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Extension of Wahhabism?

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

September 12, 2014

Commentaries and Analysis

Islamic State and Wahhabism, Impact of Islamic State,Regime’s Policy on Society, Including Royals

 

Islamic State: Deviants or an Extension of Wahhabism?

CDHR’s Commentary: Like the Saudi system's operators, the newly established Jihadi state’s tyrants interpret and use the Quran and the Shariah as a lethal tool to justify their beheading spree, destruction of shrines and sanctuaries they consider un-Islamic (according to their interpretation) and to reduce their opponents to subhuman levels. Instilling fear of religious and political authorities in peoples’ hearts and minds as the best means of control is not new to Islamic movements, such as Salafi Wahhabism.

It’s paradoxical that the Saudi religious and political rulers decry the barbarity of the IS terrorists at a time when they themselves beheaded 17 people in a two week period in Saudi Arabia. Don’t the Saudi autocrats understand that their actions not only send a green light to those who are in the business of killing, but render the Saudi Salafi practitioners scorned hypocrites in the eyes of their people and other Muslims and non-Muslims? IS and other homicidal groups use Saudi Arabia as a role model to justify their savagery. After all, Saudi Arabia is the birth place of Islam, home to its holiest shrines and is ruled by self-proclaimed (“Custodians of the Holy Mosques”) leaders of the Muslim World.

It’s being argued that the homicidal operatives of the newly established Islamic State, IS, are an extension of the 18th century’s Saudi/Wahhabi religious and ethnic cleansing movement. Both claim that they are following in the 6th century “Dark Age” footsteps of Prophet Mohammed, “purifying” people by converting them to Salafi (original) Islam and eliminating those who refuse. Given this history, how do those (Muslims and some non-Muslims) who continue to insist that Islam is a non-violent religion explain IS’s actions-the rampant enslavement and rape of mostly non-Muslim women and burying their husbands and sons alive-to those who argue that Islam has been a repressive and violent religion from its inception?

Additionally, critics, including increasing numbers of Muslims, argue that Muslims’ actions, as exemplified by the current butchery in Arab countries, continue to prove that Islam is inherently incompatible with peaceful co-existence, freedom of expression, respect for human rights and for the individual’s right to choose.

It’s deceitfully ironic that some of the most outspoken critics of IS are the Saudi Mufti, the highest religious authority and King Abdullah. The Saudi Mufti declared recently that the IS is Islam’s ‘enemy number one,’ when in reality IS’s policies and practices are identical to those of the Wahhabi movement whose philosophy forms the basis of the Saudi state.  It is no secret that intolerance of religious, social and political differences is part of Saudi schools’ curricula, mosques’ sermons and state policy. Like the Wahhabis who swept to power on a tide of violence in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, IS is using cruel methods to achieve the same objectives. The differences between the IS’s practices and the Saudi/Wahhabi movement are only in degree, not in substance. The current Saudi system still uses some of the methods for which they condemn IS: beheadings, flogging, child marriages, marginalization of women, the male guardian and four wives systems, intolerance of non-Muslims and their beliefs as well as severe discrimination against religious minorities.

Now that the Saudi oligarchs and their zealot clerics feel threatened by the IS, King Abdullah has appealed to the West to destroy the Muslim “Jihadis” because, according to him, harming the West is next on the terrorists’ list of things to do. Appealing to the West to invade and kill Muslims (terrorists or not) stands in stark contrast to the Saudis’ habitual scornful refrain accusing the West of invading Muslim lands and killing their inhabitants. It looks like the Saudi regime has concluded that its absolute rule is endangered by no one other than Salafi Muslims, many of whom share the Saudis’ unbending doctrine, Wahhabism. Not only does IS share the Saudi philosophy, but many of its members were armed and financed by Saudis and sent to destabilize other regimes and societies that the regime deems unfriendly or a potential threat to its security and hegemony.

Mirroring their pleas to the West to “cut the head of the snake” (Iran), the Saudi King, his Mufti and a throng of royals and their lobbyists are appealing to the West to eradicate Jihadis, the IS and the likes. The Saudis foster protégés who turn against them with a vengeance, such as Al-Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood and now the formidable and lethal IS. The latter may prove the biggest challenge to the Saudi royals not only physically, but strategically and religiously.

One might ask why the absolute Saudi ruling princes are appealing to the West to save them from dangers that they helped create. This is because the Saudis do not want to risk getting involved in a situation that could mobilize more challengers who harbor tremendous loathing for the Saudi ideology and interference in their affairs. Furthermore, the Saudis have become accustomed to the West’s defending them against external and internal threats because the West myopically believed that the Saudi rulers represented their best interests in the Middle East.

