Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Osama Bin Laden & The Saudi Muslim Brotherhood

"... In a recent video entitled "Days with the Imam" in which he recalls Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri declares that the founder of al Qaeda had been a "member of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Arabian Peninsula" before he was evicted in the 1980s. He was expelled because of his insistence on fighting alongside the mujahidin in Afghanistan while the Brotherhood allowed him to bring aid to Peshawar but didn't want him to go any further. Zawahiri's claims seem to have caused some embarrassment among the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), judging from how quick MB spokesman Mahmoud Ghozlan was to refute them.One reason for the embarrassment may be that, with a Muslim Brotherhood president recently elected in Egypt, the organization is eager to reassure the West of its moderate Islamist orientation and is therefore afraid of anything associating it with al Qaeda or jihadism. Yet Zawahiri's declarations shouldn't be seen as too problematic in this respect, since they portray the MB as an organization unwilling to let its members take part in physical jihad, even against the Russians in Afghanistan at a time when the issue was far less controversial than it would later become. A more likely reason for the Brotherhood's distress, however, is that Zawahiri reveals what among Saudi Islamist insiders is an open secret but remains little known outside those circles: that there exists a Saudi Arabian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood........
After bin Laden's relationship with the Saudi Muslim Brotherhood formally ended, each took a radically different path. While bin Laden was growing increasingly hostile toward the Saudi regime, the Saudi Brotherhood insisted on keeping a low profile and avoided -- with the exception of a short period during the Sahwa's intifada in the early 1990s -- any open criticism of the royal family. In the wake of the Arab Spring, a few Saudi Brotherhood figures, galvanized by the revolutionary events in the region, tried to push for the organization to more explicitly challenge the royal family -- but again, to no avail. This careful strategy explains why the Saudi Muslim Brotherhood has managed to remain a key element of the Saudi political fabric until this day, while eluding both the wrath of the regime and the attention of outsiders."

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