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Is Saudi Arabia Reviewing Anti-MB Approach? Positive Signs

10 February 2015

By Khalid Amayreh

Signs are rife that the new ruler of Saudi Arabia, King Salman, may be reconsidering his predecessor's decision to outlaw the Muslim Brotherhood (MB).

The late King Abdullah was apparently under the influence of "bad advisors" when he issued a hastily-prepared decree, classifying the MB, along with several other groups, as a terrorist group.

The MB is the biggest and by far most moderate contemporary Sunni Islamic movement, with followers and supporters spread all over the globe. Its ideological and political enemies, who include secularists, Shiites, Leftists and Arab nationalists, accuse it of extremism and violence. However, these enemies are yet to produce any concrete and irrefutable evidence corroborating their claims.

That is why the decision by King Abdullah in March raised many eyebrows in the Arab region, including Saudi Arabia itself.

It is widely believed that the Saudi government has come to, more or less, regret the decision. Some reliable sources close to the decision-making process in Riyadh have indicated that that the government is studying ways and means to "deactivate" the decision, but without making "dramatic repercussions internally or externally."

Positive signs

This week, Saudi Arabia's veteran foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal was quoted as telling a Saudi journalist that is blatantly hostile to the Ikhwan that Saudi Arabia "has no problem with the Muslim Brotherhood''.

The remarks made by Saud Al-Faisal, suggest some pundits, may signal that the new ruler of the Kingdom will be more tolerant toward the group than his predecessor.

"We don't have a problem with the Muslim Brotherhood; our problem is with a small group affiliated to this organization."

The foreign minister's remarks carry more weight than usual, given the fact that he himself requested the interview with a journalist notorious for her dislike for the Islamist movement.

Last week, Khalid al-Tuwaijri, widely viewed as the leader of the campaign against the MB, toned down his erstwhile vitriolic criticisms of the Ikhwan, arguing that the Ikhwan was a diverse group.

"The Brotherhood includes nations and states, so no mindful man can designate the whole group as a terrorist organization."

He further pointed out that the MB was ''stretching from Indonesia to Morocco."

He carefully added that those seeking reforms in their societies and trying to introduce Sharia-based laws in state constitutions "were not included in the original banning decree.''

According to a Saudi news website, Al-Khalij Al-Jadeed, al-Tuwaijri, has been under house arrest since the death of the late King Abdullah.

The website reported that al-Tuwaijri was barred from travelling pending investigations into financial and political corruption.

Al-Khalij Al-Jadeed also reported other Saudi media sources saying that the UAE authorities had asked the Bahraini King to mediate with Saudi Arabia to allow al-Tuwaijri to travel to the Emirates. Bahrain reportedly refused the mediation saying that al-Tuwaijri is wanted for interrogation over political and financial scandals. It also expressed displeasure over the request, regarding it interference into the internal affairs of Saudi Arabia.

A few weeks ago, Egyptian sources believed to be sympathetic with the ousted democratically-elected resident Muhammad Mursi reported that al-Tuwaijri had "questionable financial dealings" with Egypt's coup leader, Abdul Fattah al-Sissi.

Egyptian officials and media have refused to comment on the latest developments in Saudi Arabia. The Sissi coup regime is believed to have received more than $10 billion from Saudi Arabia under the late King Abdullah.

The massive and almost totally unconditional aid package drew angry reactions from Islamists and their supporters who charged the late king Abdullah was effectively betraying the Kingdom's long-standing principles by supporting and abetting an anti-Islamic tyranny.

Khalid Amayreh is a veteran Palestinian journalist and political commentator living in occupied Palestine



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