• Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

King Salman's Agenda--Perlious?

E-mail Print PDF

Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, CDHR, Washington DC

May 7, 2015

King Salman’s Power Consolidation, Dangerous Foreign Adventures and Liberating Social Media

CDHR’s Commentaries and Analysis

 

Saudi Invasion of Yemen: A Perilous Blunder

CDHR’s Analysis: Invading and inflicting enduring devastation on their perceived domestic opponents and external enemies are not new to the monocratic and theocratic Saudi rulers. Long before and since the establishment of their kingdom in 1932, the Saudi/Wahhabi allies have invaded and engaged in gory wars against other tribes and people of different religious orientations throughout the vast desert of the Arabian Peninsula and beyond.

The grisly Saudi/Wahhabi movement is based on their interpretation of Islam, which means that anyone who does not fit into what they decide to be the correct Islam is a deviant (Thal), consequently, a legitimate target of redemption/cleansing by force. This practice includes all adherents of all brands and sects of the Muslim faith, which was established and practiced more than 1,000 years before the Saudi/Wahhabi dogma, Wahhabism, was contrived in 1744.

Two years after the establishment of the Saudi/Wahhabi state in 1932, the Saudi monarchy expanded its territorial acquisition southward into what was Yemeni territory at that time. They employed the same violent methods they used to subjugate the multitude of tribes they invaded and conquered between 1774 and 1932.  The Yemenis resisted the Saudi advances, but were defeated by the Saudi/Wahhabi zealots in 1934.

After the war, the Yemenis signed an agreement with the Saudis, known as the 1934 Taif Treaty, which was understood to mean that the Saudis would retain the agriculturally fertile Asir and Najran regions, while the Yemenis would have free border access to visit and trade with their former compatriots who resided in the captured territories. There was no legally established border between the Saudi and Yemeni territories except in the “westernmost part of the border, adjacent to the Red Sea, and in the process several ethnically Yemeni areas became Saudi territory.”

Numerous subsequent attempts were made to settle the contested Saudi-Yemeni borders, including the signing of the “Jeddah border agreement in 2000, whereby Yemen eventually conceded the decades-long disputed provinces of Asir, Najran, and Jizan.” However, in 2012, the names of the Yemeni officials who negotiated and signed onto the agreement were found to be recipients of Saudi largess. This led to questioning of the legality of the 2000 agreement, many Yemenis arguing that not only the 2000, but the 1934 agreements are null and void.

Despite failed border agreements, the 1,100 mile long Saudi-Yemeni border was relatively peaceful and mostly respected by both parties from 1934 until 1962. During that period, Yemen was ruled by Zaidi Kings Yahya and Ahmed. The majority of the Zaidis (an offshoot of Shi’a Islam) resides in a large area along the Yemeni side of the border.

In 1962, the Yemeni military overthrew the Zaidi monarchy, inspired by Arab nationalism spearheaded by Nasser of Egypt who was dedicated to the overthrow of all Arab monarchies, especially the Saudis, whom he accused of being “puppets” of Western colonialism and imperialism. When pro-monarchy Yemenis resisted the military takeover, Nasser dispatched Egyptian forces to ensure the success of the coup. Alarmed by Nasser’s involvement in Yemen, the Saudi royals invited and opened their borders to the Yemeni royalists whom they housed, fed, armed, trained and sent back across the border to fight the Egyptian-supported republican Yemeni government.

When the Saudis and the royalists failed to restore the deposed Zaidi King, most of the Zaidis went back to their home region (Saadah) along the Saudi border. They were subsequently marginalized by the Yemeni central government for decades until they started fighting for their rights in the 1990s.

Between 1962 and 2004, the Zaidis (aka Houthis, named after their leader, Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi) who had ruled Yemen for 1000 years, were used by the Saudis and by the Yemeni central government to advance their separate territorial and political interests and influence. However, the Houthis began their fight to restore their political and economic rights in 2004 by attacking the central government of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, in whose downfall in 2012 the Saudis and the Houthis played major roles, although for different reasons. The Saudi rulers wanted to install a Yemeni government they could control while the Houthis wanted to rule, a daunting outcome the Saudis dread.

When the Saudis realized that the ruthless Houthis (apparently with Iranian help) were gaining the upper hand in the bloody Yemeni conflict, they decided to invade Yemen in the hope of weakening the Houthis and imposing a settlement that will ensure uncontested Saudi influence over Yemeni domestic politics and external policies and affiliations. The Saudi rulers assembled a horde of Arab and Muslim autocratic regimes to participate in a massive air campaign against the Houthis, who by now have conquered most of Yemen and expelled its President who resides in Saudi Arabia now and probably for years to come.

