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September 21, 2022 MEMRI Daily Brief No. 412

So Qatar Is Free Of The Muslim Brotherhood? Really?

September 21, 2022 | By Alberto M. Fernandez*
Qatar | MEMRI Daily Brief No. 412

One of the main drivers for the founding of MEMRI 25 years ago was to present voices and narratives in their original languages, translated into English for a broader audience. That is still a key part of the mission and a valuable function. There is indeed much that is said in the original language, be it Arabic or Farsi or Chinese, that is watered down or edited for outside audiences.


Photos of the Sheikh Tamim Interview with Le Point (Courtesy of Qatari Amiri Diwan)

But sometimes the shocking content is not hard to find and is readily available in Western languages. So it was with a September 14 interview done by the important French weekly Le Point with the current Emir of the State of Qatar Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani.[1] Here the striking content was the Qatari Emir's statement that Qatar has no relations whatsoever with the Muslim Brotherhood, the international Islamist organization which has become anathema to other governments in the region, such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. He is quoted as saying: "This relation does not exist, and there are no active members of the Muslim Brotherhood or any groups related to it on Qatari land... We are an open country, and a large number of people with different opinions and ideas pass through it, but we are a country, not a party, and we deal with countries and their legitimate governments, not with political organizations."[2]

One thing I learned from decades of government service is that there are many ways for government officials, all of them, including Western ones, to lie that skirt outright falsehood in some technical fashion while covering up an inconvenient reality. Such sophistry can range from the political to the venal, such as Bill Clinton's notorious tergiversations about what constitutes sex and what exactly the word "is" means in a sentence. Politicians and governments lie all the time, for good and bad reasons.

It may well be that Sheikh Tamim is absolutely right that at the precise moment of his remarks there were no card-carrying Muslim Brotherhood members being hosted in Doha, no one who was waiting on a check or a bag of money from Qatar or whose work was being facilitated in some way by the Qatari state. The remarks have, of course, a huge loophole because the two Muslim Brotherhood type or analogue governments in the world, the ones in power in Ankara and Gaza very much do receive billions in Qatari support. So that covers for the AKP and Hamas. It also would also have covered another Qatari favorite, the Islamist Nahda party of Tunisia, which held power until recently in that country.[3]

Tamim's remarks also have a carve out for his mentor Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, longtime Egyptian MB leader but for many years now a Qatari citizen and connected to Islamist organizations created for him and funded by Qatar, such as the very much MB-flavored International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS). And while the Al-Jazeera Arabic television network funded by Qatar and based in Doha is chock-full of Islamists, who is to say whether or not they are "active" MB members, perhaps just inactive ones who think exactly like them? To watch Al-Jazeera Arabic is to go through the looking glass where most topics are seen through an Islamist lens (sometimes also a non-Islamist but still anti-imperialist or anti-colonial one when it comes, for example, to countries like Venezuela). And it must be said that Al-Jazeera is often catholic in its tastes, always pro-MB certainly, but also providing space to Salafis and even Salafi-Jihadists. My old acquaintance, Jordanian Yaser Abu Hilaleh, who was managing director of Al-Jazeera Arabic from 2014 to 2018 is certainly an Islamist but Tamim wanted to talk about the future rather than the, very recent, past.[4]

Qatar also only provided a brief shelter for Egyptian MB leaders after the 2013 Egyptian coup that removed them from power and brought General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to the presidency. Most of those leaders were farmed out to Turkey where they were able to set up and for some years run opposition television networks broadcasting bitter, incendiary content against Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Turkey's and Qatar's recent keenness to mend fences with Egypt has meant that those channels, some of which were hosted on Qatar's own satellite, either have disappeared or have been scaled back.[5] President Al-Sisi visited Qatar for the first time in eight years only last week so burying Qatar's MB angle was extremely timely.[6]

Interestingly, one place where it seems you did not see the emir's words about the Muslim Brotherhood highlighted was in Al-Jazeera itself. An Arabic language news article on the Le Point interview in Al-Jazeera was headlined "Emir of Qatar: Doha's Foreign Policy Aims at Bringing Views Closer Together." The article included no mention whatsoever of Tamim's Ikhwan remarks.[7] A second Al-Jazeera piece also did not mention that exchange but did detail Qatar's pledge to help schoolchildren and the unemployed in the Arab world.[8]

Emir Tamim certainly wanted to present a positive face for Qatar before a Francophone audience a mere few months before the World Cup.[9] He (or his advisors) likely know that, in contrast with past years, the Muslim Brotherhood has become a toxic subject among Western audiences. The alliance of Islamists with leftists in the West has become, increasingly, a partisan domestic political issue in some Western countries. Antisemitism in the West is often the fruit of this "red-green" leftist/Islamist alliance. And many in the West are by now familiar with the cliched figure of the Islamist "refugee" or migrant finding refuge in the West while using that very same Western freedom to arrogantly curse the West and call for its destruction.

Perhaps poor Tamim deserves a bit of mercy. His dissimulation on Qatar's decades-long support for political Islam, "let's not talk about the past," is not the biggest political whopper out there. For that possibly the biggest recent Olympic or Nobel champion of lying is Turkey's President Erdoğan, a close Qatari ally, going before the United Nations to preach peace while being involved in either open threats or outright war against Greece, Cyprus, Libya, Armenia, Syria, and Iraq (as well as opponents within his own country). Pro-Erdoğan propagandists on Twitter actually pushed the hashtag #ErdoganforWorldPeace playing up his mediation between Russia and Ukraine.[10] Compared to that, Tamim's is only a little white lie about something everyone already knows and that will not be actually believed anyway.

*Alberto M. Fernandez is Vice President of MEMRI.

 

[1] Lepoint.fr/monde/exclusif-le-grand-entretien-avec-l-emir-du-qatar-14-09-2022-2489997_24.php, September 14, 2022.

[2] Egyptindependent.com/emir-of-qatar-denies-links-to-muslim-brotherhood, September 16, 2022

[3] See MEMRI Daily Brief No. 330, Qatar's 'Democracy' Charade, October 25, 2021.

[4] See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 1527, Al-Jazeera Unmasked: Political Islam As A Media Arm Of The Qatari State, August 12, 2020.

[5] The MEMRI Daily Brief No. 222, The Arabic Propaganda War From Istanbul, July 17, 2020.

[6] Youtube.com/watch?v=SfR9e5PBt2E, September 13, 2022.

[7] Aljazeera.net/news/2022/9/14/%d8%b9%d8%a7%d8%ac%d9%84-%d8%a3%d9%85%d9%8a%d8%b1-%d9%82%d8%b7%d8%b1-%d9%84%d9%85%d8%ac%d9%84%d8%a9-%d9%84%d9%88%d8%a8%d9%88%d8%a7%d9%86-%d8%a7%d9%84%d9%81%d8%b1%d9%86%d8%b3%d9%8a%d8%a9, September 14, 2022.

[8] Mubasher.aljazeera.net/news/politics/2022/9/15/%d8%a3%d9%85%d9%8a%d8%b1-%d9%82%d8%b7%d8%b1-%d9%81%d9%8a-%d8%ad%d9%88%d8%a7%d8%b1-%d9%85%d8%b9-%d9%84%d9%88-%d8%a8%d9%88%d8%a7%d9%86-%d8%a7%d9%84%d9%81%d8%b1%d9%86%d8%b3%d9%8a%d8%a9, September 15, 2022.

[9] Youtube.com/watch?v=dJxvtZs76yA, September 17, 2022.

[10] Twitter.com/search?q=%23ErdoganforWorldPeace&src=typeahead_click, accessed September 21, 2022.

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