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Arab Gulf States Struggle Against Islamists

Michael Stephens writes that the reactions of some of the Arab Gulf states to the challenge of Islamic activism are doomed to frustration.
An anti-government protester holding a Molotov cocktail in his hand waits before clashes with riot police in the village of Sanabis, west of Manama February 14, 2013. REUTERS/ Hamad I Mohammed (BAHRAIN - Tags: CIVIL UNREST POLITICS) - RTR3DSHE

Kuwait, UAE and Qatar have all developed something in common this year, a penchant for locking up political Islamists without trial. Now the three countries differ significantly in both the scope, and the nature of the debates that have surrounded these detentions, but nonetheless cutting corners leads one to see a growing, “Islamists versus the state” narrative which is building across the Gulf.

In Kuwait, the followers of Musallam al-Barrak, a former opposition MP critical of the ruling emir, recently suffered rubber bullets and tear gas when they tried to prevent police forces from arresting him. In the UAE, the state claims to be uncovering support amongst the Emirati population for the Muslim Brotherhood as well as al-Qaeda and has detained without due process more than 100 of its citizens; while in Qatar two Islamic political activists, Muhammad Issa al-Baker and Mansour bin Rashed al-Matroushi, spent a month in detention without trial following the delivery of a letter to the French Embassy, in which they complained bitterly of French government actions in Mali.

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