On March 26, 2015, the Saudi oligarchy and like-minded (hired) Arab regimes amassed a deadly fleet of modern aircraft (185 jetfighters-Yemen does not have an air force to speak of) and began a devastating bombardment of Yemen, supposedly to destroy the Houthi’s military and political gains and to restore Yemen’s “legitimate” president. Four weeks into the unwinnable war, the Saudi rulers realized that they may have committed a colossal mistake as evidenced by their failure to impede the Houthis’ advances. Faced with rapidly ebbing enthusiasm among the members of the “hired” coalition, growing global scorn, pressure from the US, fear of confrontation with Iran and/or its proxies, anxiety over domestic unrest and internal royal conflict, the Saudi rulers congratulated each other, praised the king for winning the war and declared “mission accomplished.” However, they continued the bombardment to save face or in hopes of salvaging some gains from the fiasco. This might be delusional given “… the endemic hostility of the ordinary Yemeni and his traditional contempt for Saudis.”

Despite the Saudis’ self-congratulatory declarations, reality on the ground contradicts their assertions. The Houthi advances continue unabated, restoring the deposed (“legitimate”) Yemeni president is unlikely, Yemeni unity and security are shattered, more than 1,000 Yemenis have been killed, an additional 4,000 wounded, 150,000 families displaced, and 7. 5 million other Yemenis have been negatively affected by the Saudi blitzkrieg and by shortages of food and medical supplies due to Saudis’ sea blockade.

Given this ghastly outcome, the Saudis may have bought some time by weakening the Houthis’ and their allies’ war capabilities, heightening divisions within Yemeni society and prolonging the struggle among different power-seeking groups. In the long run, however, invading and inflicting death and destruction in Yemen will not only increase animosity toward the Saudis among all Yemenis, but could tilt the balance in favor of those who advocate tolerance, a rational approach to problem solving and popular participation in governance.

On the other hand, the Saudi-coordinated and-led war in Yemen could strengthen terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda and ISIS and embolden the Muslim Brotherhood, all of whom are dedicated to the overthrow of the Saudi monarchy.

Saudi Women’s and Human Rights Advocates’ Trepidation Is Justified

As predicted in this commentary which was written immediately after King Salman’s ascension to the throne in January 2015, his actions thus far have confirmed our misgivings as we explained in the next commentary.

CDHR’s Commentary: While it may be a little premature to predict what King Salman’s agenda for Saudi Arabia might be, given his religious affiliations and bleak record regarding women’s rights and his staunch opposition to power-sharing and democratic reforms, it is safe to assume that women’s rights, religious tolerance, the advancement of human rights, civil society, codified rule of law and public participation in the decision-making processes will not shine under his watch. He and his Sudairi wing of the incredibly power-drugged princes (known as the Sudairi Seven) still believe, act and behave as if the country is their private property. In July, 2013, a defecting Prince, Khalid Al-Farhan Al-Saud professed that “Those holding power in the kingdom do believe that they own the state: Land and people. They insist to run the cou ntry with this belief despite political awareness of the people and repeated calls for justice and freedom.”

To remind the Saudi people of his family’s claim to the ownership of the country, after inheriting the throne in January 2015, King Salman summoned his new appointees to swear the oath of allegiance to him in the exact location (Diriyah) where the Saudi/Wahhabi alliance was formed in 1744. Since then, he has been receiving other visiting Gulf royals, European and the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, in Dir-e-yah to show and explain to them the history of the Saudi family’s first capital with which he has been obsessed and on which he has been spending millions of dollars of public revenues to restore dozens of its mud buildings to look like they did more than two and half centuries ago.

Given his unwavering belief in his family’s ownership of the country, King Salman is unlikely to consider, let alone implement, any political reform measures that might imply public co-ownership of the country. Additionally, King Salman is committed to the strengthening of and adherence to the globally reviled Wahhabi/ Salafi dogma as exemplified by his close ties with and support for the zealous Saudi religious establishment and extensive connections with global zealot groups.

It’s not surprising that Saudi citizens, especially women, are apprehensive about their fate under Salman’s rule. As one Saudi woman stated, ‘His brother {King Abdullah} opened the road and now he will close it,’ she declared and went on to explain, ‘We know he is closer to the religious people than Abdullah was.’ Her and other Saudi reformers’ fear of King Salman and his Sudairi relatives’ unequivocal opposition to political reforms is justified. Their apprehension and resentment are shared by some of the ruling princes who have been critical of Salman and his wing of the family’s unflinching resistance to sharing power with other wi ngs of the ruling family. Prince Talal, a long time promoter of “social contract” between the monarchy and its subjects, accused the Sudairi supremacist, “Here, the family is the master and the ruler.”

