Following the mass protests in the Arab world that toppled decades-long regimes in major Arab nations like Egypt and Tunisia, the gas-rich statelet Qatar has tried to have a foot in the political future of both nations, among others, through unequivocal support for the Islamist powers emerging there. Banking on its powerful media arm, Al-Jazeera, the tiny Gulf state managed, for some time, to make the heads of millions spin and secure their support for the Islamist political agenda. Unfortunately, this malicious blend did succeed and the Islamists won the race both in Egypt and Tunisia, the two countries from whose grounds the spark of the so-called Arab Spring was first triggered. Though Egyptians got rid, once and for all, of the Islamists’ rule, Tunisians will be going through difficult times to restore that bright modern image of Tunisia, the way nationalist hero Habib Bourguiba wanted it to be.
Paying lip service to events, Mohamed bin Abdel-Rahman Al-Thani, Qatari minister of foreign affairs, thought he would emerge with clean hands by backing off on his country’s support for Islamist ideology and the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood. Addressing the Rome Mediterranean Dialogues, held in Italy in December last year, the minister made statements that surely fell on deaf ears, as Qatar remains an adamant champion of empowerment of Islamists in the Arab world. This has to do with the ideological roots on which the small emirate was founded. In a report titled “Qatar: Governance, Security, and US Policy”, issued by the Congressional Research Service in December 2019, Kenneth Katzman, a specialist in Middle Eastern affairs, revealed that “Al-Thani family, the ruling dynasty in Qatar since independence in 1971, has claimed descent from Mohamed bin Abdel-Wahhab,” the sheikh who founded and spread the infamous teachings of an ultra-orthodox version of Islam, widely known as Wahhabism.
In his great book on Wahhabism, Saudi writer Saud Al-Sabaani argues that, “Wahhabism is much more of a new faith, being based on shedding blood and the act of killing.” In reality, Wahhabism stands for an odd mix of Islamic teachings, Bedouin lifestyles, and narrow-minded interpretations of Muslims’ holy book, The Quran. Though Saudi Arabia, once a major supporter of Wahhabism, has now disavowed many of those decaying teachings that were instilled in the minds of millions of followers of the Islamic faith and led to the emergence of an extremist thinking afflicting almost every Middle Eastern nation, Qatar would like to place itself as an heir! It hosts ultra-radical preachers who in daylight issue religious edicts, or fatwa, legalising the act of killing, and is home to hundreds of top terrorist figures. No wonder the statelet has not sustained in recent years any terrorist incidents, because simply it directs them outward.
Qatar’s thirst to be a great power in the region made the country spend generously on expansionist plans of its ideological background: Islamism. According to a report by the United Nations Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea, issued in 2013, Qatar financed Hassan Sheikh Mohamed’s presidential campaign, helping him clinch victory. Mohamed hails from Addam Al-Jadid (literally, The New Blood), a faction of Al-Islah, the Muslim Brotherhood branch in Somalia. Moreover, the incumbent president of Somalia, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, aka Farmajo, is closely tied to Doha, the Qatari capital. In a surprising move in August 2019, Farmajo promoted Fahd Yassin, once a correspondent for the Qatari flagship Al-Jazeera in Somalia, to chief of the Somali National Intelligence and Security Agency. Yassin has been closely connected with terrorist organisations and Al-Qaeda affiliated groups in the Horn of Africa nation. He was the liaison officer carrying Qatari money to jihadists in Somalia before taking over the highest security position in the nation.
In December 2019, Aykan Erdemir, the former prominent Turkish politician, co-authored, along with senior analyst Varsha Koduvayur, an important study named “Brothers in Arms: The Consolidation of the Turkey-Qatar Axis”. The writers argue that “Qatar’s brand of Wahhabism is infused with a Muslim Brotherhood-style philosophy of political activism.” That is why Doha has been actively supporting Islamists’ propaganda and their rotten ideology everywhere around the globe. Muslim Brotherhood-infested nations have seen tactics maliciously employed to gain peoples’ sympathy and support, the most common of which is victimisation. A repetitive media message, transmitted all round the clock to millions, banks on that technique to boggle recipients’ minds, on the one hand, whereas Doha is busy providing all it can to Islamist militias and extremist Muslims in Europe, Asia and Africa, on the other.
But surely the tiny Gulf emirate would have needed a big brother to finish the job. No better brother could have Qatar depended on other than a fellow Islamist champion: Turkey. After regional powers Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt severed ties with Qatar in 2017 over the latter’s sponsoring of terrorism, Ankara rushed to sustain its Islamist ally to salvage the Islamist project, hell-bent on a revival of the outdated Islamic caliphate.
The mentioned study also reveals the common backgrounds linking Qatar and Turkey with Islamist and terrorist groups in the region. The writers argue that, “Islamism is the glue that holds together the Turkish-Qatari axis.” The new Ottoman ruler Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants to revive the much-hated caliphate in the Middle East, now widely believed to be the reason for the plight and backwardness afflicting the used-to-be Ottoman states in the Arab world.
From a man dressed like a member of The Beatles in the 1970s, and who was studying abroad and dreamt of being heir to his father’s famous construction empire, Osama bin Laden’s plight was the sick mentality he was brainwashed into. He was told he would be a prophet-like leader of the Muslim world should his armed militias manage to kill as many invading Soviet troops in Afghanistan as possible, to prevent the fall of the Muslim nation into the lap of the Communist camp. It all began with instilling sick interpretations of Islam into his mind, the same version Qatar adamantly sponsors and funds. Bin Laden never managed to lead the Muslim world, and instead of leading a normal life, a kind of luxurious lifestyle that wealthy sheikhs in the Gulf lead, he was on the run for his entire lifetime, until his terrible death. Likewise, the rotten ideology that the statelet of Qatar stands for will be sent into oblivion, because average Muslims have learnt the hard way and have, at last, seen the true colour of Islamists: wherever they are, endless anarchy is inevitable.
*The writer is a former press and information officer in Ethiopia and an expert on African affairs.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 23 January, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.