Middle Eastern media are reporting that the Saudi Arabian government has banned from school libraries the works of an Sayyid Qutb, one of the most important ideologues in the history of the Muslim Brotherhood. According to one report:
The Saudi Ministry of Education has banned a number of books from school libraries including works by Sayyid Qutb, an Egyptian writer who was the leading intellectual of the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1950s and 1960s. “The books The Lies About Sayyid Qutb and The Jihad in the Way of God are banned from school libraries because of their extremist and confusing ideas that may misinform students,” Abdul Rahman Al-Fasil, director general of Boys Education Administration in Asir province, told Arab News. The books were banned shortly after Saudi Interior Minister Prince Na’if bin Abd Al-‘Aziz made several comments in the local press about “battling ideological extremism” in the country. In a meeting with the teaching staff of the Umm Al-Qura University in Mecca, he said, “We are asking our universities… to carry out research that will help topple deviant ideologies, which have nothing to do with Islam and [only]harm it…” A number of leading Saudi academics and thinkers supported the ministry’s decision as part of the country’s effort to protect youths from joining terror networks. Deputy chairman of the board of directors of Taif Literary Club, Hamaad Al Salimi, told Gulf News, “This decision will help protect the younger generation from some of the extremist ideas of the Muslim Brotherhood, which called for violence.”
A previous post has discussed an article by French scholar Gilles Kepel in which he explains the importance of Qtub in the history of the Muslim Brotherhood while a recent article on Qtub by a Muslim Brotherhood author demonstrates the ambivalent position taken Egyptian Brotherhood today on Qtub’s work:
Qutb’s ideas were the reason why the Muslim Brotherhood is sometimes falsely associated with radical thought, while Qutb’s membership of the Brotherhood, however, did not mean that his ideas represented the group. In fact, his ideas were officially rejected by the group’s leadership at the time, and Hassan Al Houdaiby, the group’s chairman, published a book entitled “Preachers not Judges” rejecting and denouncing Qutb’s ideas. While the book does not explicitly mention Qutb, it thoroughly argues against the notions of “jahiliyya” and violence. It is true that today’s Muslim Brotherhood does not openly denounce Qutb’s thought, but this does not mean that they adopt it. For specific historical reasons, “Preachers not Judges” was interpreted by Brotherhood members as a clarification and explanation of “Milestones” as opposed to a rejection of Qutb’s ideas. While those who did not denounce Qutb’s ideas deviated from Al Banna’s reformist school, especially from a social and political perspective, by no means did they accept the radical elements of Qutb’s thought. It is still unfair to accuse Qutb of radicalism while neglecting the context in which he espoused these ideas. Although violence and harsh accusations of “jahiliyya” are unjustifiable under any circumstances, scrutinizing the circumstances in which he made them, renders his ideas more understandable, and helps develop a more balanced view.
The decision by the Saudi authorities to ban Qtub’s works undoubtedly reflect tensions in the Kingdom regarding the Muslim Brotherhood which historically has had a strong presence in Saudi Arabia. In 2002, the Saudi Minister of the Interior was reported to have harshly criticized the Brotherhood:
He lashed out at the Muslim Brotherhood organization which he said gave birth to a multinational spectrum of Islamic politicians who turned their backs to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and forgot its favors to them. He cited that many of the organization’s members were living in the Kingdom and receiving refuge and humanitarian assistance [from]its people and officials… Interior Minister Prince Naif Ibn Abdul Aziz has stated that the Muslim Brotherhood organization was the cause of most problems in the Arab world. ‘The Brotherhood has done great damage to Saudi Arabia,’ he said. Prince Naif accused the foremost Islamist group in the Arab world of harming the interests of Muslims. ‘All our problems come from the Muslim Brotherhood. We have given too much support to this group…”…”The Muslim Brotherhood has destroyed the Arab world,’ he said. ‘Whenever they got into difficulty or found their freedom restricted in their own countries, Brotherhood activists found refuge in the Kingdom which protected their lives… But they later turned against the Kingdom…’ The Muslim Brotherhood has links to groups across the Arab world, including Jordan’s main parliamentary opposition, the ‘Islamic Action Front,’ and the ‘Palestinian resistance movement, ‘Hamas.” The Interior Minister’s outburst against the Brotherhood came amid mounting criticism in the United States of Saudi Arabia’s longstanding support for Islamist groups around the world…”
Muslim Brothers played a critical role in establishing important Saudi religious institutions such as the Muslim World League MWL) and the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), both dedicated to the global expansion of Saudi “Wahabbi” style Islam, and which continue to have close relationships with the global Muslim Brotherhood network. An earlier post discussed an analysis by a Norwegian academic on the state of the Muslim Brotherhood inside Saudi Arabia today.