DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The United Arab Emirates summoned Qatar's ambassador to formally protest the comments of an outspoken pro-Muslim Brotherhood cleric who criticized the Gulf country's policies toward Islamist groups, the UAE's official news agency reported Sunday.
WAM news agency said the UAE's minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, told Qatari ambassador Fares el-Naimi that Egyptian-born Youssef el-Qaradawi should be stopped and condemned by Doha's leadership for expressing comments critical of the UAE.
It was a rare public display of the growing rift between Gulf Arab nations and Qatar, which was a staunch supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and across the region until the military in Cairo ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.
Following the coup, which came after millions demonstrated for Morsi to leave office, Qatar found its influence in the Middle East diminishing. Meanwhile other Gulf Cooperation Council nations such as the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait stepped in with billions of dollars in aid to help the military-backed regime in Egypt wade through its volatile transition.
The UAE claims Islamist groups backed by the Muslim Brotherhood have sought to topple its Western-backed ruling system. It has jailed Islamists and shut down the Brotherhood's branch in the UAE. El-Qaradawi, who is based in Qatar's capital city of Doha, often uses his Friday sermons that are broadcast on state television to criticize Egypt and the UAE's clampdown on the Brotherhood.
"The Emirates stands against all Islamic rule, and punishes its followers and detains them," el-Qaradawi said in his sermon from the week before last. Gargash was quoted as saying it was shameful that the cleric is allowed to continue to insult the UAE from a fellow Gulf Arab nation. He was quoted in WAM saying the oil-rich Emirates will not accept "insults" of its leaders and its people, or abusive language directed at its values.
"We waited for our neighbor to express clear rejection of this encroachment and to provide adequate explanation and guarantees that this distortion and incitement does not occur again," Gargash was quoted in WAM as saying.
He said the UAE rejects all forms of speech that encourage violence, but "unfortunately", despite attempts to talk to Qatari officials in private, the UAE "did not achieve the desired response from its brotherly nation in Qatar."
Two days earlier, Qatar's Foreign Minister Khalid bin Mohammed al-Attiyah said the UAE's security is important to his country. Speaking to Qatar's state television, he sought to distance his country's politics from el-Qaradawi, saying Qatar's official police are represented by official state channels only.
"We have full respect for our brothers in the United Arab Emirates ... and the security of the UAE is part of our security," he said. Egyptian officials in the past summoned Qatar's ambassador to Cairo to express concerns about the Gulf state's criticism of Egypt's decision to designate the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization. The Islamist group denies it is involved in violence.