Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt added two radical Islamic organizations and eleven extremists to their terror list.
Truth be told, listing the Union of Muslim Scholars, which was founded by the Muslim Brotherhood and embraced by Qatar, and the International Islamic Council is a step long overdue. Prohibiting dealing with these two entities, particularly the Union of Muslim Scholars, should have been imposed before now. The Union of Muslim Scholars has posed a threat to Muslim societies ever since its establishment. Its emergence into the scene when al-Qaeda first appeared was like declaring a frank war against traditional and moderate Islam in the region and the world.
The Union of Muslim Scholars was born as part of the domination project led by extremist religious groups and their different approaches which include inciting jihadist political rhetoric, armed organizations and parallel religious institutions that grant legitimacy to their practices and cancel moderate institutions.
While al-Qaeda carried out explosions and killed people and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi beheaded people in the name of Islam, the Union of Muslim Scholars was born in Qatar in 2004 for the same extremist Islamic aims. Its members prepared fatwas (religious edicts), justified violence and engaged in ideological wars that deprived traditional muftis and scholars of their worth and ridiculed their fatwas. Let’s not forget that Saudi Arabia’s scholars, from among traditional Salafists, issued fatwas prohibiting jihadist operations since the 1990’s as they viewed them as acting outside the obedience of the state. This angered the mufti of the union, who is affiliated with the Brotherhood and Qatar as they justified “martyrdom operations” and sought to juristically legitimize it. The union worked on destroying major religious institutions in the Muslim world, like the Council of Senior Scholars in Saudi Arabia and Al-Azhar in Egypt.
The terrorism project hiding under Islam launched its work around the same time organizations which issue extremist fatwas were founded. Like al-Qaeda and ISIS, these jurisprudential groups said they refuse to be local as they view themselves as global organizations that cross borders.
Al-Qaeda’s birth in Afghanistan also came around the same time as the birth of the European Council for Fatwa and Research in 1997 in London. Is it a coincidence that it’s headed by Yusuf al-Qaradawi and his deputy Ali al-Qaradaghi, the same figures we’ve seen involved in extremist ideology for the past 20 years?
Just like al-Qaeda branched in the Middle East and Europe, extremist jurisprudential organizations established branches in the Gulf, Iraq, Lebanon, North Africa, France, Germany, Belgium, Britain and Ireland.
These religious institutions’ slogans, the different nationalities of those affiliated with them and their statements and activities show how they played the role of the religious reference which extremist groups - that were based on calls of extremism and jihad - needed during the dangerous years of unrest.
The most dangerous aspect of terrorism is extremist ideology. We realize this well now; however we must also realize that extremist ideology would not have been born and would not have developed into establishing armed organizations if it hadn’t been for these religious figures and institutions that embrace extremist scholars, and if hadn’t been for Qatar which protected them and funded them thus allowing them to gain influence on the intellectual and media levels.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed.