Minister undeterred by death threats as new book charts fall of Muslim Brotherhood in UAE

Dr Jamal Al Suwaidi highlights political group’s abuse of religion and the key moments which led to its downfall

Dr Jamal Al Suwaidi at a press conference to launch his book 'The Muslim Brotherhood in the United Arab Emirates - Miscalculations'. Victor Besa / The National

An Emirati minister who received death threats after highlighting the threat of extremist ideologies in the Arab World has released a new book charting the rise and fall of the Muslim Brotherhood in the UAE.

Dr Jamal Al Suwaidi, the former director general of the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research, says the ideals of the organisation do not "reflect Islam" and have driven some Arabs from religion.

He tells of the influence the Muslim Brotherhood wielded decades ago and the decisive action taken by the UAE government to defeat the group.

In his book The Muslim Brotherhood in the United Arab Emirates – Miscalculations, Dr Al Suwaidi reveals how the group sought to block his own career progress as he did not share its beliefs.

The Muslim Brotherhood does not have real and realistic solutions to the problems facing their societies
Dr Jamal Al Suwaidi

“In 1982 they were in control of the Education Ministry and I was a fresh graduate from UAE University with honours. I was eligible for a scholarship but they rejected it,” he said during a press briefing at his office on Tuesday to promote the book, which was published this year.

He was undeterred by attacks from extremist groups in response to his 2015 book The Mirage, in which he contends that such organisations do not represent the face of Islam or its moderate values.

“I received death threats from extremist groups over The Mirage,” said Dr Al Suwaidi, a respected figure in the political sphere who was appointed a minister after a decree by President Sheikh Khalifa in June 2020.

While no one has sent him threats regarding his latest publication, he said “it has caused a headache for many organisations [affiliated with the brotherhood] in the UAE”.

The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in Egypt in 1928 and seeks to promote an intolerant form of Islam in Arab countries.

Dr Al Suwaidi said the group laid down roots in the UAE under the guise of the Association for Reform and Social Guidance (Al-Islah) in 1974.

"They exploited the political and social environment for three decades to expand its existence," he said.

Dr Jamal Al Suwaidi's new book, The Muslim Brotherhood in the United Arab Emirates - Miscalculations. Victor Besa / The National

The author said the association operated a magazine Al-Islah, which it used as a platform to attack Emirati pillars such as the education sector and the media.

The magazine was temporarily suspended by the government in 1988 and again in 1989, before it was shut down in 1994, he said.

Dr Al Suwaidi said the brotherhood’s “miscalculations” in the UAE included defying the government, opposing music and arts and women’s sports, which it claimed were "un-Islamic".

The political expert said the Muslim Brotherhood paid a heavy price for its biggest gamble in 2011, when he said it launched an attempt to overthrow the government structure.

The group started by issuing a petition in March of that year, calling for the Federal National Council, the UAE's advisory council, to be given legislative powers.

Dr Al Suwaidi said this was an attempt to “overthrow the UAE government and seize power and rule, following on the examples of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Tunisia”.

Dr Al Suwaidi said this course of action prompted a robust government response.

In 2013, a total of 94 Emiratis were accused of compromising the security of the state and referred to the Federal Supreme Court for trial.

The majority were members of Al-Islah, who were sentenced to jail.

The highly regarded intellectual believes it was vital authorities acted when they did.

“If the government had delayed its action by one year, the group would have taken over the Emirates," he said.

The author believes it was a hugely significant chapter in the story of the UAE and sounded the death knell for the Muslim Brotherhood in the country.

“All the leaders are in prison and the public doesn’t support them, they have one per cent presence in society now," he said. "What can one per cent do?”

He said the only way that countries such as Egypt and Tunis managed to end the stranglehold of the group was when then public turned against it.

“Governments in Egypt, Jordan and Kuwait have been fighting the brotherhood for decades, but it is only in the hands of the public to end their influence,” he said.

He cited the groups' political failures in Egypt and Tunis as examples of how the people “are fed up with them”.

“The Muslim Brotherhood does not have real and realistic solutions to the problems facing their societies,” he said.

“Despite the resonant slogans that play on the chord of religiosity such as ‘Islam is the solution’, reality proves they have nothing more than slogans.”

Updated: August 4th 2021, 4:42 AM