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Muslim Brotherhood in UAE

The UAE Government has demonstrated zero tolerance for the Muslim Brotherhood in the UAE, whose ultimate goal it believes to be regime change and total imposition of Shari'a law. The small number of "Islamist" intellectuals in the UAE have been sidelined. The UAE Government continues to monitor those groups and individuals deemed to be Islamist and/or affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. In an effort to reduce the influence of Islamists in the educational and judicial systems, in 2002 the UAE Government either transferred or early retired around 60-70 educators and government officials thought to be affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. Although they were much more moderate than Islamists elsewhere in the Gulf and in Egypt and were not/not considered extremist in their views, some of those sidelined are well known for their conservative philosophy.

There is little sign of an active political Islamic movement in the UAE, primarily as a result of the UAE Government's support and promotion of a moderate practice of Islam and the underdeveloped political structure of the UAE (no political parties or political opposition). There are a number of groups here with a religious agenda, the vast majority of which follow a moderate practice of Islam in line with UAE Government policy. The UAE Government has used both carrots, e.g., religious education, and sticks, e.g., preemptive steps to check those it perceives to be under Islamist influence. The small number of Islamic groups here do not appear to engage in activities that meet the definition of political Islam. The several organizations with an Islamist bent thus far have not collided with that policy, in part as a result of their active monitoring by the UAE Government. Given the situation on the ground here, we believe that a continued low-profile approach which reinforces the moderation espoused by the UAE Government will best serve both our short-term and long-term interests.

The UAE Government promotes the moderate practice of Islam in a number of different ways. The Ministry of Justice, Islamic Affairs, and Awqaf operates as the central federal regulatory authority for Muslim imams and mosques and distributes weekly guidance on religious sermons to mosques and imams, both Sunni and Shi'a. Emirate-level Departments of Islamic Affairs also provide oversight over mosques and imams. The Government ensures that clergy do not deviate frequently or significantly from approved topics in their sermons and monitors all sermons for political content. In June 2003, the UAE Government initiated a public religious education campaign to promote a better understanding of Islam, including a one-year training course for 166 imams.

After 9/11, the UAE senior leadership launched a comprehensive top-down internal security review to assess the impact of extremist thought and elements on UAE society. The UAE Government closely scrutinized the activities of the UAE's mosques, schools, academic institutions, charities and NGOs. The UAE Government also rounded up about 160 people suspected of ties to extremist groups for questioning. As part of this review, the UAE Government passed comprehensive anti-money laundering legislation, initiated tighter controls on funds transferred into and out of the country, assessed the country's charities and NGOs, and took steps to eliminate cash fundraising at mosques and channel all charitable giving through government- regulated relief organizations.

Al Islah Wa Al Tojihi Al Ijtima (The Reform and Social Guidance Association) was established in Dubai in the early 1980s with the support of then Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed al Maktoum, father of current Ruler of Dubai and Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum. It was part of a general desire to support the evolution of Dubai as a modern city embracing tolerance and acceptance with Islam as a backdrop. In the latter part of the 1980s the Association appears to have become less moderate (or the regime may have become more moderate and changed its perception of the association) and perhaps pushed for a more Islamist agenda. The association continues to exist with branches in Dubai, Ras al Khaimah, and Sharjah with public events that are primarily charitable and social in nature. The group al-Islah (The Reform) is a generally non-violent movement emphasizing the reformation and revival of Islam in order to meet the challenges of the modern world.

On June 15, 2008 the September 2007 reassignment of 83 teachers attracted media attention when the teachers, along with their families, publicly protested their reassignment in front of the Ministry of Education. They asked that their official complaints be delivered to President Sheikh Khalifa and Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum for review. The UAE Government's view on the dismissals is that the teachers represented a creeping Islamist threat to the UAE's traditionally tolerant approach to Islam. In the late seventies and early eighties when an Islamist served as Minister of Education and brought a number of religious conservatives into the Educational apparatus. Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Zayed repeatedly describes to visitors how the UAE educational system has been "hijacked" by the Muslim Brotherhood.

During the Arab Spring, after representatives from the Jurists’ Association and the Teachers’ Association signed an online petition calling for greater political reforms, the Ministry of Social Affairs dissolved the boards of directors of both organizations and reconstituted them with state appointees, stating that both groups had violated laws forbidding organizational interference in politics or matters of state security.

In April 2011 security forces arrested Ahmed Mansoor, Nasser Bin Ghaith, Fahad Dalk Al-Shihhi, Hassan Ali Al Khamis, and Ahmed Abdulhaleq Ahmed for publicly insulting the country’s rulers through postings on an online discussion forum. Several of the men had earlier signed a public petition to President Sheikh Khalifa calling for universal suffrage in the FNC elections and requesting full legislative authority for the FNC. The government also charged Mansoor with perpetrating acts that endanger state security and undermine the public order. In the group trial, the three-judge panel of the Federal Supreme Court consisted of noncitizen judges from Egypt and Syria who, according to defense attorneys, did not appear at times to understand the Emirati Arabic dialect. There were reports that the prosecution did not specify the explicit acts of defamation that were used against the defendants, and that the government did not provide an opportunity to the defense to cross-examine some prosecution witnesses. Government officials reportedly reviewed all written communication between the defendants and their attorneys and monitored all conversations during jail visits. On November 27, the court sentenced Mansoor to three years in prison and his co-defendants to two years. The government pardoned all five on 28 November 2011.

On 27 January 2013 the Attorney General of the UAE, Salem Saeed Kubaish, stated that 94 Emirati suspects had been referred to the Federal Supreme Court as part of the case relating to the organisation which sought to seize power in the country. "Investigations by the Public Prosecution have revealed that they did the following: - They launched, established and ran an organisation seeking to oppose the basic principles of the UAE system of governance and to seize power. The organisation took a foreign cover (shape) and announced its declared principles as being calling on society to observe the teaching and virtues of Islam, while their undeclared aims were, in fact, to seek to seize power and the state's system of governance and to oppose the basic principles of this system. They planned this covertly in secret meetings which they convened in their houses and farms, as well as other places, seeking to hide the fact of these meetings, as well as what happened at them, from the authorities."

The security forces launched a clampdown on members of the Al-Islah party. The accused were detained in a wave of arrests that began in mid-2012 and continued throughout last year. Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood said some of its members had been wrongfully arrested in United Arab Emirates (UAE) on allegations of helping to train local Islamists in subversion tactics.

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Page last modified: 22-08-2013 18:25:17 ZULU