Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

The Muslim brotherhood's Designs for Yemen - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
Select Page

In his most recent article [The Muslim Brotherhood and the Huthis], my Asharq Al-Awsat colleague Dr. Hamad al-Majid expressed his surprise at the position taken by the Muslim Brotherhood affiliated Yemeni Congregation for Reform [YCR] on the Huthi crisis. Al-Majid believes that the Yemeni Muslim Brotherhood have made their dispute with the ruling regime a priority, rather than safeguarding the nation’s welfare by countering the Iranian expansion [in the region] which is represented by the Huthi movement. My colleague concluded by saying that the Muslim Brotherhood’s foreign policy requires comprehensive revision.

Dr. Hamad al-Majid’s astonishment is natural, and the position of the Yemeni Muslim Brotherhood is surprising, especially with regards to their stance on a movement that could lead to the catastrophic fragmentation of the country, like the southern separatist movement or the Huthi movement. However [in this article], let us focus upon the Huthi threat, and the [Muslim Brotherhood] movement which calls for unity in general, and fights against division, and any tendencies towards division, created in Islamic countries by colonialism,

The Yemeni Muslim Brotherhood – just like the majority of Muslim Brotherhood movements in the Islamic world – was against the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime, and prior to this either supported or condoned his invasion of Kuwait, deciding to ignore reason and focus upon the end result. However the end result of this was the arrival of international and US troops [in Iraq].

The Yemeni Muslim Brotherhood, just like the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood and others, blame everything on the arrival of US troops. They downplay talk about the crimes and injustices committed by Saddam when compared to the presence of foreign troops on Arab soil; a foreign presence which [they believe] aims to weaken and divide Muslims. In view of this, the Yemeni Muslim Brotherhood should have downplayed the mistakes or even crimes made by the Yemeni regime in order to preserve the country’s unity. This is because division, especially if it is built upon sectarian or regional inclinations, will inevitably weaken Yemen, which in turn weakens Muslims, which is something that the Muslim Brotherhood continually warns against.

Therefore, according to this view, it is only natural to feel surprised [at the Yemeni Muslim Brotherhood’s position], particularly when looking at the sectarian dimension of the crisis. How can one of the largest Sunni movements support the continuing efforts of Khomeinist Iran to annex Islam in Yemen?

The problem with this viewpoint is that it is founded upon assumptions that require criticism and revision. Who said that text books or spontaneous worship is the driving force behind the Muslim Brotherhood?

In other words, the Muslim Brotherhood did not invent the Muslim faith. Islam was not absent until Sheikh Hassan al-Banna came from the coffeehouses of Ismailia to teach the people about Islam as if they were not Muslims before.

The Muslim Brotherhood invented a new form of harnessing the remonstrative energy in Islam to their particular vision in order to examine the nature of the problem and solve it. Therefore Islam – according to them – is the Islam of the Muslim Brotherhood. As for others – and by this we mean the rest of the Muslims – they are viewed by the Muslim Brotherhood as being either ignorant people deprived of the divine light, or as opponents who have been blinded and lured by the deceiving glamour of their enemy’s so-called civilization.

In short, the Muslim Brotherhood monopolized Islam, in the same way that Al Qaeda has monopolized Islam today. With regards to Al Qaeda, other Salafist Jihadist groups and in fact all Salafist groups, this monopolization of Islam is explicit and overt, whereas the Muslim Brotherhood’s monopolization was covert and clandestine.

In his memoir entitled “The Unique Contract: Ten Years with Imam Hassan al-Banna” high-ranking Muslim Brotherhood member Mr. Hassan Hathout recounts that Sheikh Abdul Badi Saqr once accompanied a university professor to visit Imam Hassan al-Banna. When the university professor was about to leave, Sheikh Saqr noticed that he was wearing a gold ring, he began to inform the professor that wearing gold was prohibited in Islam when Imam al-Banna elbowed him in the shoulder to prevent him from continuing. After the university professor left, Imam Hassan al-Banna, the founder and General Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, turned to Sheikh Abdul Badi Saqr and told him “Abdul Badi, wait until we agree on the fundamentals of Islam first, and then when it is time to talk to him about the ring, then we will talk to him about it.” The problem therefore is a lack of agreement on the fundamentals of Islam.

This memoir allows us to see glimpses of the mood of the mentality of the man who created the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as the Muslim Brotherhood’s vision towards Islam, and how they relate to it. This can be seen in what Imam al-Banna told Mr. Hathout after he had complained about some of the Muslim Brotherhood members indulging in speaking to female members of the Communist party during student committees, expressing his worry that they might fall to temptation. According to Hathout, Hassan al-Banna’s face “lit up with something like joy or delight upon hearing this news and he slapped my shoulder and said ‘Let them get more experienced [with fighting temptation].”

