George Washington University academic Marc Lynch has followed up on the Mohanna Hubayl’s summary of Muslim Brotherhood organizations in the Gulf by supplying an analysis of the state of the Muslim Brotherhood in Saudi Arabia, relying on comments by Thomas Hegghammer, a Norwegian academic. Dr. Lynch asks Dr. Hegghammer to respond to Hubayl’s brief statement that “the [Saudi] MB peacefully and voluntarily liquidated itself, he claims. The main pillars of MB thought remain but many of its former members have moved to the conservative salafi trend:
Hegghammer: The MB in Saudi Arabia is a mysterious entity that is extremely difficult to pin down, because they do not have a formal organizational presence. Nevertheless, some people and communities are known to have more or less of a MB orientation. As such, the MB blends into the Sahwa and the two are often lumped together, especially by liberals (and by Prince Nayif). It is useful to think of the Sahwa as a spectrum with pure MB ideology on the one hand and pure wahhabism on the other. Muhammad Qutb would be far out on the left, Musa al-Qarni three-quarters to the left and Salman al-Awda somewhere in the middle. Two implications follow: first, it is extremely difficult to assess the state of the MB, and second, you never know what people mean when they speak of the MB in Saudi. If by the MB al-Hubayl means the Sahwa, which I suspect, then I would agree with the assessment. The Sahwa, already out of steam in the late 1990s, has been further weakened by Hawali’s hospitalisation and al-Awda’s near-total cooptation. They still remain relatively popular and there is a new generation of Sahwists coming up, but their politics are not very contentious any more. I am not sure exactly who al-Hubayl has in mind when he says MB figures have moved to the salafi trend. I should say I don’t follow the Sahwa very closely; I am sure Stephane has a lot more to say about this. [editorial note: Stephane, consider this a call to action! Please phone home.]
Lynch That sounds about right to me – what I can’t figure out is what it means to have the MB without an organization? Is it still the MB if it’s just a bunch of like-minded individuals?
Hegghammer: Your questions are spot on. Apart from ideological leanings, the most operational way to identify MB-oriented people would be to look at their international contact network. Some Saudis are more closely in touch with Muslim Brothers abroad than others. Hence the international Islamic organizations such as the Muslim World League are said to be bastions of Ikhwanism in the Kingdom. But I am not sure whether this means much for domestic politics.