The United Arab Emirates is insisting that Qatar denounce “insulting” comments by local religious scholar Sheikh Yusuf Al Qaradawi and ensure “that this will never happen again.”
Yesterday, the UAE summoned Qatar’s ambassador in Abu Dhabi to hand him “an official protest memorandum” over remarks Al Qaradawi made in a broadcast sermon last month, criticizing the UAE for supporting Egypt’s new government.
Earlier in the week, Qatar’s foreign minister Dr. Khalid bin Mohamed Al-Attiyah sought to distance the country from the scholar’s remarks and smooth over diplomatic relations, saying “we have full respect to our brothers” and emphasizing that “the only source for Qatar’s foreign policy is the official channels of the state.”
The UAE, however, says those remarks have not gone far enough.
In a statement published on state news agency WAM yesterday, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr. Anwar Gargash said:
“We have sought during the past few days to contain the issue through continuous top level contacts between the two countries, but to no avail, except for an official statement that did not include any decisive denunciation of the contents of Al Qaradawi’s speech. Nor did it offer any guarantees that this will never happen again.
We, however, are obliged to take this unprecedented step in our intra-GCC relations due to the failure of our brothers in Qatar to stop using their religious and media platforms to insult a brotherly and neighbourly country. We do not accept, under any excuses, this insult against the dignity of the UAE, its leadership and its people, and against its path and traditions.”
Qatar has not yet responded publicly to that statement.
But in the UAE, the rebuke is being seen as “regrettable” but necessary, according to Sultan Al Qassemi, a prominent Emirati blogger and commentator on Arab affairs.
In an email exchange with Doha News, Al Qassemi explained:
“UAE Editorials have referred to the summoning as ‘regrettable but coming after patience ran out.’
Al Qaradawi’s statements have already caused damage to Doha’s relations with post-Brotherhood Cairo. Given his advanced age and stature, it would be interesting to see if and how Doha navigates his latest controversies with its Gulf Arab neighbours.”
Tensions between Qatar and the UAE have been rising recently, in part due to the shifting politics of Egypt, and also because of the detention of a Qatari doctor who has been held in the Emirates for nearly a year.
Egypt’s military overthrew and imprisoned President Mohamed Mursi last summer, and has since declared his political party, the Muslim Brotherhood, a terrorist organization.
Egyptian-born Al Qaradawi, who is now a Qatari citizen, condemned Mursi’s ousting and has criticized both the UAE and Saudi Arabia in recent weeks for their monetary support of the new regime.
And while Qatar is often referred to as a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood – a charge that the government denies – the UAE has taken a hard line against the Brotherhood and associated Islamist groups.
A Qatari doctor, Dr. Mahmood Abdulrehman Al Jaidah, is in the middle of that feud. Al Jaidah stands accused of working with Al Islah, a banned political group in the UAE that has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. Detained in the UAE since Feb. 26, 2013, a verdict in his case is expected today.
Al Jaidah’s supporters have said they are not optimistic about his chances because the doctor has not been given a fair trial.