This is not the time or place to review the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood, or the major divisions that these ideologies inflicted upon Islam, or the dozens of groups and movements who have been influenced by them, nor the circumstances leading to the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood. My purpose in writing this article is to discuss the issue of the Muslim Brotherhood and Yemen.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s ties to Yemen go back a long way and they have a special relationship with the country. Since the time of the Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen [1918 – 1962] the Muslim Brotherhood has displayed special attention to Yemen. Anybody reading about the coup which was carried out against Imam Yahya Muhammad Hamidaddin in 1948 and which ended with his assassinations at the hands of Abdullah Alwazir and a group of Yemeni officers will know that a prominent Muslim Brotherhood figure was the dynamo behind this revolution. We are talking about well-known Algerian Muslim Brotherhood member al-Fudhail al-Wartalani who traveled to Yemen from Egypt after he was ordered by Hassan al-Banna to lead the revolution. The coup proved successful and al-Fudhail served as adviser to the Yemeni revolutionaries. However it was not long before Imam Ahmad Bin Yahya reclaimed power from them, and had the group arrested, and its leaders executed. Al-Fudhail al-Wartalani received a death sentence, but he managed to escape, only to die many years later in Turkey after living a life of excitement, adventure, and political activism in more than one place.

In his memoir, Hassan Hathout also tells us that when Imam Yahya Muhammad Hamidaddin was assassinated, Muslim Brotherhood Secretary Abdul Hakim Abdeen was assigned the task of visiting Yemen and inspecting the situation there. However in order to travel he needed a certificate of vaccination against smallpox. He asked Hathout to provide him with this as he was a doctor, but this is a story for another time.

Hassan al-Banna’s ties to Yemen are well known to those who have read about this period, and the Muslim Brotherhood has not tried to conceal these ties. In fact, the Muslim Brotherhood takes pride in the fact that the “Sacred National Pact” which was the official document of the Yemeni revolution against Imam Yahya, had been drafted at the Muslim Brotherhood’s headquarters in Cairo, according to Muslim Brotherhood historian Mahmoud Abdul Halim.

This is a brief overview of the story of the Muslim Brotherhood’s dream in Yemen, in a manner that befits the size and context of this article.

With respect to the Muslim Brotherhood position on sectarian division and overcoming them for the sake of revolutionary action and the establishment of an Islamic state, it must be even more shocking to those who believe in the doctrine of purity espoused by the Muslim Brotherhood because in the end, the Muslim Brotherhood are nothing more than a political party that is seeking to gain power by using religious propaganda and monopolizing the representation of true Islam. This is an old and common game in the culture of our political history. Of course this does not mean I am questioning the honesty or sincerity of many of the Muslim Brotherhood members, rather this talk is directed at their methodology and many of their senior leaders.

As I said in a previous article, the Muslim Brotherhood’s utilization of the slogan “Islam is the solution” is very similar to the way that Amr Ibn al-Aas and Muawiyah’s army tied Quran’s to their spears and raised them [during the Battle of Siffin against the army of Caliph Ali] as a deceptive tactic. The Muslim Brotherhood has their own deceptive tactics today, and they use these to make changes to the accepted rules and norms. The Muslim Brotherhood is currently in favor of Hezbollah, Iran, and Hamas, and even if Sheikh [Yusuf] al-Qaradawi deviates from this [as indicated in Dr. Hamed al-Majid’s article] this is just one man, and he cannot change the overall outcome.

The Muslim Brotherhood in Yemen are pursuing the dream of Hassan al-Banna and al-Fudhail al-Wartalani to establish the “core” of an Islamic state in Yemen, and as a result of this they are not supporting the Yemeni government’s conflict with the Huthis, and are turning a blind eye – even if temporarily – to the Huthis and the southern separatists. They have simply become “more experienced” in politics, which is just what the late Hassan al-Banna hoped and wished for.

Mshari Al-Zaydi

Mshari Al-Zaydi

Mshari Al-Zaydi is a Saudi journalist and expert on Islamic movements and Islamic fundamentalism, as well as on Saudi affairs. He is Asharq Al-Awsat’s opinion page editor. Mr. Zaydi has worked for the local Saudi press, and has been a guest on numerous news and current affairs programs as an expert on Islamic extremism.

More Posts