Saudi Arabia’s Brotherhood ban could send shockwaves worldwide

By joining Egypt in designating the group as a terrorist organization, the kingdom may be able to persuade Western governments to blacklist the group

Paul Crompton

Published: Updated:

Saudi Arabia’s surprise announcement on Friday to declare the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization is an attempt to strike the group at their weakest moment - and an attempt to kick start worldwide condemnation towards the group, an analyst said.

The kingdom’s blacklisting of the group comes soon after the kingdom - along with Bahrain and the UAE - withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar, a known backer of former Egyptian President Mohammad Mursi’s Brotherhood-led government.

The ban is an attempt to strike the group at their weakest moment, according to Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a professor of political science at UAE University.

Losing it all

“They [the Muslim Brotherhood] have lost so much as a result of the crackdown in Egypt and the dismantling of their leadership, so I think the time is probably right [to ban them],” said Abdulla.

By joining Egypt in designating the group as a terrorist organization, the kingdom may be able to persuade Western governments to blacklist the group – further weakening its power, the analyst said.

“Probably if you have the UAE joining in, and others, probably this will send a message to west, to London and Washington, this is probably going to be a masterstroke from the Saudis,” he told Al Arabiya.

No more sympathy

The sudden ban has triggered some Muslim preachers - commonly believed to be supporters of the now-banned group - to remove any indications of Brotherhood sympathies.

Mohamad al-Arefe, a Muslim preacher and a professor at the King Saud University in Saudi Arabia, has allegedly changed his display picture on Twitter that originally contained the ‘Rabaa hand’ logo, which depicts a four-fingered gesture - now banned in Egypt - raised by supporters of ousted President Mohammad Mursi.

Users of Twitter criticized Arefe, who has more than 8 million followers on Twitter, for changing his picture.

Salman al-Odah, a Muslim preacher, writer, and a host of several religious TV programs, has also changed his Twitter profile image to one that does not include the Rabaa sign.

Less explicit

Since the tensions between the Gulf states began, it has been noted that the tweets done by some of these preachers became less explicitly supportive of the Brotherhood in Egypt or others parts in the region.

Arefe then said on Twitter: “Dear Twitter users… Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him say good or remain silent,” indirectly avoiding comment on kingdom’s recent move to ban the Brotherhood.

Fahd al-Khireeji, a professor of Political Media, told Al Arabiya News everyone should abide by the Kingdom’s new decision.

“The issue is settled. They need to know that Saudi Arabia has made a decision and all they need to do is stand for the kingdom’s fight against terrorism.”

The swift change in the preachers’ accounts triggered social media users to comment on the subject.

“Al-Arefe removed the Rabaa logo..more are yet to come,” tweeted ‏bin_alali_uae in Arabic.

“Salman al-Ouda had the Rabaa logo, as soon as the Brotherhood was labeled a terrorist organization, he removed it. Truly a brave man!” another Twitter user said.

“Don’t gloat over AlArefe for removing the Rabaa logo...who will raise the kids if he insists on putting the logo?” tweeted ‏ JasemMurad.

Wide support base

Wiping out the Muslim Brotherhood is a “huge challenge,” due to its penetration in many societal institutions, said Abdulla.

“They are all over the place, in civil organizations, media, as well as religious associations,” he said.

The Brotherhood’s power comes from their “mass base of support,” unlike militant groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) and the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front, which were also banned in the same royal decree.

“The Muslim Brotherhood have managed to penetrate societies right and left, and their appeal to the masses is greater than al-Qaeda or al-Nusra or anybody else,” he said.