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A main opposition group in Morocco is the Islamist Justice and Development Party. Its unofficial newspaper has spouted anti-Semitic and anti-Western rhetoric, such as saying that a tsunami in December 2004 was a judgment from God upon disobedient Muslims. The paper’s website has linked to Sheikh Qaradawi’s Union of Good, a network of charities that finance Hamas. However, the party does have competition as it came in second in the 2007 parliamentary elections, though foul play was alleged. The Islamist party did not endorse large protests that were recently held, showing an independent streak on the part of the demonstrators.
Sudan may be the next country to become a thoroughly Sharia-based state. President Omar Bashir has said that once South Sudan secedes, he will make Sharia the only source of legislation and Arabic the only language in the country. This is probably a move to appease his Islamist opposition, led by Muslim Brotherhood leader Hasan al-Turabi. Bashir arrested the cleric after he called for an uprising following the Jasmine Revolution and protests immediately formed to demand his release. Nearby in Somalia, the Al-Qaeda-affiliate al-Shabaab controls the southern and central parts of the country including parts of Mogadishu.
The Islamists are also in a good position in the Gulf. The majority of the population in Jordan is Palestinian and polls show a high level of extremism. The Muslim Brotherhood is the dominant opposition force, though it is currently protesting alongside various other parties and organizations. The protests in Iraq are not aimed at overthrowing the government and the pro-Iranian parties lost in a landslide in the last elections, but Moqtada al-Sadr has returned to Iraq and may benefit from the government’s declining support. The government of Qatar supports the Muslim Brotherhood and has grown closer to Iran and Syria but still hosts a major U.S. base. Protests are being organized now to demand the resignation of the Emir, the cutting of ties to both Israel and Iran and the removal of the U.S. base.
The Yemeni President has taken an anti-American turn in his rhetoric since facing his own uprising. The main opposition bloc is the Joint Meetings Party, of which the Islamist Islah Party is the strongest component. Islah is an affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood and it has won support from tribal chiefs and Salafists. It supports creating a religious police like that in Saudi Arabia to “promote virtue and combat vice” and is critical of Yemen’s relationship with the U.S. The Treasury Department has designated one of its top leaders, Sheikh Abdul Majidal-Zindani, as a terrorist for his ties to Al-Qaeda, Hamas and Sheikh Qaradawi. He continues to have significant support and recently spoke in front of thousands of protesters. He does not hide his goal, saying “an Islamic state is coming.” Even if Islah does not come to power, instability in Yemen will benefit the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
The situation is less clear in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. The younger Saudi population is in favor of reform but a very strong Wahhabist clergy and elements of the Royal Family like Prince Nayef oppose them. Kuwait’s Islamist forces suffered a major defeat at the polls in 2009 but remain a potent force, especially the Muslim Brotherhood affiliate called the Islamic Constitutional Movement and the Islamic Salafi Alliance. There is a Salafi religious network in Kuwait to be concerned about, such as a popular cleric named Sheikh Hamid al-Ali who has been designated by the U.S. as a financier of terrorism.
In Bahrain, 70 percent of the population is Shiite, which one would presume would benefit Iran. However, the Shiite opposition says “We are not looking for a religious government like Iran’s” and another opposition leader said, “We want genuine democracy, not clerical.” Cables released by Wikileaks show that Bahrain told General Petraeus in 2008 that the Shiite opposition was being trained by Hezbollah in Lebanon but the U.S. had “seen no convincing evidence of Iranian weapons or government money here since at least the mid-1990s” and Bahrain was unable to offer proof.
Radical Islamic anti-Western governments are already in power in Iran, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip and Turkey has moved decisively in a pro-Iran, Islamist direction. Syria, though governed by a secular regime, is a strong ally of Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah. Ironically, the Assad regime’s most organized opposition force is the Muslim Brotherhood. The latest protests by Palestinians threaten the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank more than the Hamas regime in Gaza. It is not inconceivable that Hamas could control both Palestinian territories as the terrorist group is viewed favorably by 47 percent of those in the West Bank.
As these governments become unstable, a struggle will ensue between those who favor secular democracy and the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists that view separation of mosque and state as a heresy and jihad against the West as a command from Allah. The stakes could not be much higher.
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