RIYADH, 28 November 2002 — Interior Minister Prince Naif has stated that the Muslim Brotherhood organization was the cause of most problems in the Arab world. "The Brotherhood has done great damage to Saudi Arabia," he said.
In an interview with Kuwait’s Al-Siyasah newspaper, and carried by the Saudi Press Agency, Prince Naif accused the foremost Islamist group in the Arab world of harming the interests of Muslims. "All our problems come from the Muslim Brotherhood. We have given too much support to this group... The Muslim Brotherhood has destroyed the Arab world," he said.
"Whenever they got into difficulty or found their freedom restricted in their own countries, Brotherhood activists found refuge in the Kingdom which protected their lives...But they later turned against the Kingdom."
Prince Naif singled out the Sudanese wing of the Brotherhood led by ousted Parliament speaker Hassan Al-Turabi, accusing the now-jailed politician of turning his back on his Saudi benefactors after an Islamist-backed coup led by current President Omar Al-Bashir brought Brotherhood to power in Khartoum in 1989.
"Hassan Al-Turabi lived and studied in the Kingdom. I personally consider him a friend...But as soon as he came to power, he turned against the Kingdom," Prince Naif charged.
The Muslim Brotherhood has links to groups across the Arab world, including Jordan’s main parliamentary opposition, the Islamic Action Front, and the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas.
The interior minister’s outburst against the Brotherhood came amid mounting criticism in the United States of Saudi Arabia’s longstanding support for Islamist groups around the world.
Prince Naif criticized the stand taken by certain Islamic scholars following the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait. "A large number of scholars including Abdul Rahman Khalifa, (Rashid) Ghannouchi, Turabi, (Abdul Majeed) Al-Zindani and (Necmettin) Erbakan came to the Kingdom and met with the king and the crown prince. We asked them whether they would accept the attack on Kuwait? They said they came to collect opinion. But when they arrived in Iraq they surprised us by issuing statements backing Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait," he said.
He said the 1979 attack on the Grand Mosque in Makkah was one of the major security crises the Kingdom faced since he took over the interior ministry portfolio more than 30 years ago.
"We brought that problem under control within two weeks," he added. He said some of the Haram attackers also were influenced by Brotherhood ideology.
The interior minister hinted that foreign powers might have provided support to terrorists who carried out the Sept. 11 attacks. "I cannot still believe that 19 youths, including 15 Saudis, carried out the Sept. 11 attacks with the support of Bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda organization. It’s impossible. I will not believe that these people have the power to do so horrendous an attack."
However, Prince Naif reiterated the Kingdom’s condemnation of the attack that destroyed the World Trade Center in New York and damaged the Pentagon outside Washington. He said the Sept. 11 attacks had turned the world against Islam, Muslims and Arabs.
Prince Naif said there were no sleeping Al-Qaeda cells in the Kingdom. "Anyhow we are vigilant and we are pursuing every lead," he added.
He said there are more than 50,000 imams at the Kingdom’s mosques who follow the official line of thinking. "If they deviate from this line and persist doing so, they will have to find other jobs."
Referring to his meeting with officials of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, Prince Naif said the meeting was fruitful. He said the commission must employ efficient and learned people to carry out their mission. "During the meeting the grand mufti gave a speech on the commission’s responsibilities, and urged its officials to shed rigidity and avoid mistakes," he added.
Prince Naif denied suggestions that the commission is an independent organization. "It is not true. It’s a government agency and its entire staff, from president to field workers, are government employees. They are not allowed to raid any house without permission from the governor of the region or punish anybody except through legal channels."
Giving an example of exaggerated reports against Saudi Arabia in the Western press, Prince Naif said an American female journalist recently wrote that Iran had extradited 160 terror suspects to the Kingdom. "The actual number was 16. She added a zero without verifying the facts," he said.