Prince Mohammed bin Salman correctly diagnosed the intellectual issues and triggers that lead men to commit acts of terrorism. In an interview with TIME magazine, he spoke about the Muslim Brotherhood’s crimes and their role in promoting this evil.
He also discussed another dangerous movement that has its supporters and followers in Saudi Arabia, the Sururist Movement, which lies at the center of the Islamic Sahwa (Awakening) Movement. It’s an era that the state is working on sweeping away and making it history.
The prince described the Sururists as even more extreme than the Muslim Brotherhood, and added: “According to our law, they are criminals” promising to take them to court whenever there is enough evidence against any one of them, which is a very important step.
Neither Sahwa nor Sururism has been defeated yet. It will take a long time before they can be defeated. There are extended conflicts and fierce battles ahead. However, we will cross the bridgeFahad Suleiman Shoqiran
Research on Sururism
Abdullah bin Bijad al-Otaibi wrote about the history of Sururism at an early stage and has carried out an important study in this regard. Perhaps many of those who have written about the history of Sururism and Sahwa have benefitted from his study. Otaibi continued to write valuable and significant articles about the Muslim Brotherhood and its role in Saudi Arabia.
In an article published earlier this week, Otaibi wrote: “The relation between Sururism and the Muslim Brotherhood in Saudi Arabia was characterized by its fluctuation between joint work and inter-party rivalry. They released ‘joint statements’ to voice opposing political stances but they disagreed over political interests, as in the case of the 2005 municipal elections.”
He added: “Considering the great resemblance between the two, there were great conflicts in the educational operation, charitable work as well as in the media. This is in addition to conflicts over acquisition of mosques and Qur’anic recitation sessions. Sururism and the Muslim Brotherhood are both dangerous, extremist takfirist groups that have the same aims as other terrorist and takfirist groups, such as al-Qaeda, ISIS, and Salafist jihadist movements.”
The history of Sururism and Sahwa was a topic of great interest to writers and researchers and plenty of periodicals and publications tackled it after the political cover was lifted off Sahwa.
Many were encouraged to write about Sahwa after this cover was lifted but those who were really brave are those who tolerated Sahwa’s lashes for decades, when they fought it while it was holding full sway. These figures were threatened, their reputations were tarnished and they were accused of infidelity because they stood up against Sahwa. They are braver and stronger than others because they confronted this movement when it wielded influence even over state institutions. Although current publications came in late, they add to the power of movements that oppose Sahwa and reactionary groups.
The history of Sahwa
An example of these publications is the book “Diagnosing Sahwa, analysis and memories,” by Saudi Deputy Minister of Islamic Affairs Dr. Tawfiq al-Sudairy. The book is important given the high status of the author, as he is a deputy minister in a large ministry that supervises 90,000 mosques and can influence each individual.
The author did not claim that the book is a detailed history of Sahwa but said it’s a personal analysis that’s based on an experience he’s gained since the 1960’s. Hence he used “analysis and memories” in the title.
The first chapter is entitled “political interpretation of Islam” and it’s originally based on a lecture he delivered in Jenadriyah in 2016. It was neither an interesting introduction nor expressive of the book’s content. However, in the second chapter, he begins to narrate the analysis and memories. It’s clear that the book was in his mind for some time but he chose the time of its printing during a certain phase.
The book then tackles Hizbut-Tahrir, Tablighi Jamaat, Al-Jamia Movement, Al-Qubaysiat Movement as well as Al-Qaeda and its proxies. However, when it comes to Sururism, Sahwa, the history of the Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Jamaa Al-Salafiya Al-Muhtasiba (Juhayman al-Otaybi’s group), his view seems clearer and sharper and his words are even more strident as he recalls his memories that are full of stances and debates.
The second chapter was entitled “Groups of political interpretation of Islam in the Saudi kingdom.” I disagree with him here as there’s no point in evading calling these groups as fundamentalist or radical or at least describing them as “groups of political Islam.” The word “interpretation” is actually vague in this context.
Threat of Muslim Brotherhood
Sudairy discussed the Muslim Brotherhood’s first stances towards Saudi Arabia, and it’s extremely hostile positions. When King Abdulaziz made the famous statement “We are all brothers and we are all Muslims” to Hassan al-Banna, the latter reacted by making several statements.
For example, Fahmy- Abou Ghadir said Banna felt disgruntled because of Saudi Arabia’s condition that if he wants to perform pilgrimage, he must not deliver speeches or talk about politics. It’s well-known that the Muslim Brotherhood had extended its wings in Saudi Arabia despite King Abdulaziz’s deep awareness of the ambitions of Hassan al-Banna and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Banna wanted to teach in Saudi Arabia but he did not succeed because Saudi Arabia was aware of the threat he posed. Back then, Mahmoud Abdel Halim quoted Banna as saying: “Muslim countries, including Saudi Arabia, are a burden on the Muslim Brotherhood. This requires doubling efforts to instill life in them.” (From the book Diagnosing Sahwa, page 43)
After the book was issued, Al-Arabiya’s website conducted an interview with Sudairy. Journalist Huda al-Saleh brought up what many people noticed, including what I objected on which is the selectivity when referring to some figures with their initials.
Sudairy did not clarify his style regarding this selectivity as he named dozens of Brotherhood, Jamia and Al-Jamaa Al-Salafiya Al-Muhtasiba figures but he used initials for others. Some said Sudairy did so because of these symbols’ popularity, so he did not name them but he named others because their roles ended such as Manaa al-Qattan and Mohammed Surur Zine El Abidine.
Sudairy said, and I think it’s rare to listen to such a frank description from an official with the rank of a minister: “The Muslim Brotherhood has worked in a strident manner on Saudi territories, ever since its establishment and until this day.
It managed to infiltrate important sectors in the state, of which the most significant are the public and university education sectors, religious and administrative sectors and even the military sector though partially as well as the private and commercial sectors considering the Gulf area is the most important source of funding for the group.”
Neither Sahwa nor Sururism has been defeated yet. It will take a long time before they can be defeated. There are extended conflicts and fierce battles ahead. However, we will cross the bridge. The path is rough but we have the strength and the capability. What we rely on to destroy the structures of the guardians of illusion is the political decision which wants this phenomenon to disappear.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Fahad Shoqiran is a Saudi writer and researcher who also founded the Riyadh philosophers group. His writings have appeared in pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, Alarabiya.net, among others. He also blogs on philosophies, cultures and arts. He tweets @shoqiran.