x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Islah 'does not represent UAE interests'

FNC, local analysts and minister respond to opinion article written by the head of Islah, alleging that its members have persecuted.

ABU DHABI // Members of the FNC, local analysts and a Minister of State say Islamists in the UAE do not represent the country's interests and have a limited following.

Al Islah, the branch of the Muslim Brotherhood in the UAE, violated the constitution and posed a threat to the nation by paying allegiance to outside powers, they said.

They were reacting to an opinion piece written by the head of Islah and published on The Guardian newspaper's website, alleging that its members have been persecuted.

The article also calls for "reforms" to the UAE ruling structure.

"The problem with Islah is foreign funding, which makes their goals in the interests not of the country, but of their organisation," said Dr Ebtisam Al Ketbi, professor of political science at UAE University.

The Government has approached members of Al Islah several times to cut its foreign ties but they have refused to do so, Dr Al Ketbi said.

"No country would accept such an organisation operating within it."

In July, authorities arrested 60 members of the group, charging them with forming a political organisation, and with establishing an organisation that compromises state security and the principles on which the state is based.

They are also charged with holding connections with foreign bodies to harm the political leadership.

They have allegedly confessed to plans and given details of the group, its operations and its intention to establish an Islamist government, an official said last month. Their trial is expected to begin in several months.

"They have declared that they are a secretive political society, therefore it is within the UAE's right to take measures against them," said Dr Abdulrahim Al Shahin, an FNC member from Ras Al Khaimah.

Dr Al Shahin said Al Islah had worldwide ties with Islamist organisations that have violent histories.

Another worry was the organisation's allegiance to higher leadership in the international Muslim Brotherhood, based in Egypt.

"Their allegiance cannot be inside and outside the country at the same time," he said.

The Muslim Brotherhood has proved its goal is ultimately to control society, Dr Al Ketbi said.

"In the '80s, the ministers of justice and education were from the Muslim Brotherhood," she said.

"They started to control everything - students, student unions - all according to their ideas."

Dr Al Ketbi said the ministers were given authority as the country supported pan-Arabists and assumed that their membership to the Brotherhood was harmless.

They promoted several measures limiting the rights of women, and sought to impose strict controls on many social issues.

"Back then [the Government] did not know of their intentions," Dr Al Ketbi said. "Later they changed the ministers but the damage they caused was big, so big that we are still suffering from it."

In the 1990s Brotherhood members, particularly in education, were told to renounce the group or find jobs outside the ministry and refrain from promoting their ideology.

Dr Anwar Gargash, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and FNC Affairs, tweeted yesterday in response to the article.

"A fair person will realise that the UAE public and the leadership and experience is worthy of love and allegiance and gratitude. Few are the countries that are like us," Dr Gargash posted.

Dr Sultan Al Moazen, a former member of the FNC, questioned Al Islah's relevance to Emirati society.

"Why would we want to destroy our home with our own hands?" Dr Al Moazen asked. "If the Rulers' doors were closed then we can give them an excuse, but anyone here can visit the Rulers."

osalem@thenational.ae