Kuwaiti TV host fired for ties to Muslim Brotherhood

Channel director is outspokenly against Kuwaiti and Saudi support for Egyptian government. Elizabeth Dickinson reports

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ABU DHABI // Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal has sacked a well-known Kuwaiti television personality as director of an Islamic TV channel for belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Prince Alwaleed said on Twitter yesterday that his Rotana Group, which owns Al Resalah channel, did not welcome Muslim Brotherhood members and he was firing Tareq Al Suwaidan "for admitting he belongs to the Brotherhood terrorist movement".

Mr Al Suwaidan, 59, a US-educated petroleum engineer whose popular talk shows and motivational speeches have won him nearly 2 million Twitter followers, was gracious about his dismissal, thanking Prince Alwaleed for the "precious privilege" of running the channel and wishing the endeavour luck.

The channel had built a "wonderful professional team so that it does not depend on one person", he said on Twitter.

Mr Al Suwaidan, who has also made shows for networks such as Qatar TV and Kuwait TV, has been outspoken in his opposition to the military-backed government in Cairo, following the removal of the Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi, on July 3.

Those views brought Mr Al Suwaidan into direct conflict with the official diplomatic positions of both his home country and his employers.

Both Riyadh and Kuwait City have voiced support for the military-backed government in Cairo and described continuing protests by Mr Morsi's supporters as "terrorism".

After being removed from his post, Mr Al Suwaidan called on his Twitter feed for Mr Morsi's supporters to keep up pressure on the interim Egyptian government by "all means except violence" until it was forced to step down.

Previous posts included accusations that Egyptian Coptic Christians were siding with the military and failing to turn away from violence.

Mr Al Suwaidan's sacking could be seen by his fans "as a war against the Muslim Brotherhood", said Abdel Bari Atwan, the editor of the daily newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi, published in London.

"This man is very well known figure, and most of his followers are in the Arabian Gulf."

Mr Al Suwaidan is a prominent figure in the Kuwaiti Muslim Brotherhood, a group that has been taken aback by Mr Morsi's removal. Unlike many Gulf-based branches of the organisation, Kuwait's Islamic Constitutional Movement (ICM) operates openly and has often historically been allied with the government.

But the group has adamantly opposed the Kuwaiti government's decision to back the Egyptian interim government with US$4 billion (Dh14.7bn) in aid.

On Saturday night, a group of Islamist, Salafist and youth activists rallied in front of the Egyptian Embassy in Kuwait City, demanding that their government halt aid to Cairo.

The Kuwaiti government should "not transfer any funds or oil or other materials supporting the authority of the military coup in Egypt", the protesters wrote on the ICM's Facebook page.

Mr Al Suwaidan's popularity drew largely from his mixing of entertainment and religious content. He once described Al Resalah as "an Islamic MBC", referring to the Saudi network known for its soap operas and reality TV.

"We don't have any politics on the channel, but we would like to re-educate our viewers to look at life in a positive way," he said in 2006, when the channel launched.

"I know I will make a lot of people angry, which is fine. This is life."