I’ve noticed “early” celebrations for the end of the era of Sahwa, i.e.awakening, in Arab Muslim countries and particularly in Saudi Arabia. Sahwa is a Saudi term that refers to all political Islam movements whose major umbrella is of course the Muslim Brotherhood.
The feeling that the chapter of “Sahwa” has ended once and for all has been growing ever since the Saudi crown prince, the leader of the new national vision, made his famous promise to destroy extremists “now and immediately.”
The sense that “Sahwa” has come to an end is also due to the decrease of that media popularity and semi-social immunity which Sahwa’s stars enjoyed.
Some of these Sahwa “celebrities” are Salman al-Ouda and Awad Al-Qarni in Saudi Arabia, Sayyid Qutb and Hassan al-Banna outside the Saudi kingdom, Kuwaiti activists such as Ahmad al-Qattan, Mohammed al-Awdi and Tareq Al-Suwaidan and those affiliated with him. These stars’ media popularity has actually been decreasing over the past few years.
Memories and memoirs
What I conclude from all this is that Sahwa, its stars, principles, concepts and causes, have died. They have been buried and all that is left of them are memories and memoirs which only a specific category of researches are interested in.
Let’s remember the domination which Sahwa preachers, whether from the Brotherhood or the Sururist Movement, and their supporters from the public, imposed. By the way, the term “public” here applies to some graduates from American and French universities as it is rather used to describe a state of mind rather than a social one.
The Brotherhood lost part of this appreciation when they betrayed Saudi Arabia after Saddam Hussein occupied Kuwait. The former crown prince and later interior minister Nayef bin Abdulaziz bitterly spoke about the Brotherhood’s betrayal and began to gradually eliminate the group’s concepts from the society.Mashari al-Thayidi
Mentioning Sahwa preachers - whether Saudior non-Saudi - in newspapers was very difficult particularly in the 1980’s and during a part of the 1990’s.
The Brotherhood’s works were celebrated at some point. For example, the books of Zainab al-Ghazali and Ahmad Raef about the Brotherhood’s tragic battles with Abdelnasser, occupied front shelves in libraries. Mohammed Qutb’s books were part of school libraries and curricula. Sayyid Qutb was distinguished to the point that a school was named after him in Qassim.
The Brotherhood lost part of this appreciation when they betrayed Saudi Arabia after Saddam Hussein occupied Kuwait. The former crown prince and later interior minister Nayef bin Abdulaziz bitterly spoke about the Brotherhood’s betrayal and began to gradually eliminate the group’s concepts from the society.
The situation became even clearer due to the Brotherhood’s practices during the Arab Spring. It turned out there’s no difference between a Brotherhood member who is holding a weapon and a Brotherhood member who wears a tie. They’re all the same.
What’s worrying now is relying on this “temporary” Sahwist Brotherhood defeat and not constantly and comprehensively working to clear minds and spirits that are interacting with these fundamentalists’ legacy.
We’re at the beginning of the task. Yes, we should be hopeful but it’s not time to celebrate yet.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Saudi journalist Mashari Althaydi presents Al Arabiya News Channel’s “views on the news” daily show “Maraya.” He has previously held the position of a managing senior editor for Saudi Arabia & Gulf region at pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat. Althaydi has published several papers on political Islam and social history of Saudi Arabia. He appears as a guest on several radio and television programs to discuss the ideologies of extremist groups and terrorists. He tweets under @MAlthaydy.