The Economist magazine is reporting that Tunisian Muslim Brotherhood Rachid Ghannouchi was welcomed by the new King of Saudi Arabia at the January funeral of his of his half brother, the late King Abdullah. According to the report, Saudi Arabia has “changed its tune” regarding the Muslim Brotherhood:
April 18, 2015 NAYEF BIN ABDEL AZIZ, the late crown prince of Saudi Arabia, was already in a fiery mood when a reporter asked him about the Muslim Brotherhood, the region’s main Islamist movement, at a dinner in 2011. Affiliated and like-minded groups were set to win elections in Tunisia and Egypt, and were leading revolts in Libya, Syria and Yemen. According to Prince Nayef, whose tirades could last hours, the Brotherhood also threatened the House of Saud—and the journalist who posed the question was a terrorist sympathiser. The group’s ascendancy in the region might cause upheaval at home.
Rattled by that prospect, Saudi Arabia and its allies in the Gulf helped to reverse the Brotherhood’s gains by supporting the military coup that ousted it in Egypt in mid-2013 and backing anti-Islamist forces in Libya, Syria and Tunisia. The Brotherhood’s fall from power in the region has been nearly as swift as its rise. But since the death of King Abdullah in January, Saudi Arabia has changed its tune, giving the group some hope of renewal.
In this section Putin’s targeted strike Arabia Infelix Hoping for a reprieve A pill for work and play May the only man win Black to trump white? Reprints Related topics Islam Religion Syria Yemen Saudi Arabia The shift was evident as early as the king’s funeral, at which Abdullah’s successor, Salman, welcomed Rashid Ghannouchi, the Brotherhood’s main ally in Tunisia. Then in February the Saudi foreign minister, Saud bin Faisal, said: ‘We do not have a problem with the Muslim Brotherhood. Our problem is with a small group affiliated to this organisation.’
This more conciliatory tone reflects the attitude of King Salman. But it is also prompted by a foreign policy that now sees Shia Iran, not the weakened Brotherhood, as the kingdom’s gravest threat, to be countered with Sunni unity. This is most evident in Yemen, where the Saudis have assembled a broad coalition of Sunni countries—from Qatar and Turkey, which support the Brotherhood, to Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, which vehemently oppose it—to fight the Zaydi Shia Houthi rebels. Iran has provided Sunni states with a common enemy and an excuse to put aside their differences, at least for now.
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Rachid Ghannouchi (many spelling variations) is the head of the Tunisian Ennahda Party, essentially the Muslim Brotherhood in Tunisia. Mr. Ghannouchi has been a member of the European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR) and is currently and Assistant Secretary-General of the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS), both organizations led by Global Muslim Brotherhood Youssef Qaradawi. In2009, an Egyptian news report referred to Ghannouchi as a leader of the MB “abroad.” Ghannouchi is also one of the founding members of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), a Saudi organization closely linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and dedicated to the propagation of “Wahabist” Islam throughout the world. Ghannouchi is known for his thinking on the issue of Islam and citizenship rights. In January 2011, Ghannouchi returned to Tunisia after a long exile in the U.K and two weeks after the Tunisian leader Zine El Abidine Ben was forced from power in the events which triggered the “Arab Spring.”
In March 2014, the GMBDW reported that Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) had designated the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization and said a committee would be set up to determine the groups to be outlawed. However, Islamist media have been recently reporting on statements by the Saudi foreign minister and others suggesting that under the new King, the kingdom maybe prepared to renege on their action against the Brotherhood. The GMBDW has been reporting since the designation that although the Kingdom has taken some action against the Brotherhood, including life time bans on sermons from a group of imams accused of Brotherhood ties and the arrest of nine university professors accused of similar ties, the quasi-governmental Saudi Muslim World League (MWL) appears to be maintaining its own long-held close relationships with the wider Global Muslim Brotherhood. As we have reported:
- Just prior to the designation, two leaders of the Global Muslim Brotherhood were in attendance at a MWL conference under the patronage of then King Abdullah- Europe Trust head Ahmed Al-Rawi from the UK and Issam Al-Bashir from the Sudan, a former director of the Islamic Relief, a member of the European Council For Fatwa And Research, and a former Minister of Religious Affairs in the political party of Hassan Al-Turabi, formerly closely tied to the Brotherhood.
- In May 2014, just after the designation, the MWL Secretary-General received Dr. Ali Qaradaghi a close associate of Global Muslim Brotherhood leader Youssef Qaradawi and the the Deputy head of Qaradawi’s International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS).
- One month later, the MWL Secretary-General received the Sudanese Field Marshal Abdul Rahman Siwar Al-Dhahab, known to have been the deputy head of the Union of Good (UOG) and a close associate of Youssef Qaradawi.
- In February, of this year the MWL Secretary-General met again with Issam Al-Bashir where they discussed ongoing cooperation with the Islamic Fiqh Academy in the Sudan.
We also reported in February on an international counterterrorism conference held in the Saudi holy city of Makkah that featured the participation of a number of global Brotherhood leaders and at which the new Saudi king delivered remarks.