William FortenbaughProfessor YadavComparative Poli
This essay William FortenbaughProfessor YadavComparative Poli has a total of 1332 words and 5 pages.
William FortenbaughProfessor YadavComparative Politics of the Middle EastNovember 11th, 2017The Role of Religion in Gulf State ActionsSectarian tensions in the Gulf region play a major role in dictating actions by states. As the United States influence in the Gulf in realized to be less then originally thought, Gulf powers have scrambled to fill the gaps and protect their regimes from foreign actor influence. Religion has become a factor in justifying the actions of one regime onto the other. Religion is a resource of regime security because it helps GCC states assert sovereignty and political legitimacy across intra-sectarian lines. I will analyze the Gulf Cooperation Council states Qatar and Saudi Arabia to help prove this conclusion.Saudi Arabia has proven that it wants all Sunni majority GCC states to align with its views on how to handle religious beliefs different from its own. In 2013, Qatar's ruler, Sheikh Hamas Bin Khalifa al-Thani stepped down and handed power to his son Tamim. Seizing the opportunity of an inexperienced new ruler, Saudis and Emirates pressured the ruler to "fall into line" with their Gulf politics. Specifically, Qatar was helping Islamist groups rebrand themselves into more acceptable religious organizations in hopes they would attract more followers. Tamim did negotiate with the Saudis, but used religion as a resource to assert political legitimacy through its actions with the Muslim Brotherhood. At a time of regional uprisings for more representation of citizens, Qatar harbored members of the Muslim Brotherhood, which: "seeks power through electoral means". Many Gulf monarchs saw this as a direct threat to their sovereignty because "even the oil-rich kingdoms were not ‘100 percent immune' to the uprisings, for at stake were principles of representation rather than questions of economic well-being." Toby Matthiesen identifies the fear by the Saudi regime of their own political legitimacy in the region when the uprisings began: what alarmed the officials was the reaction of the Shiite communities in their Eastern Province who were inspired by a call for democratic reform and increased shiite rights in Bahrain. By harboring the Muslim Brotherhood from prosecution of Gulf monarchs, such as Saudi Arabia who sees their stance on electoral government and cross-sectarian cooperation as a direct threat to their regime, Qatar established its political legitimacy through the Muslim Brotherhood. With the possibility of uprisings calling for increased Shiite representation and democratic elections, Saudi Arabia used religion to reinforce its political legitimacy in the region. Saudi Arabia worked to maintain its political legitimacy within the Gulf in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011. "In face, the Saudi response to the whole Arab Spring, both at home and abroad, was based on the fear that an opposition to the ruling family could emerge that would unite Sunni and Shia." In order to combat the possibility of a cross-sectarian alliance in its own backyard, Saudi Arabia sent troops into Bahrain to crush the uprising and protect the al-Khalifa family. This demonstrates the ability of Saudi Arabia to use religion as a resource to protect the political legitimacy of its ruling family. An article by Clark and Khatib makes a claim that the views of many monarchs: that Islam and democracy and not comparable, differs from the views of the general population. "Rather, from mosque sermons to newspaper columns, campus debates to coffee-shop discussions, large numbers of Arabs and other Muslims contents that the tenet's of Islam are inherently democratic." This creates a troubling scenario for Saudi monarchs because these views are similar to the democratic representation presented by the Muslim Brotherhood to the Arab people. Therefore, religion becomes a important resource to maintain political legitimacy because inciting cross-sectarian anger prevents a unified cross-sectarian opposition who seek greater representation. Mattheisen states that Gulf rulers sectarianize politics to prevent cross-sectarian opposition because "people whose political, social and economic standing depends on the skillful manipulation of sectarian boundaries and who profit if these boundaries become the defining markers of a particular segment of society." The manipulation of sectarian divides was a main driving force that led Saudi Arabia to bring its troops into Bahrain and crush the cross-sectarian opposition. The initial interest to protect its own political legitimacy transformed into a protection of Saudi Arabia sovereignty
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