A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, June 17, 2013

Egypt's Syria Break and the MB's New Anti-Shi‘a Rhetoric

Egypt's break with Syria over the weekend followed almost immediately after a meeting of senor Islamists with President Morsi in which the Islamists, particularly well-known preacher and senior Muslim Brotherhood adviser Yusuf al-Qaradawi called for "jihad" against the Asad regime. The Syrian conflict has increasingly been a subject of Qaradawi's statements; his anti-Shi‘ite rhetoric has become more pronounced lately, and on his website he has published congratulations from the Saudi Crown Prince for his stance. Once an advocate of Sunni-Shi‘i cooperation, he has become more and more confrontational; the Muslim Brotherhood as a whole has endorsed similar rhetoric, always having been rather suspicious of Shi‘ism.

The new anti-Syria rhetoric, combined with the recent tough talk about Ethiopia's dam project, may be intended to provide external enemies to rally support at a time of domestic dissent. Most recently Morsi's appointment of new governors for the provinces raised eyebrows when the new governor of Luxor turned out to be a member of al-Gama‘a al-Islamiyya, the group that staged the 1997 attack on tourists at Luxor. Al-Gama‘a al-Islamiyya has since renounced violence, but critics fear an impact on the already badly hit tourism sector.

But rhetoric aimed at Ethiopia and Syria at the same time could prove risky, and raises new questions about Morsi's (and the FJP Party's and its Brotherhood sponsors') foreign policy positions.

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