The threat of the Muslim Brotherhood and the associated extremism in developing ideologies that enhance violence and adversity on the government of UAE is asymmetrical. Since the establishment of Al Islah in the United Arab Emirates in 1974, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum has supported the Muslim Brotherhood’s presence in the United Arab Emirates (Ihlebæk & Sundet, 2021). Al Islah, a radical Islamist group in the United Arab Emirates, shares doctrinal beliefs with the Muslim Brotherhood. Its members have tried to influence the State’s social issues, such as campaigning for legislation restricting women’s rights since it was founded (Oxford, 2021). Additionally, the group has been implicated in a conspiracy to topple the present administration and replace it with a radical Islamist one.
Current State of Muslim Brotherhood in UAE
The Muslim Brotherhood continues to have significant influences on the political and governance structure in the United Arab Emirates due to its vastness and dynamism in developing the various affiliations and other groups that share the same ideologies. There is a change in structure and the view perspective towards economic and political systems and policies, together with social scope development due to the significant influence brought by the Muslim Brotherhood and extremist Islamic ideologies.
It is necessary to note two recent events that influenced the developments. First, during their detention in the UAE in 2012, suspected Muslim Brotherhood members allegedly admitted to authorities that the organization had formed a military wing to seize power (Juneau, 2020). Members of the military wing also claimed, according to media reports, that they had sought to attract young Emiratis and retired military leaders into their ranks.
Second, previously, the Muslim Brotherhood had been implicated in funding foreign terrorist organizations. According to the Egyptian authorities, the Al Islah movement has been accused of providing financial support to the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, a jihadist group responsible for the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981. In the early to mid-1990s, this charge was leveled. As a result of this declaration, the UAE government officially abolished Al Islah in 1994 (Juneau, 2020). Thus, this indicates that Muslim Brotherhood is attempting to demonstrate its influence.
Impact of Muslim Brotherhood
Despite the UAE’s long history of religious liberalism in the region, the self-branding occurred only when the UAE first identified the Muslim Brotherhood as a severe security danger in their country. First, during the Arab Spring, it became more noticeable, faster, and more intense. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) stepped up its efforts to eliminate the Muslim Brotherhood. It is clear from the prescribed stories that the Sunni Islamist organizations have complexities, flaws, and belief structures that have been exposed in detail. Thus, the rise and fall of the Brotherhood can be seen as a reflection of the complexities of human nature.
Second, this organization will likely continue to impact Middle Eastern politics and culture even if there are no predictions about its future in UAE or elsewhere. This is because the Fraternity is laying a strong foundation for future discussions about overlapping beliefs and principles. At the same time, it disseminates this information to citizens through social media and its members. In this way, it attempts to find more followers for a change of power in the state.
Policies/Laws against Muslim Brotherhood
Since the United Arab Emirates has identified the Muslim Brotherhood, the largest and most influential political Islam movement in the Middle East, as a serious domestic threat to regime stability, the UAE has launched a regional campaign against Islamists. UAE leaders believe that a transnational Islamic movement such as the Muslim Brotherhood would attempt to rally its supporters in Gulf states such as Abu Dhabi and the United Arab Emirates against the governments of those countries if it were to gain power.
The new regional policy of the Emiratis aims to stop Iran’s expansion in the Middle East. From Abu Dhabi’s perspective, the conflict in Yemen has taken center stage because of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia’s decision to launch a military campaign against Houthi rebels, who are loosely allied with Iran. The UAE’s anti-Iranian sentiment, on the other hand, is much less prominent than the country’s anti-Islamist sentiment. The government pursues a policy of punishment through legitimate legal methods. Therefore, 14 leaders of the Islamist movement Muslim Brotherhood were sentenced to death on trial in Cairo. In the same case, another 36 persons were sentenced to life imprisonment. Accordingly, the leadership of the state directs its efforts to fight the organization.
Defense System against Muslim Brotherhood
In the fight against the wide range of Islam extremist threats driven by the Muslim Brotherhood, the United Arab Emirates government has actively used its military defense system. First, it includes activities such as providing military cover at the national level and suppressing the development of other surrounding states, such as Iran, which appears to have a more favorable attitude towards Islamist extremism. According to the government, the Muslim Brotherhood’s opposition to monarchical and dynastic regimes has led the Emirati government to view the organization as a threat to the Middle East’s balance of power (Ulrichsen, 2019). According to UAE officials, the local Islamist group Al Islah, which UAE officials claim is linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, has been accused of plotting an armed uprising against the government (Ulrichsen, 2019). In recent years, the Brotherhood’s political resurgence in the wake of the Arab Spring protests, which upended the status quo, has increased its threat. Therefore, the administration adopted a strategy of increasing forces to prevent an insurrection against the government.
Second, the government is increasing the defense industry to maintain its status. At the same time, they act preventively and detain and prosecute supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood in order not to use military force. The UAE’s 2014 decision to designate the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization shows this hostility toward the group despite the Brotherhood’s public repudiation of violence several years earlier (Ulrichsen, 2019). Compared to other countries, domestic protests in the United Arab Emirates have been less intense, with a letter signed by approximately 130 Emirati activists. Many of them were affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, requesting reforms from President Khalifa bin Zayed. After signing an open letter to the Emirati government, many signatories were jailed, and some had their UAE citizenship stripped as a result. However, this harsh response indicated that the government was afraid to disrupt the status quo.
Regional and International Initiatives
First, to enhance regional peace and diplomatic aspects for positive international relations, UAE has integrated a rich network that remarkably comprises international initiatives and policy frameworks that involve assistance from global communities, such as the United States, in terms of funding and military scope. To tackle violent extremism, the UAE has partnered with other countries and granted authority to local groups. The Ministry of Tolerance has been most active in preaching the message of tolerance and harmony. An international center for countering violent extremism in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was inaugurated in 2012 (Guéraiche, 2019). The United States and the United Arab Emirates jointly run the Sawab Centre, an online counter-Islamic State message platform. The group supports the transmission of information with international police agencies if family members come forward with knowledge concerning radicalized relatives.
Second, one should highlight the international initiatives designed to promote peace. Joint efforts against terrorism and terrorist finance have been supported by the FBI Legal Attaché office at the U.S. Consulate, Dubai since it was established in 2012 (Guéraiche, 2019). U.S. government terrorism files credit the UAE Central Bank Financial Intelligence Unit for teaching financial institutions in the UAE anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist funding techniques and mandating the registration of informal financial transmittal networks.
Recommendations for Mitigation of Muslim Brotherhood Threat
There are several strategies to mitigate the Muslim Brotherhood threat that should be emphasized. First, recent years have seen a growing interest and opportunity for religious players to be included in counter-terrorism policy (CVE). It emphasizes the role or function of religion in violent extremism, such as mobilization, counternarrative, rationalization, and sanctification of violent acts, has shown promising results. Understanding the role of religion in the development of violent extremism can benefit the design and implementation of counter-violent extremism strategies that incorporate religion (Tür, 2019). It shows how religious actors may be effective collaborators, including when and how to engage them, offer practical training, and assure effective partnerships across sectors through inclusiveness and overcoming potential political hurdles, among other things.
Secondly, the authorities can allocate additional funding to disseminate information about the Muslim Brotherhood Threat. In this way, the public will be notified of the organization’s possible intentions to change the democratic regime. Accordingly, this will enable it to assess the advantages of the current government and not support the Muslim Brotherhood Threat (Tür, 2019). In this way, the organization will not gain the support of the people, which is an essential factor in creating an insurgency against the authorities.
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