In June 2004, the International Union of Muslim Scholars in London announced the first general assembly after its founding in Dublin, Ireland. Held under the leadership of Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the assembly gathered nearly 200 scholars from different sects and doctrines.
The Union is considered a pioneer among political Islamist groups and continues to be headed by leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The objectives of establishing the International Union of Muslim Scholars were financially and logistically supported by Prince Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, and is based in Doha. According to al-Qaradawi “the scholars of the Islamic Ummah who are gathered from all corners of the world are led by a nationalist duty not a governmental one.”
“The big problem is when the government intervenes in theology as a mean to serve its agendas and this is the major disaster on the nations,” he added.
In order to strengthen the Union’s position, he sought through his populist discourse, to dominate the public and alienate them from official religious institutions, in order to overthrow legitimacy.
The Union’s propaganda coincided with the “Sahawi” discourse and its heirs, emanating from the Muslim Brotherhood, in addition to what is known as the “radical jihadist Salafism.”
In order to shake the trust of the community in the symbols of the religious establishment, these groups created different descriptions, including “the scholars of the Sultan”, “agents rather than being scholars” and “scholars of dirham and dinar”.
The most recent was a Qatari newspaper “Al-Raya” headline which said: “the Council of Senior Hypocrites”, in an insulting reference to the Saudi Council of Senior Scholars, the Grand Mufti of the Kingdom and Chairman of the Standing Committee for Theological Research and Fatwas Abdul Aziz Al-Sheikh.
This was related to the Mufti’s support for the Gulf countries’ decision to cut ties with Qatar and his call to the Muslim Brotherhood to renounce extremism saying: “The Muslims must be strengthened by God, their approach should be from the Qur’an and Sunnah. There must be no exaggeration or fallacies. There must adopt the work of the Book of Allah, whoever comes to do so is right and whoever calls for falsehood is invalid.”
Embraced by Doha
The Brotherhood’s identification with other extremist radical groups embraced by Doha was crystalized through the correspondence of the headline of the Qatari newspaper with the words of Abu Muhammad al-Adnani the spokesman of ISIS, in a voice message broadcast through the “Furqan” institution, the media subsidiary of the organization, in which he attacked the Council of Senior Scholars.
In October 2015, Adnani delivered a recorded speech in which he said: “the non-believers will be defeated.”
On the other hand, “Masra” newspaper, the media subsidiary of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and Yemen, released its first edition in January 2016 attacking the scholars of Saudi Arabia and condemning the Gulf countries’ decision to cut ties with Qatar. It noted that “the Arab countries which are criticizing Qatar are in fact starting a media campaign against Qatar and Prince Tamim bin Hamad, Emir of Qatar”.
The statement issued by the “Masra” newspaper attributed the action taken by Arab countries a result of “the annoyance of these countries of the role of Qatar in Yemen and its sympathy with the Muslim Brotherhood.”
It seems that the inclusion of the name of Yusuf Qaradawi in the list of wanted and supporters of terrorism, has blocked the way to any tactical withdrawal as he did in June 2016 when he said: “I stood against the elders scholars of Saudi Arabia but it seems that the Saudi sheikhs were wiser than me.”
This article is also available in Arabic.