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Anasur Rahman asked: Why is Saudi Arabia, being a Wahhabi Sunni-dominated nation, opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt, unlike Qataris, and supports the interim regime there?

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  • Gulshan Dietl replies: The Brotherhood is primarily political seeking to confront the imperialist West as also the godless regimes in West Asia. The Saudis, on the other hand, follow Wahhabism, which is primarily religious seeking to purify Islam and restore it to its original glory. At the peak of pan-Arab ideology across the Arab world, Saudi Arabia had provided asylum to the members of the Muslim Brotherhood who sought refuge from Nasser’s Egypt or Hafez al-Assad’s Syria. Since then, the Saudis and the Muslim Brotherhood have been on divergent paths. Beyond the ideological differences, there are serious political considerations. The onset of “Arab Spring” has seen the ascendance of Muslim Brotherhood in post-Spring states. Egypt has always been an influential regional power in West Asia. The Muslim Brotherhood there could be an inspiration for pro-democracy movements and consequently a threat to stability in the Kingdom. The former Saudi Minister of Interior Prince Nayef was reported to have said, “The Muslim Brotherhood is the cause of most of the Arab World’s problems and has done vast amounts of damage in Saudi Arabia.” Unsurprisingly, therefore, the Saudis have generously supported the interim regime in Egypt.

    The Saudi-Qatari rivalries run deep in spite of the fact that both follow Wahhabism, are rich in energy resources, are ruled by monarchies and have strategic ties with the US. Qatar has a small population and an enormous wealth. In the circumstances, the “Arab Spring” did not manifest itself in Qatar. In fact, it provided the country an opportunity to project its role in the region and beyond. The new ruler of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim al-Thani, is expected to bring about reconciliation between the two royal dynasties.