However recent events, starting with the 9/11 attack on the US by mostly Saudi nationals, proved that the Saudi dogma has not only created an environment hostile to peaceful coexistence in Arab and Muslim societies, but poses a dire threat to Western democratic values and way of life. Additionally, the West has become more informed that Islam is a value system which controls every aspect of its adherents’ lives, perceptions and actions, as opposed to a benign non-Muslim voluntary belief system which affects only peoples’ spirituality.

Despite the West’s increased awareness of Islam, its restrictive nature and its incompatibility with democratic values, Western governments continue to employ a diplomatic approach of compromise and appeasement toward Arab and other Muslim regimes. However, the repeated failures of this approach, which is interpreted as weakness by Arab regimes and extremists alike, have forced Western governments to use military might to defend their societies and values against increasing threats currently posed by rising Sunni Arab radicals and their sympathizers. The use of brute force by Western governments may deal an immediate blow to terrorists like IS, but unless the root causes of Muslim terrorism are eradicated, military action will only address the symptoms. This strategy will allow lethal ideologues to revive their movements and continue their quest for the destruction of Western civilization. The root causes of Muslim Arab (and other Musllims’) violence and intolerance lie in their religious texts and in the manner that ruling autocracies use religion to suppress their populations and   to perpetuate their absolute regimes.

Confronting and defeating lethal Arab ideologues, their breeders and financiers is not only in the West’s best interests, but more so in the best interest of the Arab people, especially the aspiring youth population, women, Christians, Muslim minorities and the rising numbers of liberal leaning groups.

However, without the Arab people’s understanding of the depth and consequences of Islamists’ neo-fascism and without their support for the West’s military campaign against the revival of lethal religious totalitarianism, the latter will not be defeated soon because its root causes remain intact. The Arab people have a gargantuan stake in defeating the IS and the likes. Not only are they its primary targets, but they will pay the price if the international community determines that only major military campaigns against Arabs and other Muslims will defeat Muslim terror groups.

“Grand Mufti Laments: Saudis Kill Each Other in Wars Abroad”

CDHR’s Commentary: The Saudi Mufti, Abdul Aziz Al-Alsheikh, laments the sale of young Saudis to terrorist groups. The top cleric is quoted saying that ‘These men are taken to market places and sold to these groups {terrorists} like slaves.’ He is right in saying that young Saudis who roam the world looking for homicidal employment is tragic, but what’s more tragic are the reasons that make terrorism a tempting career for many Saudi youth. Religious indoctrination in schools and mosques which the Mufti and his zealot religious establishment control is mostly responsible for turning increasing number of innocent Saudi youth into cold-blooded killers.

From childhood until death, Saudis, men and women, are constantly reminded of Islam’s supremacy and hate for non-Muslims and for Muslims of other brands and sects of Islam. The Mufti attributed young Saudis’ attraction to death and destruction to their concern for Muslims’ sufferings worldwide. ‘We are all upset about the plight of Muslims around the world, but this should never lead us to joining the wrong forces.’ The Mufti called on Saudi ‘…scholars, preachers and judges to help…’ dissuading Saudi youth from joining terror groups. This is hypocritical at best.

The question the Mufti should be asked is: Aren’t the entities he is calling on to discourage Saudi youth from embracing terrorism the same groups in charge of the institutions that indoctrinate young Saudis into believing that Islam is under attack and it’s the duty of every Muslim to defend their faith? Not only that, but the Mufti and other top Saudi officials and clerics continue not only to insist that Islam is the religion of peace, justice and tolerance of differences, but is the only religion that can save humans from continuing to stray into darkness. The Mufti does not seem to understand that most Muslims and non-Muslims can read and see the gross contradictions between what he says and Muslims’ brutality against each other and against religious minorities. They quote the Quran, Shariah and Hadith to justify their cruel and inhumane actions.

It is admirable of the Mufti to condemn those who commit heinous crimes against innocent people, but how do the actions of those he condemns differ from what he and likeminded Saudi clerics had exhorted them to do? He has publicly advocated destruction of Christian sanctuaries, as well as those of Muslim minorities, such as Shi’a, Ahmadis and others. Isn’t this what the Jihadis (ISIS) are doing in Syria and Iraq and threatening to spread to Saudi Arabia and annihilating his powerbase?

