Strangest Story of Syrian Muslim Brotherhood Leaders: Father in Qatar and Son in Bahrain
2017-07-20 - 3:15 p
Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): Forget all the stories and impressions that you may have heard about one or more of the sparring Gulf states. This is one of the strange stories that you have never heard of before. In 2004, Syrian Muslim Brotherhood official Mohamed Srour bin Nayef Zain El Abidine, the founder of the radical Salafist group known as Al-Srouriya, was forced to leave his home in Wembley, London, accompanied by his family after the British Home Office approved a series of exceptional laws against extremist Islamist groups. His destination was Jordan. However, it wasn't long before he made his way to Qatar's Doha to reside beside many Muslim Brotherhood members who fled their countries. He stayed there until his demise in November 2016. His funeral and burial was held in the Qatari capital.
As for his son, Dr. Bashir Zain El Abidine, his eldest heir and custodian of his intellectual and organizational legacy, he made his way to a place not far from Doha. He headed to Manama in Bahrain, where he settled and became a professor at the national university- University of Bahrain, and was granted the Bahraini citizenship in addition to his Syrian and British nationalities. He also became a historian and a researcher that the Bahraini Royal Court and research centers linked to it resorted to. He was assigned a single task: to use his academic experience- he has a PhD in political history from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London- to recreate the narratives of Bahraini history and alter them according to the interests of the ruling family, as well as run the programs that work to demonize the country's Shiites (1).
His father took Doha as a platform to resume his preaching work after he was expelled by Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, where he worked as a teacher in Buraidah, Al-Qassim for some time before he migrated to London. His son's platform; however, was Manama. He served as a faculty member at the University of Bahrain for ten years from 2001 to 2011. He later was appointed to the Bahrain Center for Strategic, International and Energy Studies as a visiting scholar since 2011. It is a governmental research center directly affiliated to the Bahraini Royal Court. It is funded by the Royal Court and its board members are assigned by royal order. He is also a visiting researcher at the Center for Historical Records, which is also affiliated with the Bahraini Royal Court and whose members are appointed by royal orders (2).
The "Srouriya" movement, whose name was inspired by his father "Mohammed Srour Zain El Abidine" who founded the organization, represented a marriage between both the "Qutbi" Brotherhood and the "Al-Maududi" Salafism. In his study entitled, "The Establishment of Sourism" (2007), Yusuf Al-Dini mentioned that "Muhammad Srour was in his early activism years close to the brotherhood wing of Isam Al-Attar, known as the "Damascus Brotherhood" wing. He then moved to Marwan Hadid, founder of the military organization of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria ), who adopts the approach of using violence, ie the coupist approach established by Abu Al-A'la Al-Maududi in contemporary Islamic thought, which was followed by Sayyid Qutb in his book "Milestones" (Ma'alim fi'l-tareeq). Muhammad Srour was known for his strong and declared hatred of the Shiites, unlike other Muslim Brotherhood members during his time, who until recently had been interested in matters of rapprochement between religious sects, and avoiding doctrinal disputes. A very early book of his was entitled, "The Role of the Magi" which demonstrated this deep enmity.
Bashir Zain El Abidine grew up in this extremist religious family environment. In Bahrain, he found an optimal environment for applying all that he had learned, taking advantage- just like other Arab preachers residing in the island kingdom (3)- of the huge gap of mistrust between the Bahraini ruling family and the country's Shiite population, who form the backbone of the opposition.
For instance, in a study he prepared for the Bahrain Center for Studies in 2014 that received wide coverage in pro-government newspapers entitled, "The US-Middle East Partnership Initiative and its role in the 2011 Bahrain events," Bashir Zain El Abidine accused Shiite dissidents, journalists, bloggers, society leaders and trade unionists demanding a democratic transition in power of working as agents for the United States. He further claimed that the US Embassy took care of the funding of all the political activities that took place during the 2011 protests. These allegations are the same allegations that are swung back and forth based on necessity: from accusing the Shiites of working with the US or Iran to claiming now that they work with the Qataris!
