Analyst Says Saudi Ministry Of Education Attempting To Purge Muslim Brothers


MEMRI has translated press reports which cite comments by an Al-Arabiya TV analyst who says that the Saudi Ministry of Education is attempting to get rid of employees associated with groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood. According to the report:

Fares bin Hazzam, an Al-Arabiya TV analyst for Islamic organizations, wrote in the daily Al-Riyadh that in recent years, the Ministry of Education has been working to discharge employees affiliated with extremist streams whose beliefs have influenced the education system: “Many are unaware of the extensive purging [taking place]in the school administrations. Over the past five years, they have been undergoing a quiet change, which continues to this day, [especially in]regions [heretofore]managed by administrators ideologically associated with Islamic movements, such as Al-Surouriyya[8] and the Muslim Brotherhood. “The good thing about this quiet process is that it distinguishes between the religious [employees]and those with [extremist]ideology, who were competing for positions, which was reflected in the teaching [materials]. No one can deny the struggle between the two big adversaries – the Surouriyya and the Muslim Brotherhood – that have taken place from the 80s until recently. For example, [at one point]a Muslim Brotherhood member was appointed head of the teachers’ affairs administration [in the Education Ministry], and teachers from his movement [then]got the largest [piece of the]pie when they were posted throughout the school [system]… This was [also]the situation in the rest of the administrations. The resulting struggles in the schools are aimed at controlling as many students as possible…”The Ministry [of Education]woke up [only]after the schools were dominated by [teachers]with [extremist]ideology, who, with the help of education administrations, managed for a quarter of a century to influence the education [system]in accordance with their [ideological]orientation. In order to deal with this crisis, it was necessary to launch a long-range program that will by no means be completed for at least another decade. However, the initial results are commendable, and demonstrate sincerity and perseverance in improving [the situation]…”[9]

In a paper written for the Hudson Institute, French scholar Giles Kepel traces the origins of what is referred to here as the “Global Muslim Brotherhood” to the fusion of Muslim Brother and Saudi “Wahhabist” influences which took place as Muslim Brothers arrive in the Kingdom during the 1950’s and 1960’s

After being driven out of Egypt in the 1950s and ’60s, many Brothers found shelter in Saudi Arabia. The Saud family establishment was extremely hesitant and cautious vis-à-vis the Brotherhood, and they were never permitted access to the core of Saudi society, and to deal openly with religious issues. This was seen as the exclusive domain of the Wahhabis, who had formed an alliance with the ruling family. But the Saudi elites nonetheless saw the Brothers as useful because—to put it bluntly—they could read and write. While the Wahhabi ulama were ill at ease in dealing with the modern world, the Brothers were well traveled and relatively so- phisticated. They knew foreign languages and, unlike the Wahhabi ulama, were aware that the earth was not flat. The Brothers had been in jail, had political experience, and were skilled in modern polemics that resonated widely with ordinary people. Most of all, they had stood courageously against Saudi Arabia’s archenemies, the communists and secularists, and were eager to continue the fight. At the behest of the World Muslim League—which Saudi Arabia created in 1962 to counter Nasser’s attempts to internationalize Al Azhar University and promote the view that Islam was compatible with socialism—the Brothers argued in a variety of public forums that communism and socialism were totally antithetical to Islam. As in Egypt, the Brothers became especially active in the field of education, which was considered by Saudi and Gulf rulers to be innocuous at the time…..a cross-fertilization of ideas took place between the exiled Brotherhood and the austere teachings of what might be described as the Wahhabi rank and file. That interaction, combined with the new organizational and financial backing of groups like the Muslim World League, would eventually lead to the rise of a new, internationalist form of Salafism. The Brotherhood played a crucial role in shaping this new ideological universe, which is now, in important ways, the dominant cultural force in the Arab Middle East.

Kepels’s paper further explains that supporting the development of the new international networks were developments in Egypt following the 1971 reforms of Anwar Sadat:

Sadat freed most of the Brothers from prison, and many of them soon wound up on university campuses, where the government granted them relative freedom to organize and propagate their message, as Sadat needed conservative allies to help him break the bones of the left in the academy. Sadat also sent for Omar al-Telmesani, a lawyer who was then the Brothers’ Supreme Guide, and offered to give him a license to publish the Brotherhood’s long-suppressed monthly bulletin, Call to Islam. The Egyptian Mukhabarat, or intelligence organization, also subsequently befriended the Brotherhood, and in addition to receiving support from the state apparatus, they were freed to mobilize new funding channels in the Gulf. Taken together, these activities helped bring about the spirit of religious conservatism that characterized Egypt in the first half of the 1970s….In the early 1970s, the Brotherhood’s establishment in Egypt by and large responded warmly to Sadat’s conciliatory policies and efforts to court them. These Brothers were pursuing a reformist agenda, hoping that access to the regime would allow them to manipulate it from the inside and eventually cause it to fall.

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