One Lucky Prince

CDHR’s Commentary: A prominent “Saudi Prince Abdul Aziz Bin Fahd fell victim to a spectacular armed raid in Paris, losing 250,000 euros ($335,000) in the process.” Given his royal position and wealth, it’s hard to believe that the Saudi prince was not kidnapped and only robbed of small pocket change, by Saudi royal standards. Given what seemed to be an “inside job” regarding the Prince’s movement and well-executed interception of his heavily armed convoy, Prince Abdul Aziz is lucky to be alive. The Prince could also been held hostage for millions/billions of dollars and/or political payback by a group of his family’s many enemies in and out of the country.

Regardless of the motives behind the attack and irrespective of how and who brazenly intercepted and commandeered Prince Abdul Aziz’s heavily armed convoy, this intrepid ambush of a powerful and high priced member of the large Saudi ruling tribe may have brought an end to the Saudi royals’ relatively free movement in and outside of their increasingly isolated, threatened and unstable kingdom. For the Saudi men and women royals, this event must be daunting given their frequent and lavish global travels on their gold-plated jets, yachts and luxuriously fitted motor vehicles.

Prince Abdul Aziz is the youngest and reportedly the favorite son of his late multibillionaire father, King Fahd. Because of this royal association, he too is a multibillionaire and was awarded undeserved and unearned official positions. He was appointed minister of state and a member of the royal cabinet (or cabinet of ministers) at an early age before he was demoted by his uncle, King Abdullah in 2014. Like his father and many of the large ruling family, Prince Aziz is well-known for his lavish spending of appropriated public revenues on his extravagant lifestyle and “… globetrotting playboy reputation.”

Prince Abdul Aziz’s ambush and loss of token money is a royal first, but will more likely be followed by more attacks on royals, not only by money seeking thugs (if that were the reason he was ambushed), but by one of the many anti-royal groups, including millions of disenfranchised Saudi citizens who have given up hope for peaceful political reforms and social justice. Future attacks and kidnappings may involve more prominent and well-placed members of the thousands of the Saudi princes and princesses.

One would think that the Saudi rulers would re-evaluate their outdated methods of ruling and precarious position domestically, regionally and globally and embark on radical political, social, economic and religious reforms that will give the majority of their disenfranchised, increasingly restless population a stake in the State and the system, which will make them less susceptible to anti-royal movements. Instead, despite the regime’s unpopularity at home, multiple threats and declining influence in the region and around the world, the Saudi ruling family is intensifying its repressive policies and wasting of public wealth to secure its absolute rule and to tighten its grip on power.

Global Resentment Toward Saudis

CDHR’s Commentary: The Saudi regime and its heavy-handed religious establishment ought to take the global (Muslims and non-Muslims) resentment seriously and transform their dysfunctional system before it’s too late, if it’s not already. The overwhelming majority of Muslims, especially women, religious minorities and the unprecedented burgeoning social media users, are realizing the damage that the Saudi brand of Islam, Wahhabism, is doing and has done to their societies. Saudi Arabia is more isolated, threatened and loathed today than at any time in its history. The regime is totally responsible for this bleak reality. The Saudi/Wahhabi absolute clans thought that by terrorizing and marginalizing their citizens and by buying foreign protection they could secure their positions forever (domestically and globally) even though all indications are that the opposite is true.

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.

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Defense, Christians and free expression

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

August 6, 2014

Rented Defense, Freedom of Speech, Use of Clerics, Fallout of Jihadi Gains and Suffering of Arab Christians

Commentaries and Analysis

Saudi Defense Strategy: Colossal Failure

CDHR’s Commentary: Due to historical mistrust of and lack of faith in their people’s aptitude to defend their country, the autocratic Saudi monarchs have relied on hired services to protect them and to defend their kingdom since the establishment of the Saudi state in 1932. Externally the US has assumed the bulk of defending Saudi Arabia in exchange for oil. Regionally, the Saudi rulers have used mostly hired out Egyptian and Pakistani soldiers. Internally, they have relied on an ubiquitous security apparatus such as the ferocious religious police, Mukhabarat and Mubahath (informants and investigators), and more so on the regime’s dogmatically staffed and highly mechanized national guard estimated at 100,   000 personnel in 1991. The Saudi National Guard’s singular task is to protect the royal family from their citizens and from each other.

Based on joint agreement, “…Riyadh and Washington have been bound by a basic tradeoff: America guarantees protection from potential predators in the region, while Saudi Arabia supplies the lifeblood – relatively inexpensive oil – to run the world economy and pumps billions each year into the US arms industry.” Despite their extraordinary political and social discordance (the US is the world’s most powerful democracy and the Saudi regime is a weak nomadic based absolute monarchy), US-Saudi cooperation has lasted for decades.

