By Mohammed Alsaif
What constitutes a good conspiracy theory? We need strong behind the scene players; unclear and confidential agendas and a targeted controversial event. All of these elements were combined in a recent occasion that became the fighting grounds for the Gulf intellectuals and writers.
Multaga Alnahdah (the Youth Rising Forum) gained a lot of attention after it was officially banned by the Kuwaiti government a couple of weeks ago, on the grounds of having some suspicious characters among its guests and speakers. Kuwaiti Interior Ministry was breaking a long and deeply rooted democratic practice in the country, which led to a general discomfort in the media and among intellectuals.
Kuwaiti newspapers accused the government of submitting to extremists in the Parliament, who were yielding to calls by Saudi conservatives who criticized the forum for hosting Saudi liberals, Shiites and secular personalities. The media considered the decision to be unconstitutional and undemocratic.
The Youth Rising Forum was held two times before; the first was in Bahrain and the second in Qatar. Its major focus is to make young people in the GCC countries aware of their role in the development of civil society activities. The main attendees were Saudis, both male and female.
The forum is under the supervision of none other than Salman Alodah, the renowned scholar and member of the International Union for Muslim Scholars. This made the event more contentious since Alodah was closely tied in the past to the controversial Muslim Brotherhood organization.
The main concern over the forum is that it is part of the GCC Muslim Brotherhood movement, that is accused of trying to win over the youth to make a similar version of what happened in what is known now as the Arab Spring.
The Muslim Brotherhood became a strong political rival and the world’s most influential and largest Islamist movement that was banned in many Arab countries. Its appealing model of political activism combined with Islamic charity work gave it a lot of popularity among the new generation.
The first to bring attention to the Brotherhood’s extended influence over the GCC countries was Dhahi Khalfan, the chief of Dubai Police, when he started talking to the media a couple of months ago regarding what he considers as non-acceptable activities of the Brotherhood within the Gulf community. His comments were considered then, as mere publicity stunts.
Since then the lines of a conspiracy theory plot was starting to form. The Muslim Brotherhood movement was to be held responsible for all that is happening in the Arab world. They are the motivators of the Arab Spring, the advocates of chaos in the GCC countries (Khalfan specifically named them as the cause of turmoil at King Khaled University), and finally the planers of events such as the Youth Rising Forum to create a new revolution movement in the Gulf.
One Kuwaiti columnist went as far as accusing the Muslim Brotherhood of aligning with suspicious international organizations such as the “Freemasons” to form an Arab Illuminati movement that is to take control of all Arab countries. He accused renowned personalities such as Yousef Al-Qaradawi and Amr Khaled of using Qatari money to spread the influence of Brotherhood across the region.
In response to the commotion concerning the Youth Rising Forum, the manager of the forum, Mustafa Alhasan, said he was very surprised by the misunderstandings and debate regarding the forum.
He does not see creating a healthy dialogue between different sects in the Gulf as a charge to be defended.
Mustafa believes that the young people of the GCC represent a new stage of awareness that can overcome the old mindset of sectarian differences. He also said that the funding of the forum was from Saudi and Kuwaiti businesses only. He dared those who made false accusations against the forum to prove those accusations in court.
Aside from the rational and irrational input on this local conspiracy theory, the main concern of many observers is the new dialogue and expressive methods different factions are using to represent their point of view. The extreme changes and events the Arab region is passing through mandate a more dynamic and vibrant local dialogue that cannot be stopped.