The plot thickens
Dubai's chief of police has launched another attack on the Muslim Brotherhood, though with little obvious public reaction, writes Doaa El-Bey
Dubai chief of police Dahi Khalfan warned this week of what he called an "international plot" to overthrow the governments of the Arab Gulf countries, saying that the region needs to be prepared to counter any threats from Muslim Brotherhood sympathisers as well as Syria and Iran.
"There's an international plot against the Gulf states in particular and Arab countries in general," Khalfan told reporters at a gathering in Dubai late last week marking the holy month of Ramadan. "This is pre-planned to take over our fortunes."
"The Muslim Brothers and the governments in Damascus and North Africa have to know that the Gulf is a red line, not only for Iran but also for the Brothers as well," he added.
According to one diplomat, who spoke under condition of anonymity, Khalfan's attack on the Brotherhood has not been his first and it reflects Gulf fears that the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Arab world may pose a serious threat to their countries' governments.
"Gulf officials are concerned that the rise of Islamists in the wake of the Arab Spring could stir up Islamist groups and arouse dissent in their own countries," the diplomat said, explaining the arrests of Islamists that have been taking place in the United Arab Emirates in recent months.
Khalfan's statement came one day after eight Islamists were detained, bringing the total number of those detained since April to at least 20. The arrests came as part of a clampdown in the UAE on those suspected of having links with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
Most of the detained are believed to be linked to Al-Islah, an outlawed Islamist group in the UAE that apparently shares goals with the Muslim Brotherhood but is not specifically linked to it.
The detained men had been calling for greater civil rights and more power to be given to the UAE's Federal National Council, a quasi-parliamentary body that advises the government but has no legislative power.
Unlike Khalfan's previous attacks on the Brotherhood, this one brought few reactions from the group. Brotherhood spokesman Mahmoud Ghozlan dismissed the comments, saying that they did not deserve a reaction.
However, similar comments made by Khalfan on Twitter earlier this month did prompt a strong reaction. After the election of Mohamed Mursi as Egyptian president, Khalfan had written on his Twitter account that Mursi "will kiss the hands of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques [the king of Saudi Arabia], just as [Brotherhood founder] Hassan El-Banna did with king Abdel-Aziz."
The tweet, causing anger in Egypt, was later removed from Khalfan's account, though he also described Mursi's election as "an unfortunate choice" for Egypt.
Khalfan's earlier comments triggered official reactions in Cairo and Dubai, with Egypt's Foreign Ministry summoning UAE Ambassador to Egypt Mohamed bin Nakhira to demand an explanation.
UAE Deputy Foreign Minister Tariq Al-Hidan arrived in Cairo after Khalfan's comments to defuse tensions between Egypt and the UAE following the statements, and Brotherhood leaders met in the same week to discuss legal steps that could be initiated in response to Khalfan's comments.
Khalfan claimed that he had received more than 1,500 threats from supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood in response to his criticism of the group.
He has a history of clashing with the group, since earlier this year Khalfan said he would order the arrest of Youssef El-Qaradawi, head of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, should he attempt to enter the UAE.
The statement followed El-Qaradawi's criticisms of the UAE government for deporting Syrians who had protested against the regime in Damascus in front of the Syrian embassy in Abu Dhabi.
Ghozlan said that the UAE would "face the anger of the entire Arab and Muslim world" if El-Qaradawi were arrested, though the Egyptian Foreign Ministry subsequently issued a statement clarifying Ghozlan's remarks and saying that he had been misquoted.
Khalfan's comments, followed by the reactions of the Brotherhood, have raised concerns among Egyptians living in the Gulf, and especially in the UAE, since some have already been facing difficulties renewing work permits and visas.
Officials worry that what could become a war of words between the two countries could negatively affect economic relations.
According to Azza, an Egyptian housewife who has lived in Dubai for the past decade, Egyptians living in the UAE do not have problems with the authorities there.
However, strong statements from an official as influential and outspoken as Khalfan have raised fears among Egyptians about their status. "The statements' impact could be temporary. I am not sure that they will have a real and permanent impact," Azza said.