A group of Islamist scholars led by an influential Qatar-based cleric expressed “astonishment” on Monday that their organisation had being designated a terrorist group by the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The International Union of Muslim Scholars urged the UAE to remove it from a list of 85 banned groups that the country, one of several Gulf Arab states that view political Islam as a security threat, had named on Saturday.
The inclusion of the group was “not based on any analysis or investigation, whether legal, logical or rational”, the scholars said in a statement, which was co-signed by the union’s chairman, Egyptian-born Youssef al-Qaradawi.
“The Union expresses its complete and extreme astonishment of its inclusion by the UAE among the terrorists groups and rejects this description completely,” said the group, which says it seeks to promote scholarship and awareness of Islam.
Other organisations on the list included Nusra Front and the Islamic State, whose fighters are battling in Syria and Iraq, several Shi’ite Muslim militant groups such as the Houthi movement in Yemen, and Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, with which Qaradawi is closely associated.
In Sanaa, Mohammed al-Bokhayti, a member of the Houthi political council, said the UAE decision “will have a negative effect on coexistence in the Arabian Peninsula, especially at this time when the (Muslim) community is suffering division”.
The Houthi movement has become the main political force in Western-allied Yemen since capturing the capital Sanaa in September. It has since clashed repeatedly with al Qaeda.
The list also includes a number of humanitarian, relief and Muslim community associations in the Arab world and the West.
The UAE action mirrors a move by Saudi Arabia in March that was seen as part of a campaign by the kingdom, the UAE and Bahrain to pressure Qatar to reduce its longstanding support for Islamist forces around the Middle East.
The U.S.-allied monarchies mistrust the Muslim Brotherhood because its doctrines challenge the principle of dynastic rule.
However, in a sign that the rift with Doha may be easing, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain agreed on Sunday to return their ambassadors to Qatar, eight months after pulling out the top diplomats in an unprecedented snub.
Diplomats in Doha said on Sunday that amongst other things, Qatar had promised the UAE that the Brotherhood would not be allowed to operate from the country. There was no immediate confirmation of this.