During his 60 year tenure as the governor of the Saudi capital, Riyadh, King Salman expanded and modernized the desert city’s infrastructure, but did very little to prepare its population to embrace modernity and its complex scientific and technological demands. He did not initiate scientific or liberal arts schools. He expanded and strengthened extremist educational institutions such as Imam Mohammed Ibn Saud University, which is known for graduating hardcore Imams and recruits for Al-Qaeda. He never hired and promoted any woman to an executive position. He had an opportunity to show Saudi women that their suspicion of his anti-women attitude and practice is unfounded, but he did not. He could have appointed at least a woman among his new appointees when inherited the throne in January, but he did not.

Like his late full brothers, former Interior Minister Naif and Defense Minister Sultan, King Salman is a staunch supporter of the ferocious religious police whose job is to ensure women’s head- to-toe coverings, gender segregation, enforcement of prayer five times a day and to arrest, interrogate and imprison anyone they consider uncompliant with the repressive and medieval social mores they create and enforce.

One can only hope that King Salman and his administration will realize that the new generation of Saudi women is very different from their mothers and grandmothers. They are educated, very well-informed and irrepressible. Empowering Saudi women voluntarily can only strengthen, stabilize and propel the socially and politically lagging society into a peaceful, just, tolerant, unified and participatory polity.

King Salman’s Consolidation of Power Is Neither Surprising Nor Unexpected

CDHR’s Analysis: Many Saudis, royals and commoners, knew that King Salman’s ascendance to the throne would not be peaceful, reconciliatory, reform oriented or open to ideas, suggestions or advice. This is based on his record of staunch belief in the supremacy of the people of Nejd (birth place of his ancestors and their violent rise to power), his opposition to political reforms, his support for the lethal revisionist Wahhabi dogma, his close ties to the domestic zealot establishment and his association with extremists worldwide.

Domestically, King Salman is known for having zero tolerance for any dissension or for people (commoners or royals) who advocate any change in the old order: his autocratic family’s birth right to own and rule the country as if it were a private family enterprise. This is why his dismissal of powerful princes did not come as an unexpected undertaking to those inside the country who know him best, but fear his reprisal if they dare describe him as what he is, an absolute opponent of political pluralism now   and forever.

Contrary to King Salman’s claim that he sacked his half-brother, Crown Prince Migrin and his nephew, Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal and replaced them with like-minded and obedient princes, his son Mohammed and his dreaded nephew, Mohammed Bin Naif and a “yes-man” commoner, Adel Al-Jubair, because of his burning desire to place the most fit men in top positions to run the county’s business, in reality his objectives were deeper and more ominous.  Salman’s real objective is to ensure the eternal perpetuation of his family’s rule, specifically his Sudairi­ wing of the family.

In order to guarantee that political reform and democratization do not occur during his reign and long after he is gone, King Salman installed a younger generation of the Sudairis in top governmental posts, apparently confident that they will continue their elders’ autocratic rule.

King Salman’s claim that he placed the best and most qualified people in charge of the country’s affairs did not convince many Saudis. They know that Salman has and will always put the royal family’s interest before and above the well-being of the population.

If King Salman’s performance and initiatives thus far are indicative of what his domestic agenda will be, it’s safe to assume that he will re-entrench his family’s “birth right” ownership of the country. For example, he is slowly transitioning the seat of power from the current capital Riyadh to Diriyah, the original capital of the Saudi/Wahhabi alliance (1744), whose restoration is King Salman’s ‘…first personal dedication of any project since assuming the throne,’ according to his son Prince Sultan.

In his first speech when he inherited the throne in January 2015, King Salman further hinted at his intention of returning to the ruling methods of the founders of the state, including his father, King Abdulaziz. He praised the latter for his vision and policies to which Salman attributed the country’s subsequent unity, prosperity and stability. Given Salman’s history, this implies that he will rely on intimidation, intolerance and use of sheer force to rule the country in the same manner his father did.

Anticipating Salman’s projected ruling methods, many Saudis express pessimism and fear via communication in person, print, audio or visual media. The hopeful expectations of reform, albeit cosmetic, during King Abdullah’s reign seem to have been replaced by pessimism domestically and by apprehension about King Salman’s regional policies, such as the ill-advised costly invasion of Yemen.

Public pessimism is shared by the few liberal leaning and empathetic male and female royals who had vocalized measured support for minimum individual rights, as they did during King Abdullah’s era. They rightfully fear being locked up in Salman’s private prison or worse for voicing opinions in favor of any reform.

Admittedly, King Salman inherited the throne at a time when his family and kingdom are facing the most challenging threats in their history. Rather than navigating a path that might spare the country a violent cataclysm, as exemplified by the consuming turmoil plaguing the Arab World, King Salman has chosen to turn backward hoping to avoid the inevitable.

Transformational Process Through Social Media

CDHR’s Comment: The social media is slowly transforming the Arab peoples’ perceptions of themselves, the root causes of their stagnation and of the world around them. The most evident revolutionary example of this reality is the unprecedented promising dialogue between young Arabs and their counterparts in Israel, a country most Arabs (including this one) are raised to fear and hate.  For many centuries, the Arab autocracies and theocracies contrived external enemies and stoked rejection of the mighty, transformative Western technological inventions and democratic values as eloquently illustrated in “What Went Wron g” by Professor Bernard Lewis. In order to divert their disenfranchised populations’ attention from their homegrown political, social, educational, scientific and political stagnation, the Arab regimes blame others, including colonialism, traditions, the West and religion for impeding progress in the Arab World.

However, there are no sources that are more blamed than the United States and Israel. “The grotesquely failed societies of the Middle East desperately need Israel and the US to blame for their self-wrought problems. Neither Washington nor Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are responsible for the Arab world’s pervasive corruption, stagnation, oppression of women and lack of creativity or a work ethic.” Linking the blame on Israel and the US occurs despite the fact that the US’s and Israel’s interests in the Middle East rarely coincide.

Nowhere in the Arab World does one hear or read more condemnation of Israel and the US (for different reasons) than among the regimes and populations of the Gulf Arab states, the West’s close allies and business partners. However, many Arabs have known, but rarely say publically (due to fear of severe reprisals by their governments and socieites), that neither the US nor Israel are the root causes of their societies’ ills. Many Arabs, especially the social media generation, are discovering that their autocratic and theocratic ruling elites and their antiquated institutions are the enemies of progress, equality, freedom of expression, women’s and minorities’ rights and freedom of choice.

Given this burgeoning awareness, the Arab masses, especially in the Gulf region, are realising that no one is more responsible for their lack of social, political and scientific development and progress than their autocratic and theocratic rulers. The Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia (CDHR) and others have been highlighting these facts for years and thanks to the social media, many Saudis and other Arabs (male and female) are realizing that their retarded progress is home-conceived, hatched and nurtured.

As exemplified by this article, media savvy and pro-democracy Arabs, especially youth (women and men) are more forward-looking people than past generations. These young people and other pro-democracy advocates, such as those who gave their lives in the Arab Spring to rid their socieites of iron-fisted dictators, are the best hope for transforming and propelling Arab societies into a more democratic, tolerant and peaceful future.

For the sake of the people of the Middle East, world peace and stability and for the national security of democratic societies, the West should be focusing on supporting freedom-yearning Middle Easterners instead of continuing to appease and protect ruling elites whose survival depends on marginalizing and oppressing their peoples.

Your contributions to CDHR’s efforts to address tough issues, invoke thought-provoking discourse and suggest peaceful solutions are crucial. We need to continue our educational outreach worldwide. CDHR is a 501 (c) 3 tax exempt educational organization.

Please go to our website www.cdhr.info and click on donate.

Or send checks to this address:

Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, CDHR

1050 17 St. NW, Suite 1000,

Washington, DC 20036

 

New King, Uncertain Future and Human Rights

E-mail Print PDF

Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, CDHR, Washington DC

March 26, 2015

New King, Uncertain Future, Islam and Muslims and Impact of Social Media

CDHR’s Commentaries and Analysis

Saudi Women’s and Human Rights Advocates’ Trepidation Is Justified

CDHR’s Commentary: While it may be a little premature to predict what King Salman’s agenda for Saudi Arabia might be, given his religious affiliations and bleak record regarding women’s rights and his staunch opposition to power-sharing and democratic reforms, it is safe to assume that women’s rights, religious tolerance, the advancement of human rights, civil society, codified rule of law and public participation in the decision-making processes will not shine under his watch. He and his Sudairi wing of the incredibly power-drugged princes (known as the Sudairi Seven) still believe, act and behave as if the country is their private property. In July, 2013, a defecting Prince, Khalid Al-Farhan Al-Saud professed that “Those holding power in the kingdom do believe that they own the state: Land and people. They insist to run the country with this belief despite political awareness of the people and repeated calls for justice and freedom.”

To remind the Saudi people of his family’s claim to the ownership of the country, after inheriting the throne in January 2015, King Salman summoned his new appointees to swear the oath of allegiance to him in the exact location (Dir-e-yah) where the Saudi/Wahhabi alliance was formed in 1744. Since then, he has been receiving other visiting Gulf royals, European and the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, in Dir-e-yah to show and explain to them the history of the Saudi family’s first capital with which he has been obsessed and on which he has been spending millions of dollars of public revenues to restore dozens of its mud buildings to look like they did more than two and half centuries ago.

Given his unwavering belief in his family’s ownership of the country, King Salman is unlikely to consider, let alone implement, any political reform measures that might imply public co-ownership of the country. Additionally, King Salman is committed to the strengthening of and adherence to the globally reviled Wahhabi/ Salafi dogma as exemplified by his close ties with and support for the zealous Saudi religious establishment and extensive connections with global zealot groups.

It’s not surprising that Saudi citizens, especially women, are apprehensive about their fate under Salman’s rule. As one Saudi woman stated, ‘His brother {King Abdullah} opened the road and now he will close it,’ she declared and went on to explain, ‘We know he is closer to the religious people than Abdullah was.’ Her and other Saudi reformers’ fear of King Salman and his Sudairi relatives’ unequivocal opposition to political reforms is justified. Their apprehension and resentment are shared by some of the ruling princes who have been critical of Salman and his wing of the family’s unflinching resistance to sharing power with other wings of the ruling family. Prince Talal, a long time promoter of “social contract” between the monarchy and its subjects, accused the Sudairi supremacist, “Here, the family is the master and the ruler.”

During his 60 year tenure as the governor of the Saudi capital, Riyadh, King Salman expanded and modernized the desert city’s infrastructure, but did very little to prepare its population to embrace modernity and its complex scientific and technological demands. He did not initiate scientific or liberal arts schools. He expanded and strengthened extremist educational institutions such as Imam Mohammed Ibn Saud University, which is known for graduating hardcore Imams and recruits for Al-Qaeda. He never hired and promote any woman to an executive position. He had an opportunity to show Saudi women that their suspicion of his anti-women attitude and practice is unfounded, but he did not. He could have appointed at least a woman among his new appointees when inherited the throne in January, but he did not.

Like his late full brothers, former Interior Minister Naif and Defense Minister Sultan, King Salman is a staunch supporter of the ferocious religious police whose job is to ensure women’s head- to-toe coverings, gender segregation, enforcement of prayer five times a day and to arrest, interrogate and imprison anyone they consider uncompliant with the repressive and medieval social mores they create and enforce.

One can only hope that King Salman and his administration will realize that the new generation of Saudi women are very different from their mothers and grandmothers. They are educated, very well-informed and irrepressible. Empowering Saudi women voluntarily can only strengthen, stabilize and propel the socially and politically lagging society into a peaceful, just, tolerant, unified and participatory polity.

The Al-Azhar Grand Imam Accuses Saudi Institutions Of Extremism Which Breeds Terrorism

CDHR’s Commentary: In a stinging speech he delivered at a Saudi-government-sanctioned conference “Islam and Countering Terrorism,” in Mecca in January 2015, the “Al-Azhar grand imam Ahmed al-Tayib” indirectly lashed out at the Saudis. He reiterated what many Saudis and others have been saying for decades about ‘bad interpretations of the Koran and the Sunna.’ Al-Tayib continued to remind the Saudis that accusing Muslims who do not adhere to their lethal Wahhabi dogma as unbelievers is dangerous, destructive and divisive: ‘The only hope for the Muslim nation to recover unity is to tackle in our schools and universities this tendency to accuse Muslims of being unbelievers.’  In other words, “To a Wahhabi-Salafi, all those who differ with them, including Sunni Muslims, Shi’ite Muslims, Christians, and Jews, are infidels who are fair targets.”

King Salman seems to be appeasing the Al-Azhar’s top cleric by echoing his harsh speech. In a statement read on his behalf at the same conference where Al-Tayib spoke, the Saudi King is quoted as saying, ‘Terrorism is a scourge which is the product of extremist ideology… It is a threat to our Muslim nation and to the entire world.’ This is almost exactly what a group of Al-Azhar scholars and Islamic movements’ historians said about Wahhabism at a conference in Cairo, Egypt, in April 2010. The scholars’ statement was in response to a comment made by Prince Salman, now king, who claimed that Wahhabism is the real Islam, which generated scathing responses from prominent Egyptian scholars and well-known writers and commentators.

The Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, CDHR, agrees with Al-Tayib’s and King Salman’s acknowledgement that Muslim extremists and terrorists are threats to Muslims and to democratic societies around the world. For autocratic and theocratic men like the Saudi king and the top Egyptian cleric to admit that Islamic “Terrorism is a scourge” and threat to humanity is encouraging. The question is why now and what are they going to do, to rid the world of their homegrown extremism, whose eradication is the key to defeating terrorism?  The answer is because the extremists they bred and indoctrinated are turning their guns on them. What are they going to do about their lethal extremists? They will use their Western allies to protect them and then turn around and accuse them of attacking Islam and Muslim lands. These are the same tactics that ISIS, Al-Qaeda and the Taliban use to recruit foot soldiers and suicide bombers.

Now that these influential political and religious authorities of major Arab states, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, have admitted that their institutions are the source of extremism, should they be held accountable for brainwashing and turning their citizens against Muslims and non-Muslims alike? The answer is yes, but the question is how. If they are serious about eradicating the source of extremism now and in the near and distant future, then they should revisit the seventh century’s interpretation of Muslim texts and reinterpret them to correspond with human evolution and to accommodate the consequences of numerous scientific, social, economic and religious transformative, world-shattering trends that have occurred since Islam was established more than 14 centuries ago.

This can be done by forming an independent representative council of Muslim male and female scholars, and social, political, economic, scientific and psychological scientists to research, analyze and debate their understanding of the original interpretation of Muslim texts. Based on their conclusions, they can select critical and independent thinkers (a “think tank”) to come up with new logical interpretations and explanations that do not change Islam’s basic principles, but will include modern definitions of human rights, gender equality, religious tolerance and the individual’s right to choose.

As the rulers of the land where Islam was established and where the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims’ holy shrines are located, the Saudi political and religious establishments are in a very strong religious and economic position to convene an inclusive Muslim conference to start the process of revisiting the original interpretation of Muslim text books and move forward. King Salman correctly described extremism and its byproduct, terrorism, as a “scourge which is the product of extremist ideology.” By all Muslims’ and non-Muslims’ accounts, the King’s brand of Islam, Wahhabism, is the extremist ideology he is decrying. He can help keep Muslims from killing each other and prevent potential global deadly retaliation against all Muslims. www.cdhr.info

King Salman Advising Against Intolerance While Rewarding Promoters of Bigotry?

CDHR’s Commentary: Ten days after he bestowed a prestigious Saudi prize on Dr. Zakir Naik, an extremist admirer of Osama Bin Laden and a bigoted promoter of enslaving and raping women and of denigrating other beliefs, King Salman called on Muslims to shun religious intolerance. During a reception for a throng of Muslim “scholars” in his palace on March 10, 2015, the newly inducted king told his compliant recipients of Saudi largess that “We have to follow what is stated in the Qur’an, the Sunnah of the Prophet and his followers.”

“The Custodian” of Islam, King Salman, and the interpreter and promoter of its holy books, Dr. Naik, seem to be on the same page. They are committed into upholding, implementing and enforcing the content and “supremacy” of the Quran, the Shariah and the Hadith as they understand them and as they see fit. Dr. Naik, the President of the Islamic Research Foundation and the recipient of the prestigious Saudi prize (King Faisal International Prize and the $200,000 that comes with it), who is also a supporter of Osama Bin Laden, has repeatedly told his estimated 100 million Muslim followers (in person and in visual and print media) that “There are many verses in the Koran which say you can have sex with your wife and with whatever your right hand possesses,” their enslaved women.

Additionally, the  xenophobic TV evangelist, who is scornful of other beliefs’ informed his large number of followers that “Enslaving the families of the kuffar (non-Muslims) and taking their women as concubines is a firmly established aspect of the Sharia,” Islamic law. King Salman insists that Muslims must “follow what is stated in the Quran.”

The Muslim people need to ask themselves if this is what Islam is or has become, a mitigating tool of enslavement, rape and intolerance of the overwhelming majority of the world’s population, most of whom are more socially, politically and scientifically advanced and religiously more tolerant than most Muslims.

Is it conceivable that King Salman did not know what Dr. Naik preaches, stands for and advocates, prior to honoring him for “his service (disservice) to Islam,” especially Naik’s explanation of the Quran? King Salman told the religious experts in his palace in Riyadh, “We have to follow what is stated in the Qur’an.” Does one assume that enslaving Muslim and non-Muslim women and raping them is “stated” in the Quran as Dr. Naik argues?

Is this the Islam Dr. Naik wants “every Muslim” to be a terrorist to defend? Defend Islam against whom, Muslims who use it to inflict death and destruction on each other or against non-Muslims who welcome and allow Muslims to build religious sanctuaries in their countries and to worship freely?