Bashir Zain El Abidin is satisfied with the first two accusations, but he stands silent at the Qatar allegation, given the specificity of the relationship that will be explained below.
Bashir Zain El Abidine's Islamist movement strategy on the Bahraini platform is based on three pillars: First, on the local level: the full adoption of the approach of the Muslim Brotherhood in Bahrain based on the demonization of Shiite citizens and the systematic targeting of any rapprochement between them and the government. Secondly: Building a solid ground of trust with the country's positions of authority, mainly the Royal Court, and based on this relationship, he presents his academic research services and expertise in rewriting the history of Bahrain and ruling family members from the regime's point of view, in exchange for having the opportunity to be promoted in government agencies and most importantly having the freedom to practice his Islamist preaching movement. Thirdly, on the regional level: Supporting militant action in his home country Syria based on the Doha approach, and assume the position of the religious intellectual theorist landscape by actively joining the "Islamic Sham Organization". It is one of the many groups affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria, which has the exclusive right to publish and promote all its articles and speeches.
None of the abovementioned are confidential or undeclared, for Bashir Zain El Abidine's speeches can be found all over the websites of the bodies and groups linked to the organization. With a click of a button on Google or search boxes on social media networks, one can easily find his dynamic activity and position in text, photos and videos.
A long study on the future of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria, prepared by Raphaël Lefèvre and published by the Carnegie Middle East Center (2013), draws a promising future for Bashir Zain El Abidine due to his prestigious reputation in the organization. Lefèvre says that if free post-Assad elections are held in Syria, Srour or his son Bashir Zain El Abidine will garner many votes in the south-west, where he can ally with the Muslim Brotherhood. In the midst of this, Bashir is constantly travels between Qatar and Bahrain in fluid conditions that may no longer be available in the past two years even to his fellow Bahrain brotherhood members. He meets with the leaders of the organization and Qatari officials, including the Qatari Emir Tamim himself. The accounts of Syrian dissidents influenced by the Brotherhood show in a rare act of transparency his meetings with Prince Tamim, the last of which was in November following the death of his father, the founder of Al-Srouriya, in Doha. He manages all this network of activities effectively from his place of residence in Manama.
This is the fatal paradox: Qatar has the father and we have the son moving about freely. The father died in 2016 and his funeral was attended by senior leaders of the international organization, like the former head of the political bureau of the Hamas movement Khaled Meshaal. As for the son, he continue to firmly pave his path to progress in Bahrain. As for the siege, it is just for Qatar!
Bahraini researcher Youssef Madan speaks in a seminar on May 15, 2017 bitterly of how Bashir Zain El Abidine in his book "Modern History of Bahrain 1500-2001," which was adopted in the curriculum for the University of Bahrain students, omitted five words from a text of the book of the famous Gulf navigator Ahmed Ibn Majid Al-Najdi "Fawayid fi ‘Ilm Al-Bahr wal Qawaeid," stating that there are 360 Bahraini villages, for the purpose of "falsifying the historical and cultural truth of the local population and claiming that they are small numbered."
Since his arrival in Bahrain, Bashir Zain El Abidine has published a series of books specialized in the rewriting of Bahraini history and the men of the ruling family from the regime's point of view, most notably: "Introduction to the Sources of Modern and Contemporary History of Bahrain" (2007), "Bahrain Modern History 1500-2002" (2009), "Bahrain and its External Relations During the 16th Century" (2009), "Bahrain and its Regional Environment in the period 1600-1782" (2014) and many more.
The extremist Egyptian preacher, Wajdi Ghoneim, is considered one of the most prominent faces of the Muslim Brotherhood who lived in Bahrain. He hosted a regular religious program on Bahrain's state television. The king's sister intervened to secure a residence for him after he was expelled from the United States following speeches fueled with extremism. Ghoneim was almost granted the Bahraini citizen, as he said in an interview: "The Salafists of Bahrain put my name first on the list of preachers to be naturalized." That was before he was asked to leave the country in 2007 in a sudden move, after finding an old recording of him in which he had attacked the ruling family in Kuwait.
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