While recalling his memories as a diplomat, former Russian ambassador to Qatar Vladimir Titorenko spoke about his experience in Qatar and narrated an interesting conversation that happened between him and the Muslim Brotherhood’s leader Yusuf al-Qaradawi.
During an interview with a program that airs on the Russia Today channel, Titorenko said: “Qaradawi told me: ‘Russia must accept the truth that bloody and corrupt regimes in Arab countries must go, and that people have gotten sick of their old governments which must be replaced by the power of society.
Islamic groups’ political expressions and speeches, particularly the Brotherhood’s, are distinguished for their advanced political vocabulary which are in fact misleading and do not reflect their exclusionary, religious and theological agendaAbdulrahman al-Rashed
When these countries get rid of their expired rulers, they will be able to build prosperous societies that are based on our authentic traditions.’ I then asked him: ‘Excuse me but you keep repeating the word democracy so do you think the regime of the country where you live is democratic? I mean Qatar and other neighboring countries where there are no political parties and parliament but absolute monarchies, so is this democratic?’ He answered: ‘No, but their turn will come too.’”
Qaradawi links to Qatar
Speaking on the program called ‘A Journey Through the Memory’, the former envoy continued: “I repeated my question: ‘Do you think it’s necessary to also overthrow the rulers and emirs of Qatar?’ and he answered: ‘Emirs must first carry out their role and the people will overthrow them later.’”
Titorenko thinks that Qaradawi has influence in Qatar as, for instance, he would contact the Amiri Diwan to advise that Qatari television channels air more horrific scenes. Titorenko said that Qaradawi did that in front of him and quoted Qaradawi as saying: “Air more scenes that show plenty of blood and murder of children as much as possible.”
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The program’s host then commented: “Really?! That is horrible!”
The envoy responded: “Indeed. I informed Moscow of this and wrote about my impression that Qaradawi gives directions to Qatar’s command on how to manage propaganda and how he asks them to show the massacres of children and women on television stations.” Titorenko’s story and his impressions do not surprise us and do not provide any new information. However, it is a testimony from a retired diplomat, who is not part of the dispute, although Russia remains friendly with some of Qatar’s allies like Iran and Hezbollah.
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Those who heard what Qaradawi said and what the Russian envoy testified – and it is what others from among Qaradawi’s followers also say in public – may see it as a testimony for the Brotherhood and not against them. That is that it is testimony that their vision and approach for a system of governance is modern and believes in political participation via democracy.
There is not enough space here to fully discuss this, but I’ll clarify that Islamic groups’ political expressions and speeches, particularly the Brotherhood’s, are distinguished for their advanced political vocabulary which are in fact misleading and do not reflect their exclusionary, religious and theological agenda.
The Brotherhood and the Arab Spring
During the Arab Spring in 2011, they tried to hijack the historical moment so they abandoned talking about their political religious project under the slogan “Islam is the solution” and went along with the new situation, focusing on three words in their speech, “freedom, rights and elections,” so that it harmonizes with Egypt’s and Tunisia’s elections.
However, the truth is incomplete, as democracy is a term which they copied and linked to fascist and harsh religious concepts which guarantee governance to a certain group in terms of nomination and ruling forever. This is exactly the case of the democracy of Khamenei’s Iran which brags over empty elections till this day when it had executed tens of thousands of its partners in the revolution who belonged to nationalist and leftist groups.
Qaradawi’s statements – according to the envoy’s narrative – about Qatar and the rest of the Gulf kingdoms are not strange as the religious group has used the Shah during a difficult period of his reign. They also rode the horse of democracy in Gaza and have been in power ever since, turning the strip into an Iranian garrison. This is what the Brotherhood did when they were given a chance in Sudan as they seized power and toppled the elected government of Sadiq al-Mahdi.
Therefore, extremist ideological groups will not fool us into believing that they really want popular change and political participation and that they believe in rights and elections because they don’t. Communists, too, used to use the same rhetoric.
However, I do not believe what the former envoy sees: That Qaradawi manages Qatar. Qaradawi probably has a function in the diwan and has exploited the Brotherhood’s closeness with some Arab nationalists. And just like the former envoy, we do not understand how Qatar’s politicians can overlook those conspiring against them as this is something that has no scientific explanation nor a historical logic to it.
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.