In the GCC: the Islamists and the Magi and the Average Six-Pack Jihadi………

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“In contrast to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, Bahrain’s government has nurtured a political alliance with the Bahraini MB, primarily rooted in a sectarian agenda that serves a unique purpose in Bahrain, the only Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) state with a Shi’ite-majority population. For years, Bahrain’s MB has played an open and prominent role in Bahraini civil society while functioning as a charity organization. The MB operates a political wing (Islamic Minbar) that holds seven seats in the parliament. Some members of the ruling Al Khalifa family are deeply connected with key figures in the Brotherhood and Bahrain’s government even reportedly funds Islamic Minbar. The pains that the Al Khalifa family take to avoid alienating Islamic Minbar are best understood within the context of Bahrain’s Arab Awakening. Since 2011, Islamic Minbar has played a critical role in uniting Bahrain’s Sunni Islamists behind the monarchy that faces steadfast Shi’ite opposition. However, recent geopolitical developments in the GCC and the wider Middle East are complicating this political alliance………….”

Actually almost all Islamists in the Gulf GCC states, including some who are in opposition in their own countries, have taken pain to openly side with the ruling Al Khalifa clan against the uprising in Bahrain. Some of them avoid the embarrassing issue altogether. They have also shown great reluctance to look at the real big reactionary elephant in the neighborhood, to criticize the Saudi regime. In fact, many have occasionally expressed support and reverence for the Al Saud. This can be based on sectarianism or it can be based on tribal ties or on business interests. The tribes often straddle the border and some of their branches are close to the princes and tribal bonds are thicker than political rhetoric.

The Salafis are a special case here: they are widely known as a Saudi fifth column and they certainly do not believe in electoral democracy or human rights of any kind. The Muslim Brotherhood in the Gulf is somewhat different from those in other Arab states. Some Muslim Brothers in other states, like in Kuwait, have in the past shown strong reluctance to support the Saudi opposition of all shade and color. Thy usually skirt the Saudi issue, and if they do they tend to stay away from the ‘human rights’ violations and the corruption they complain about so loudly at home. They would rather criticize their own governments, Israel, the West, and Iran. But one must not generalize: this does not apply to all.

In Saudi Arabia itself, Wahhabism is so entrenched not only in the general society but within individuals that it is almost part of the genetic makeup. This is especially so in the heartland that lies between the Eastern Province and Hijaz and Asir. More so than, say, Shi’ism is in Southern Iraq or Iran. The more liberal strain of ‘thought’ is divided between Wahhabi liberals who are tied to the regime and strongly support it and the independents who advocate accountability and human rights. Many of the latter, like Mohammad Al-Qahtani and S Al Reshoudi and Mukhlif Al-Shimmari and many others are usually found in prison.

It is possible that the strongest ‘opposition’ in Saudi Arabia may be the Wahhabi opposition rather than the human rights advocates who are few, for now. These groups exist within the kingdom and in European exile. Many are supporters of Al Qaeda and ISIS and other such terrorist groups. Some of their outspoken members (like the Tweeter @Mujtahidd) actually often complain on Internet social media that the Al Saud regime is soft on the Shi’as (of the Eastern Province) and harsher on the average Wahhabi Joe. Others complain, quite seriously, of joint conspiracies forged by America, Israel, Iran, and the Al Saud, perhaps with the Freemasons and Zoroastrian Magi (their favorite term for Iranians and often for Shi’a in general) thrown in for good measure.

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum