An academic published by a think-tank, said to be close to the UAE rulers, has distanced himself from recent reports in The Telegraph that alleged he was involved in a UK government review into the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Telegraph over the weekend quoted Lorenzo Vidino as someone who had “worked on the Cabinet Office report” citing an opinion piece he authored for the UK-based daily on the Muslim Brotherhood.
“It is clear that the Brotherhood has many dark spots, ranging from its ambiguous relationship with violence to its questionable impact on social cohesion in Britain,” Vidino wrote on 19 October.
However, Vidino told MEE he had not read the review and said The Telegraph had incorrectly portrayed his role in the government investigation.
“I was blindsided by The Telegraph,” he said. “It overstates the case of what my involvement was in the review. I was simply commissioned to do a paper and brief the people conducting the review – as many academics have been asked to do.”
“If you read The Telegraph article you get the idea I was one of the guys writing the review, which is not the case. I want to dispel the idea that I worked on the review, as that is simply not the case.”
The Telegraph did not respond to requests for comment at the time of publication.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron launched an investigation into the Muslim Brotherhood in April and appointed his ambassador to Saudi Arabia Sir John Jenkins to head the review.
The decision prompted a hail of criticism that accused the prime minister of succumbing to pressure from Gulf allies Saudi Arabia and the UAE, who regard the group as a terrorist organisation and supported last year’s popularly-backed military coup in Egypt.
Vidino is the author of The West and the Muslim Brotherhood After the Arab Spring and has held positions at the non-partisan US think-tank RAND and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
The Economist, in its review of the work, said that Vidino has “prophesied…that the Brotherhood’s ultimate goal is to extend Islamic law throughout Europe and America. He has berated those who fail to see the danger as hopelessly naïve.”
These views, coupled with links to the al-Mesbar Studies and Research Centre (MSRC), has led Emirati political activists to question whether Vidino should be presented as an impartial voice when discussing the Muslim Brotherhood.
MSRC published Vidino’s The New Muslim Brotherhood in the West. It is chaired by Turki al-Dakhi, a prominent Saudi broadcaster on Al Arabiya, which is part of the MBC Group owned by Walid al-Ibrahim, brother of the widow of the late King Fahad bin Abdulaziz al-Saud.
The organisation has been accused by Emirati political dissidents of being a front for the UAE government.
“The al-Mesbar Centre is run by a group of Saudi men who work for [Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi] Mohammed bin Zayed and do the job of the security services through the organisation,” a former high-ranking UAE judge and political dissident, who asked to remain anonymous, told MEE.
“There are no independent civil society groups in the UAE because all have to be approved by the state and this one is simply another front in the war against the Muslim Brotherhood. No one writing for the al-Mesbar Centre can be considered impartial,” the source added.