July 25, 2013

Why did the Salafi Party in Egypt support the removal of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood?

    Thursday, July 25, 2013   No comments

Balancing political interests and religious idealism in Islamic Societies

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*

Alarabiya channel cheered the ouster of Morsi and the Brotherhood
Many analysts and observers of Middle Eastern affairs were surprised when the Salafi political party, al-Nour, supported the protest movement and the military that ousted Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood from power. Some tried to explain it by highlighting the fundamental ideological differences between Salafi and non-Salafi Islamism. Others contended that what the Salafi have done was dictated by political acumen. Salafi leaders wanted to position al-Nour party and the Salafi movement as the heirs of the Brotherhood. The failure of the Muslim Brotherhood to govern and to include others in the process was also posited as a reason for the rift between the Salafis and the Brotherhood.

In my view, leaders of the Salafist political party abandoned Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood because their patrons, Saudi Arabia and UAE, wanted them to do so.
Looking at the strong and immediate support the rulers of Saudi Arabia and UAE provided for the interim government that replaced Morsi’s, it stands to reason that the interests of al-Nour and those of its main political (and financial) sponsors in the Gulf States converged.

Saudi Salafis' coverage of the crisis in Egypt is decidedly pro-Morsi.
From what we know about Salafis, ideologically, it would not make sense to support secularists over Islamists (moderate as they may be). In fact, the absolute majority of Salafi satellite television channels and websites were--and still are--against the military coup and for the restoration of Morsi's rule. Only official channels (such as al-Arabiya) took the same position as the rulers of Saudi Arabia and UAE.

It is a fact that the Saudi rulers did not support the removal of Mubarak from power. Moreover, the rulers of the Gulf States were indeed threatened by the so-called Arab Spring events. However, supporting a new regime in Egypt that is propped up by the military will not achieve the ultimate goal of these rulers, which is the restoration of the old order. 

The will to change non-representative governments in the Arab world and people’s determination to assert their voices in determining who governs and how to govern is firmly in place now. Sooner or later, there will be new elections in Egypt and the people will demand that such elections are fair. When that happens, the influence exerted by the rulers of the Gulf States will be limited unless it is aligned with the demands of the people—hardly a wish and goal of regimes that are vested in clan rule. 

Simply put, the era of using money to buy friends in the Arab world has passed. Like the rulers of Qatar, who lost more than $8 billion they invested in the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Syria, the Saudi rulers, too, will not receive any (long term) returns for their investment in what appears to be an old-regimes-restorations efforts.

* Prof. SOUAIAIA teaches at the University of Iowa. Opinions are the author’s, speaking on matters of public interest; not speaking for the university or any other organization with which he is affiliated.


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