So, so many things wrong with David Kirkpatrick’s piece in the New York Times today about the first meeting between Mohammed Morsi, the new president of Egypt from the cult-like Muslim Brotherhood, and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, kleptocrat-in-chief from the cult-like Wahhabi kingdom. Kirkpatrick writes of the “profound ideological enmity” between the Brothers and the Saudis and the “legal ban on [the Muslim Brotherhood’s] existence [in Saudi Arabia] and deep animosity from the kingdom’s rulers.”
Well, not quite.
True, Saudi Arabia doesn’t allow the Muslim Brotherhood to operate openly in Saudi Arabia, but then Saudi Arabia doesn’t allow any group or party to function openly.
But for more than half a century, Saudi Arabia has extended every form of support to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and elsewhere, as I documented extensively in my 2005 book, Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam./p>
A bullet-point history:
In 1948, Hermann Eilts, one of America’s premier Arabists, was a young diplomat in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. When I interviewed him for my book, he told me that he met Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, in Jeddah. “He used to come to Saudi Arabia for money, actually. I met him at the home of the then-Saudi deputy minister of finance, who was a man who was himself very pious and who handled Banna. His name was Sheikh Mohammad Sorour…and it was Sorour who handled most of the financial matters with the Muslim Brotherhood.” In fact, Saudi Arabia has funded the Muslim Brotherhood throughout its existence.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the Muslim Brotherhood twice tried to assassinate President Nasser of Egypt, Saudi Arabia’s biggest enemy at the time. The Saudis weren’t unhappy about that.
In the 1970s, President Sadat of Egypt re-established the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo, with the explicit help of Saudi Arabia’s chief of intelligence, Kamal Adham, who personally led a Muslim Brotherhood delegation from Saudi Arabia back to Egypt, where they quickly took root again, with Saudi financial help and Sadat’s patronage. The Saudis loved that the Brotherhood was anti-communist and anti–Arab nationalist.
From the 1970s on, Saudi Arabia poured millions of dollars into Egypt in support of the Muslim Brotherhood, among other things helping them push Al Azhar, the leading center of Islamic scholarship, increasingly into the camp of ultraconservatives, from the Muslim Brotherhood to the Salafis to the Wahhabis.
And so on.
Of course, Saudi Arabia wasn’t happy about the fall of President Mubarak, but not because they feared either the Egyptian military or the Muslim Brotherhood. They were decidedly unhappy about the left-leaning, secular, often socialist-minded opposition parties that filled Tahrir Square in the early, optimistic days of the 2011 revolt. Now Saudi Arabia will be a major player, mostly behind the scenes, in working out a happy marriage between the army and the Muslim Brotherhood. Welcome to Egypt’s future.