The Muslim Brotherhood succeeded in winning power in Egypt and Tunisia, and in ensuring the demise of Muammar Gaddafi and his regime. The next target was Syria, where the Brotherhood’s sponsors in Ankara and Doha are working to ensure that Bashar Assad follows Gaddafi into the grave, no matter at what cost to the rest of the population. Although there was a time when the Brotherhood and the US opposed each other, these days there is forming a partnership between the two, which is reminiscent of the 1980s, when the Afghan war brought an immense volume of assistance to Wahhabism, in order to defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan. The blowback from that partnership has been a sharp rise in fundamentalism in Muslim-majority countries across the globe, and a consequent spread of both Khomeinism as well as Wahhabism across the world. Although 9/11 resulted in a snapping of ties between the US (and its allies) with the Wahhabis, the common battle against Gaddafi in Libya once again brought them closer, as has the joint operation to destroy the Assad regime in Syria.
It is this rejuvenated alliance between the NATO powers and the Wahhabis (including the Muslim Brotherhood in its numerous offshoots) that has been the cause of the uncharacteristic silence of Washington, Paris and London about the manner in which President Mohammad Morsi of Egypt has sought to make himself even more of a dictator in Egypt than Hosni Mubarak ever dared to be. While Adolf Hitler got passed an “Act for the Amelioration of the Suffering of the People” in 1933 that gave him total authority over the state, draining the same away from the legislature, Morsi has gone one better, getting a decree empowering himself to be passed by Morsi himself. The intention behind such a power grab is clearly to put in place a Constitution for Egypt which reflects the tenets of Wahhabism, and to ensure that the military, the judiciary and the legislature get cleansed of elements opposed to the complete takeover of a philosophy at odds not only with the spirit of liberalism but with the equalitarian tenets of the Muslim faith itself. Unlike Barack Obama, David Cameron or Francois Hollande, the people of Egypt have refused to accept a return to an authoritarian past that they had assumed had been buried with the Mubarak regime, and are using “street power” to challenge Morsi.
The people of Egypt have refused to accept a return to an authoritarian past they assumed had been buried with the Mubarak regime.
While Kuwait has been one of the most moderate of Gulf states, recent years have witnessed changes in its fabric that have empowered those sympathetic to the philosophy of the Muslim Brotherhood. Indeed, soon after the Afghan war began in earnest in the 1980s, its effects could be felt in curricula in faraway Kuwait as well. Theology began to have a more prominent place in school curricula, while more than a 160,000 (in a domestic citizenry of about a million) migrated to Kuwait from Saudi Arabia, complete with their far more conservative worldview. The consequence of what may be termed the “Madrasa Lite” state school system in Kuwait has been a steady accretion in strength to Wahhabi elements, at the expense of those more moderate. In the 2012 Parliamentary elections, these elements used the electoral system (which had four votes in each of five constituencies, each with 10 legislators) to gain a majority in the 50-member National Assembly. They used that to — in effect — shut down the normal functioning of government, challenging the state on all its policies and refusing to allow those seen as close to the regime to speak.
A technical defect in the Amiri Decree constituting the February 2012 legislature resulted in its being dissolved by the Constitutional Court. Aware that the system of choosing four candidates that was given to each voter resulted in the better-organised Brotherhood elements getting a disproportionate share in the total seats won, this time around an Amiri Decree has limited the number of votes permitted to each eligible citizen to just one. The consequence is that groups in a minority, as well as Shias and women, now have a better chance of getting elected than previously, when Shias were very sparsely represented and women not at all. The Brotherhood has opposed the new system and has decided to take the matter to the streets. Should it do so, the tranquillity of political life in Kuwait is likely to get shattered. Fortunately, almost all the city-state’s citizens are nervous at the chaos in Libya, Egypt and Tunisia getting replicated in Kuwait, and are unlikely to heed the Brotherhood’s call to agitate against the government. It could be that its own overreach may have resulted in a Kuwaiti backlash against the Muslim Brotherhood.