Dr. Naik is not the only influential Muslim who advocates unspeakable deeds in the name of religion and its texts. Al-Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram, the Taliban and other groups and individuals also promote malicious religious incitements with the intent of inflicting death and destruction on a multitude of Muslims and non-Muslims in order to gain power. They all quote the Quran, Shariah and Hadith to justify their atrocious actions. Their manifestos and recruiting manuals are filled with direct quotes from Muslim texts that Dr. Naik, King Salman, Mullah Omar and the Imams of the Red Mosque in Pakistan inculcate Muslims to follow and defend.

Calling on Muslims to “shun intolerance” contradicts the Saudi rulers’ well-documented actions of intolerance of religious differences at home and among different sects and brands of Islam, as exemplified by the raging Sunni versus Shi’a conflicts in which the Saudis play a major role. It’s no secret that the centuries’ old conflicts and the current pervasive carnage in most Arab and other Muslim countries are deeply rooted in religious animosity, or assertions of who is a better and more authentic Muslim.

King Salman’s predecessor, King Abdullah, became some kind of global hero due his overt personal (not policy) advocacy of international interfaith dialogues, none of which was held in Muslim countries because that would mean acceptance of and recognition that other faiths are legitimate beliefs.

As the ruler of the land where Islam was established and where Muslims’ holy shrines are located, King Salman, along with his ruling family and zealous religious establishment, shoulders a huge responsibility toward their muzzled and religiously divided population, the Arab people and other Muslims worldwide. King Salman can lead by example at home. He can eliminate discriminatory policies based on religion and gender at home if he hopes for other Muslims to “shun intolerance.”

The question is: how can King Salman and his intolerant clerics reconcile between rewarding people like Dr. Zakir Naik for commanding Muslims to reject and resent major religions (and their adherents) and call such incitements a service to Islam?

King Salman is right, some Muslims are leaving Islam and an astonishing number of Muslims are becoming more cynical of Islam and Muslims, in general, than at any time in Muslim history. This trend is not likely to stop or be reversed because more Muslims attribute their misfortunes and social backwardness to Islam and to those who use religion as tool of violence, oppression, discrimination and manipulation. The most severe critics of Islam are not Jews or Christians, but Muslims and ex-Muslims who found solace in other religions or in no religion. The Saudi ruling dynasties can lead the way by setting a good example of religious tolerance and acceptance of “The Other” regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, beliefs and religious orientation.

Are Muslims, Especially Arabs, Fixated On Self-Destruction?

CDHR’s Commentary: Whether I am giving a talk or conversing over a meal, some of the questions people ask can be perplexing and very hard to answer, despite one’s desire to know more about the inner nature of humans. On a few occasions, the questions asked have to do with the makeup of the Arabs and whether they and their religion are inherently violent. Even though I have wondered about some peoples’ actions and behavioral conduct, I tell the information-seeking questioners that I am neither physiologist, pathologist, neurologist, psychoanalyst, archeologist nor genealogist (terms I investigated, but definitions did not help). Therefore, I don’t know what drives groups like ISIS and Boko Haram to commit heinous crimes against innocent people.

Regarding whether Islam is inherently violent or not, my answer is I am not an expert, but like many people, I wonder whether the religious quotes and phrases autocratic and theocratic regimes and terror groups use to justify their murderous actions and policies, such as flogging, beheading and stoning, make Islam a violent religion or not. May be some readers can help explain, I cannot.

Currently, most killings of innocent people and destruction of historical and holy sites are committed by Muslims in Muslim lands. This piece (and many before it) offers some suggestions and ideas that are worthy of thoughtful reading which Muslims, especially Arabs, can deliberate and consider the benefits of implementing at least some of what the author is proposing. Continuing to leave the interpretation and implementation of their faith in the hands of extremist clerics and dictatorial regimes is suicidal given the way Islam has become and is being used. Islam can be reformed/modernized without making it any less of a viable belief, just like other major religions. On the contrary, reforming Islam will make it a true belief instead of a states’ tool that is used to control, punish and exploit people.

Islam is primarily an Arab religion. It was established in the heart of the Arabian Peninsula (now the Saudi kingdom,) its holy texts are written in Arabic and it has been exported to many non-Arabic speaking people throughout the world. The majority of Muslims now are non-Arabic speaking peoples who are less familiar than are many Arabs with the content, interpretation or practice of Islam. In other words, they can adapt to new interpretations of Islam quicker than most Arabs, especially in Saudi Arabia where Islam is literally interpreted and physically enforced violently.

Given this irrefutable fact, Arabs, especially the Saudis, cannot escape responsibility for leading a reform religious movement, and there are some indications that might be in the making, as exemplified by Egypt’s religious and political leadership. The ball is in the court of the Arab autocratic and theocratic elites and the weight is on their shoulders to alter the course of deadly, destructive actions and to save themselves from their lethal ideologues and, in the process, prevent potential disastrous global reactions to save peoples, economies and values from Islamists (terrorists, deviants, Muslim extremists etc.)

