Jamal Khashoggi and the Competing Visions of Islam

24devji-superJumboJamal Khashoggi’s murder by Saudi agents in Istanbul doesn’t just cast a harsh light on the authoritarian and reckless behavior of Prince Mohamad bin Salman of Saudi Arabia; it also highlights the rivalry between Turkey and Saudi Arabia, which represent competing forms of Islam.

Saudi Arabia is a monarchy that allows Islam to define all social relations as long as it makes no political claims. Turkey, led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party, is a republic whose government was brought to power by the votes of many conservative Muslims.

Despite being an influential Saudi voice, Mr. Khashoggi had over the years embraced these competing visions of governance and the place of Islam in politics. He had been a loyal adviser to Saudi rulers, but he also, like Mr. Erdogan and his party, is widely believed to have subscribed to the Islamist ideal of power democratically achieved — an ideal represented by the Muslim Brotherhood.

Islamism is seen as an existential threat by the region’s monarchies, which apart from Qatar and to a lesser degree Oman and Kuwait were frightened by the Muslim Brotherhood’s coming to power in Egypt after the Arab Spring protests. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates bankrolled and backed the Egyptian military’s crackdown and coupagainst the Brotherhood government; Turkey and Mr. Erdogan backed the Brotherhood and provided refuge to the group’s leaders and members after the crackdown.

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