October 28, 2013


Islamic Comrades No More (VALI R. NASR, October 28, 2013, NY Times)

With the Brotherhood as an underdog it patronized, Saudi Arabia could afford to be both Islamic and pro-West, and to support Islamic causes while backing secular regimes like that of Hosni Mubarak of Egypt -- even as he barred the Brotherhood from political power.

All of that changed when the Brotherhood took power in Egypt by winning the presidential election in 2012.

The election produced an ambitious ideological regime, speaking for Islam and eager to shape the Arab world in its own image -- stands that would pose the same degree of threat to Saudi Arabia's stolid monarchy as Nasser's secular Arab populism had. Saudi monarchs could be comfortable with the Brotherhood as a powerless client, but not as an equal ruler of a state. So Riyadh supported the Egyptian military's coup in July.

The Muslim Brotherhood was born in 1928 in opposition to an Egyptian monarchy. Its ideology blends Islam with Arab nationalism to denounce autocracy and the West. It promises to empower both the people and Islamic law in an ideal "republic" -- a sharp contrast to the Saudi monarchy. Since Saudi identity is wrapped tightly around a puritanical interpretation of Islam, and Saudi nationalism draws on the centrality of Mecca and Medina to the Islamic faith, secular democracy has yet to find a large Saudi following. But the Brotherhood's populist Islamism, which promises justice and equity, and empowerment of the individual in religion and politics, does resonate with the many unemployed and restless young Saudis.

With the imminent fall of the Ba'athists in Syria, only Realists, Israel and the Sa'uds still support authoritarianism in the region.

Posted by at October 28, 2013 2:59 PM

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