All Eyes On Egypt

by Brendan James


Madawi Al-Rasheed observes how the Saudi theocracy is keeping its own Islamist opposition in order as Egypt burns nearby. King Abdullah recently set the tone, declaring full support for the junta in Cairo:

The king’s message was clear: zero tolerance for all those who use Islam to pursue political agendas, sort of an oxymoron in the Saudi context as the state itself had been manipulating, co-opting, and promoting Islam for agendas that are nothing but political. The foundation of the state itself is a process of instrumentalizing Islam to revive the Al-Saud control of vast territories, under the pretext of purifying Arabia from blasphemy, innovation, and atheism. The Muslim Brotherhood and its likes appear to be latecomers to the project of politicizing Islam.

King Abdullah’s message, supposedly meant for Egyptians, did not go unheeded among the many Saudi Islamists who abhorred their government’s support for the Egyptian coup. Since July 3, they have turned into defenders of Morsi and the Brotherhood, issuing statements on social media condemning their own government for backing the coup.

A small group of activists launched an online petition to gather signatures against the aid that had been promised to Egypt immediately after the coup. Following the circulation of the petition, a couple of veteran activists such as Mohsin al-Awaji were briefly detained while many other Islamists remain banned from travel, most famous is Sheikh Salman al-Awdah whose television program “you have Rights” was abruptly stopped on an Islamist independent television channel. The government is carefully watching the hyperactivity of Islamists and their statements on television and online, which have so far strongly condemned the Egyptian coup and their own government’s unequivocal endorsement of General Sisi.

Michael Koplow notices that Turkey’s government is alarmed for the opposite reason, as an Islamist party supportive of the Brotherhood:

[T]he specter of crowds massing in the streets and the military overthrowing the government hits a little too close to home for Erdoğan given what he was dealing with in June and the history of Turkish military coups. Erdoğan’s biggest claim to fame is his defanging of the military, and even after demonstrating that Turkish civilian control (and undemocratic intimidation) over the army is complete with the Ergenekon verdicts a couple of weeks ago, no Turkish prime minister – and certainly no Turkish prime minister with Erdoğan’s background – is ever going to feel completely safe from the long arm of the military. Erdoğan looks at what is taking place in Egypt through a distinctly Turkish prism, and in many ways his views on the Egyptian coup are actually a complex psychological projection of his fears about his own position. …

Erdoğan sees the army removing an elected government amidst accusations of policy overreach and undemocratic behavior, and he imagines a nightmare alternate universe where the same could happen to him.

Previous Dish on the region’s reaction to Morsi’s ouster here and here.

(Photo: Islamic political party Jamaat-e-Islami activists march in support of ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi in Karachi, Pakistan on August 20, 2013. Supporters of Morsi announced new demonstrations as Egypt grew increasingly polarised and the death toll in four days of violence topped 750. By Asif Hassan/AFP/Getty Images)