A Clandestine Group In Our Midst: With Fringe Organisations Such As The Freemasons
18 March 2016
By Tariq A. Al Maeena
In spite of repeated crackdowns by state authorities, the
threat to institutional stability remains with fringe organisations such as
There exists in parts of the Arab world an undisclosed number of individuals
who belong to a highly clandestine organisation called the Freemasons. While
they operate freely in some other parts of the world, this organisation has
been banned in a number of Arab countries because of its dubious agendas.
Freemasons claim to be one of the world's oldest and largest non-religious,
non-political, fraternal organisations with the present version of this body
taking hold in England sometimes at the end of the 14th century. In the
beginning, the informal group would regulate and grade the qualifications of
the stonemasons as well as their dealings with the authorities and their
clients. As they grew, they evolved. They recruited members through
participation in a progression of secretively held ceremonies, which included
a series of rituals following ancient forms and using the customs and tools of
the stonemasons of yesteryears as their guide.
In 1961, President Jamal Abdul Nasser violently abolished Freemasonry in
Egypt. It was an organisation that had taken hold in the North African enclave
by the early British settlers in the 18th century. But they did not disappear
so easily. Samir Raafat, a well-known Egyptian, wrote: ''On 4th April, 1964,
the Masonic Temple on Alexandria's Toussoun Street was shut down by order of
the Ministry of Social Affairs. The reason given was ‘Associations with
undeclared agendas, which were incompatible with rules covering non-profit
organisations.' Sufficiently disturbing evidence for the state to be concerned
about, Freemasonry's political goals would turn up the following year in
Damascus when master spy Eli Cohen was apprehended. Having eluded Syrian
intelligence for many years, posing as an Arab, it was discovered that Eli had
been a Freemason in Egypt where he was born.''
Despite the 1964 government decree, declaring the demise of Freemasonry in
Egypt, some were not so convinced. Ahmad Abdullah's 1985 book titled
Freemasonry in Our Region suggested that Freemasonry was alive and well in the
guise of Rotary Clubs and other like-minded associations. ''Having accomplished
their earlier mission to establish a Jewish state, Masonic conspirators now
intend to undermine Islam using charity work and community outreach as their
tools,'' charged Abdullah in his opening chapter. The rest of the book went
about defining and equating the ‘new Masonic cancer' with Rotary and Lions
organisations and with Jehovah's Witness, Freedom Now, Solar Tradition, New
Age and several other fringe outfits.
In Iraq, Masonic lodges existed as early as 1919, when the first lodge was
opened in Basra, and later on when the country was under British Mandate just
after the First World War.
However, the position changed in July 1958 following the Revolution. The
licences permitting lodges were rescinded and later, laws were introduced
banning any further meeting. This position was later reinforced under former
Iraqi president Saddam Hussain, the death penalty was prescribed for those who
promoted Zionist principles — including Freemasonry. With the fall of Saddam
in 2003, a number of lodges have begun to meet at military bases within Iraq.
These lodges primarily cater to British and American military units stationed
in the country.
With the discovery of oil in the Arabian Peninsula came the influx of
companies to exploit the production of the natural resource in this area. The
Bahrain Petroleum Company Ltd (Bapco) in Bahrain and the Standard Oil of
California (Socal) in Saudi Arabia took firm hold in the 1930s in search of
black gold. Workers began arriving and among them were Freemasons. Research
suggests that during the early 1940s, the Freemasons in Bahrain formed
themselves into a Masonic Club while those is Saudi Arabia did likewise and
there were many informal functions that were attended by Freemasons and their
partners. It was inevitable that in due course, a group of Freemasons would
meet to explore the possibility of forming a lodge, both on the island and
also in Saudi Arabia.
They succeeded first in Bahrain and formed their own lodge. Membership went
from strength to strength until at the end of March 1975 when the political
climate towards Freemasonry was no longer conducive. The Bahraini Ministry of
Labour and Social Affairs issued a prohibition notice on the practice of
Freemasonry in all of Bahrain. This led the members into holding their
meetings in secret.
In Saudi Arabia, the American Canadian Grand Masonic Lodge was formed in 1962.
It was followed by four others. All these lodges were formed to cater to
foreigners in the country — mainly North American and British Masons in Saudi
Arabia as part of the workforce exploring oil. However, today, following
successive crackdowns by the Saudi police, none of these lodges are
operational, except as secretive fraternal groups. There have been allegations
that a global British aerospace company stationed in the capital has a
sizeable membership that continues to practice their rituals today.
In 1978, the Saudi Fiqh Academy, that releases Islamic edicts, formally
outlawed the Masonic group, charging that ''It is, in fact, in its hidden aims,
against all religions, its intentions being the destruction of all of them in
general, and Islam in the hearts of its adherents in particular. It
concentrates on the recruitment of persons in positions of authority in
finance, politics, community, science and any other position they can utilise
in order to further their power in the community. Its aims are political and
they have a hand — either open or hidden — in most political and military
insurrections and major changes. For this reason, and many other detailed
facts concerning the dangerous activities of the Masons, their evil deception
and cunning designs, the Fiqh Academy has determined that the Masons are one
of the most dangerous, destructive organisations to Islam and Muslims''.
How significant are those words indeed! Beware of the perils within. The
Masons will go at great lengths to promote their own interests even now.
Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi socio-political commentator.
He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. You can follow him on Twitter at