In November, the Saudi Council of Senior Scholars, the Kingdom’s highest religious body, published a significant communiqué condemning the Muslim Brotherhood. The Council described the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group that does not represent the true values of Islam; it further labelled it a deviant group which undermines coexistence within nations, and stirs up sedition [fitnah], violence and terrorism. The Saudi Council also claimed that the Muslim Brotherhood had a history of promoting extremism and terrorism — adding that the Society had inspired the formation of many extremist and terrorist groups that had been responsible for atrocities worldwide.
The Saudi Council also stated that since its formation, the Brotherhood has never shown any respect for the Islamic creed, or for the knowledge contained within the Qur’an or the Sunnah. The Brotherhood’s only objective, it was claimed, was to seize the reins of power. For these reasons, the Saudi Council argued that any form of support for the Brotherhood — including funding — is forbidden, in accordance with the teachings of the Qur’an and the Sunnah.
On 15 November, the Saudi Council reinforced its original message, when it published on its official twitter account a short video, accompanied by a quote from its chairman, Grand Mufti Abdul-Aziz ibn Abdullah Aal Al-Sheikh, in which he said that the Muslim Brotherhood had nothing to do with Islam; that it is a society which went astray; that it enabled the shedding of blood; that it acted with indecency; that it looted money; and that it spread corruption.
There have been several notable responses to these moves:
- The UK-based CEO of the Cordoba Foundation, Anas Altikriti, tweeted solidarity with the Muslim Brotherhood, and asserted that the Saudi Council’s labelling of the Brotherhood as a terrorist group offered the greatest affirmation of their innocence.
In response to the second Saudi message on 15 November – Altikriti tweeted a part of a Qur’anic verse which states: “…Indeed, it is not the eyes that are blind, but it is the hearts in the chests that grow blind” (Qur’an 22:46).
- Hafez Al-Karmi, Director of the Mayfair Islamic Centre in London, has signed a statement by the Association of Palestinian Scholars Abroad (in his capacity as a member of its Executive Office and Media Officer), saying that the organisation was angered by the Saudi declaration, and condemned it. Al-Karmi reportedly added that: “The Commission [i.e. The Association of Palestinian Scholars Abroad] affirms its refusal to use Islam to implement the wishes of the rulers and to force their hostile stances be dressed to Islam and its people falsely and misleadingly, and calls on the rationalists in the Authority [i.e. Council] of Senior Scholars who have a remnant of piety and devoutness to reject this manipulation and forging in the name of religion [sic]”.
- Nobel Prize Laureate Tawakkol Karman, a former member of the Yemeni Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Islah Party, referred on her Facebook page to the Saudi scholars as Mohammad Bin Salman’s “cheerleaders” and “shoe polishers”. She said that the Muslim Brotherhood in Saudi Arabia are fighting for the sake of freedom, and that Mohammad Bin Salman’s tyrant regime suppresses the freedoms of everyone – Brotherhood or not. Karman added that the Saudi rulers were the “spiritual mother and father” of terrorism, who had invented and created terrorism as an idea, nourished and practiced it; and that the hands of the Saudi Council were stained with the blood of most of the victims of terror in the world. For several days, Karman continued to attack the Saudis. On her twitter account, under the title ‘Wisdom of the day’, she wrote that scholarly councils were formed by a royal or presidential decree, and should therefore be seen as a tool for the rulers, just like the Minister of Information or any other agent or security officer.
- The World Forum for Proximity of Islamic Schools of Thought — an Iranian forum which was set up in 1990 by an order of Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei for reconciliation between different Islamic schools and branches — condemned the Saudi communiqué. The Forum reportedly said that the Saudi scholars had reverted once again to “beating the drum” of opposition, and spreading hostility and hatred.
The latest steps taken by the Saudi religious establishment against the Brotherhood further underline the dramatic shift in the Kingdom’s policy towards the group in recent years. Previously, going back several decades, successive Saudi governments had been friendly and supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the organisation and its worldwide affiliates owe an incalculable amount to Saudi Arabia for their advance. The relationship started to change after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the US. In 2002, the late Crown Prince and Interior Minister Nayef bin Abdul Aziz, accused the Muslim Brotherhood of being the “source of all evils” and the root cause of problems in the Arab world and perhaps the Muslim world. Since that time, the Saudi Kingdom has moved further to distance itself from the Brotherhood – and aligned itself against the forces of organised Islamism across the Middle East. Over the last ten years in particular, the Saudi government has set itself firmly against the Brotherhood, notably supporting the overthrow of President Muhammad Morsi in Egypt.
 A copy of the communiqué is available on: https://twitter.com/SulaimanHayiti/status/1327999268146323456/photo/3