharain have already recalled their envoys from envoy Doha. Saudi Arabia has further threatened to blockade fellow GCC member Qatar by land and sea unless it cuts ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, closes Al Jazeera, and expels renowned Islamic scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi, known for his ties with MB.
But the MB of the Gulf argue that they do not want to topple their governments but want their governments to listen to their own people; to allow more space for freedom of expression and to show genuine effort in fighting corruption. However, in Arab countries where people have been living in a culture of fear and oppression for years, they would not understand the value of criticizing governments. They would not fully realise that they have any ‘rights’ and that they, too, ‘can’ decide what is best for them! This makes it quite easy for the monarchical governments to convince their gullible masses that the MB are villains who want to destroy their countries.
It is the most ironical and cruel aspect of the Egyptian history that those who have been in power in this country of ancient Pharaohs have not allowed the "political Islam" a chance. Since Gamal Abdel Nasser and until today, the MB in Egypt has continued to be prosecuted and their reputation tarnished. In spite of this, the Egyptian people’s movement, globally hailed as the ‘Arab Spring’ miraculously brought to power a Muslim Brotherhood, raising great expectations among the humanity worldwide, living as the prisoners of conscience under the monarchical system! This goes to prove that the truth has a tendency to come out despite repression of the worst kind. And the suppression of a movement which has a popular appeal among the masses, as is in the case of the MB, is an exercise in futility. In the ultimate course of events, foul will have to give way to the fair.
With no conscience, truth can easily be replaced, and our Islamic views distorted as a result of strategic calculations.
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