A university in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia is dismissing academics who are believed to have ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.
The university reportedly found evidence that a number of Saudi and foreign academics were linked to the Muslim Brotherhood. The removal of these academics is an attempt to protect The Saudi educational system from Brotherhood influence.
In the past two weeks, Saudi authorities have allegedly arrested over 30 clerics and intellectuals in an attempt to crack down on dissent. The State Security Presidency arrested these clerics and intellectuals after monitoring their activities in the belief that they were acting for the benefit of foreign parties against the kingdom.
Three prominent clerics who were arrested were Salman al-Ouda, Aidh al-Qarni, and Ali al-Omary. Al-Qarni has advocated jihad in the past and has been described as influential among al-Qaeda followers.
Salman al-Ouda was jailed in the 1990s in Saudi Arabia for radicalism and his association with Osama Bin Laden. Al-Ouda has been a prominent member of the Muslim Brotherhood and also a founding member of the Global Anti-Aggression Campaign which is a coalition of Salafi, Salafi-Jihadi, Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas leaders.
In the 1950s, Saudi Arabia was a shelter for thousands of Brotherhood activists facing repression in Egypt, Syria and other countries. The Brotherhood soon became engrained both in Saudi society and in the Saudi state.
When Brotherhood activists fled to Saudi Arabia, many were given positions in Saudi schools by Saudi leaders who were sympathetic to their cause. The Muslim Brotherhood’s doctrine of education focuses on indoctrinating activists whose manners, way of thinking and sense of duty were aligned with the Brotherhood’s objectives.
In 2015, Saudi schools removed about 80 religious books including books written by Muslim Brotherhood ideologues Hassan Al Banna, Yousuf Al Qaradawi and Sayyed Qutb. Hassan Al Banna was the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood movement in Egypt and Sayyed Qutb was a leading member of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood in the 1950s and 1960s.
Saudi Islamist movements, specifically the Sahwa (Awakening), grew in Saudi Arabia. The relationship between the Sahwa and the regime was harmonious in the beginning until the 1980s when the Sahwa began criticizing the regime’s policies.
In the 1990s the Sahwa movement attempted a political reform campaign which led to a strain on the relationship, with the regime expelling several Brotherhood members. In the early 2000s, the relationship improved, allowing the Sahwa back into religious and social aspects in the country as long as they avoided criticism of the government. The Arab Spring encouraged the Sahwa to attempt political reform again but they were unsuccessful.
In February 2014, a royal decree was created to punish any person who was involved in, supported, or promoted a terrorist group. A month later, Saudi Arabia named the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. The Saudi kingdom fears the Brotherhood seeks to topple the Saudi regime and has tried to build support inside the kingdom since the Arab Spring.
In June, Saudi Arabia was one of 5 countries to cut ties with Qatar over alleged efforts to undermine the stability of the Gulf States through Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood and a variety of designated terrorist groups.
Academics have the capacity to exert great influence over students and are also capable of recruiting some students to support the Brotherhood’s efforts across communities throughout the Middle East and Africa. It remains difficult to determine the full extent of the effort by Saudi authorities to expel Brotherhood-linked academics from institutions in Saudi Arabia because it is unclear how many academics were expelled, and how many may remain.