The time for taking reforming Islam seriously is now because not to do so will only continue to empower those who use the seventh century’s interpretation of Muslims’ textbooks to justify their barbaric actions and unjust polices which will only lead to calamitous outcome at home and at the international level.

Even Masters Of Censorship Cannot Escape Social Media Scrutiny

CDHR’s Commentary: According to this account, the Saudi regime is defensively and defiantly enraged by the international community’s swelling reactions (via game-changing social media) to its arbitrary arrest, lengthy jail sentence and heavy fines imposed on a liberal-leaning Saudi blogger, Raif Badawi (Raif.) In 2012, Raif was accused of apostasy because he allegedly posted sensitive comments about the Saudi religious establishment’s abuses on a blog he and Souad Al-Shammary (a female women’s rights activists) created to provide a forum for pro-social justice and human rights advocates to express their opinions about issues affecting their lives. The Saudi religious courts accused Raif of insulting Islam and declared him an apostate, an accusation that carries the death penalty under Saudi Shariah law. The bogus charge was dropped due to lack of evidence.

However, Raif was sentenced to 10 year imprisonment, 1,000 lashes and $277,000 in fines. Raif’s spouse and supporters flashed the severe and undeserved sentencing on social media and the international community, specifically social media users responded passionately. People around the world were aghast by the Saudi government’s decision to carry out the cruel 1000 lashes flogging over a period of 20 weeks in front of a mosque after Friday prayers. In other words, death penalty under different category.

The global support for Raif Badawi and other advocates of human rights and social justice in Saudi Arabia is not motivated by an international conspiracy against Saudis, as the Saudi newspaper Alegtasadiyah (economics) article suggests. It’s in reaction to the Saudis’ arbitrary and make-laws-as-you-go court system. Raif also represents a new generation of aspiring Saudi youth, which makes it hard for the international community, especially the Saudis’ Western allies, to ignore, since millions of their own youth can identify and empathize with him. “He is just the sort of internationally-minded, young intellectual that the late king's (Abdullah) emphasis on education was throwing up.” Modern societies and free media find the Saudi flogging and beheadings system cruel and repulsive.

International public opinion is one of the tools that are used to expose the brutality of regimes which grossly violate the basic rights of their citizens, guest workers, minorities and women. Saudi Arabia is a signatory to international declarations on human rights and ought to abide by what it agrees to, with or without global input, kind or critical.

If there is one person who deserves credit for campaigning relentlessly to alert and mobilize the international community to free Raif, that person is his spouse, Ensaf Haider, who did not leave a stone upturned.  Yes, a Saudi woman, a miracle worker, who collected her three young children and escaped to Canada after Raif’s arrest for fear of punishment by association, one of the Saudi system’s notorious features. Ensaf defied all odds and proved to the Saudi rulers and society that women are capable of facing formidable and wrenching challenges that most men might find too overwhelming. Ensaf’s extraordinary efforts to save her husband’ life and to alleviate their children’s pain should open King Salman’s eyes and enable him to understand that Saudi women’s aptitude and determination to obtain their citizenship and legitimate rights are irreversible.

Raif Badawi is not the only subjugated human rights and freedom-seeking activist who is languishing in Saudi dungeons (or who may have been released and silenced.) Many prominent Saudis like Mohammed Al-Qahtani, Professor Abdullah al-Hamid and his brother ‘Isa al-Hamid, Professor Matrouk al-Faleh, Mohammad Saleh al-Bjadi (co-founders of the banned Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association, ACPRA), Shaikhs Al-Rashoodi and Al-Nimr, Khaled al-Johani (lone protester in the day of rage, 2011), Hamza Kashgari and hundreds, if not thousands, of other political prisoners are languishing in the merciless clutches of the Saudi government. None of them has been charged with any crime or conspiracy to harm the state or society. They promote political participation, the codified rule of law, women’s rights, religious tolerance, accountability and transparency.

King Salman has a unique opportunity to free such enlightened and patriotic Saudi citizens because they did not commit crimes nor have they caused any harm to Saudi society. Saudi Arabia’s stability, security and prosperity cannot be achieved and maintained by banning freedom of speech and expression. These are basic human rights enshrined in international declarations which the Saudi monarchs have accepted and signed.

Respect for human rights is universal. It is not defined by religion, fatwas, culture, ethnicity, social status or race. Using Shariah law, the Quran and Hadith to deny people their individual and collective rights has demeaned Islam and empowered murderous groups.

 

 

Donate to CDHR

Subscribe to Newsletter