However, the Arab Spring has called into question the adequacy of the Saudis’ agreements with their traditional protectors. Globally, the US began to review its relations with the Saudis as it did with the rest of the Arab World, especially after the swift overthrow of former US and Saudi supported autocratic allies like Mubarak of Egypt and Bin Ali of Tunisia. The US and other foreign powers have apparently concluded that the Arab Spring is unstoppable and will likely spill over to the remaining Arab countries including Saudi Arabia. Realizing that the Saudi regime is as susceptible as its counterparts in the Arab World, the US and other Western powers seem to be questioning the wisdom of continuing their support for an unpopular and repressive regime whose fate is uncertain. This is evident by US reluctance to continue its unconditional support for the Saudi royals as exemplified by the Obama Administration’s handling of the Syrian and Iranian crises. The Saudis wanted the Syrian regime replaced and the Iranian theocracy’s military crippled, two risky adventures for the US, but which would have strengthened the Saudi royals’ grip on power domestically and cleared the way for them to secure their regional Sunni dominance.

Regionally, the Saudi rulers have relied on countries like Pakistan and Egypt to protect them and defend their kingdom. However, recent events in the Greater Middle East have changed the power equation. Egypt is in the throes of internal turmoil and can barely maintain its own stability, while Pakistan is plagued with terrorism, increasing social unrest and must consider its strategic interests, especially regarding Iran. Pakistan and Egypt may have the troops to loan to the Saudi regime for lucrative compensation, but they are likely to consider the long term consequences of supporting a regime whose extremist ideology is blamed for much of the turbulence in the Muslim World, including Pakistan.

Domestically, the Saudi ruling princes have effectively and ruthlessly   used religion as their sustaining power long before they declared the birth of their Kingdom in 1932. The royals have used religion to legitimize their territorial expansions, justify their military conquests and to spread their brand of Wahhabi Islam to all corners of the earth.  They created and empowered a zealous religious establishment, comprised exclusively of the descendants of the founder of the State’s official religion, the austere Hanbali/Wahhabi brand. The ruling family entrusted the clerics with categorical physical, mental and social control over all aspects of society including dress code, moral conduct, worship,  education and above all, total submission to God and to the ruling family. The monarchs in collaboration with the clerics designated the Quran as the state’s constitution and the Shariah as its law.

Tribal loyalty, albeit purchased, has also played a major role in sustaining the Saudi ruling family in power. The founder of the Saudi state, King Ibn Saud and his 53 known sons embraced prominent   nomadic chieftains, married their daughters and sisters and put them on the royal payroll. Additionally, the royal family uses the bribery system to buy public loyalty and acquiescence, especially in recent times. This practice intensified since the onset of the violent Arab Spring. King Abdullah allotted billions of dollars to projects, social welfare, direct cash loans and scholarships for thousands of restless and potentially troublesome youth to study abroad.

All these maneuvers and arrangements crafted to buttress the Saudi regime’s internal security worked relatively well until two events of historic proportions occurred. The September 11, 2001 (9/11) terrorists’ attack on the US by mostly Saudi nationals and the unexpected explosion of the Arab Revolts (the Arab Spring) on December 18, 2010 exposed the Saudi regime’s weakness in relying on purchased domestic and external security arrangements. These events prompted the Saudi people not only to feel alarmed by their regime’s religious ideology that produced the 9/11 hijackers and the likes of ISIS, but also to share the aspirations of other Arabs who overthrew their oppressive regimes. The previous arrangements using bribery, intermarriage, tribal loyalty and intimidation to maintain internal security seem to be outliving their effectiveness.

At a time when domestic and regional threats to the Saudi monarchy and to the country are increasing, the Saudi regime can no longer rely on its pervious security arrangements. Currently, Saudi Arabia is threatened on its northern border by the advances of ISIS and on its southern borders by increasing incursions by anti-regime Saudi and Yemeni nationals. More dangerously, it’s threatened on its strategic eastern borders by its disenfranchised Shia citizens, by the violent unrest in Bahrain, by Iranian influence in the Gulf region and by the strategic disintegration of the oligarchical GCC alliance.

The Saudi regime is in an unprecedented precarious position. It has lost its bedrock external support and has failed to empower its people and build a reliable indigenous defense force due to its lack of trust and faith in its citizens. Despite their relentless efforts, the Saudi rulers have failed to recruit new external powers to defend them. Consequently, they risk losing their grip on power, if not their survival.


A Win for Freedom of Expression

CDHR’s Commentary: During a discussion at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva (Switzerland) on June 23, 2014, Josephine Macintosh, a representative of the International Inquiry (advocate of freedom of expression and individual liberty) took the microphone and addressed the Saudi government’s well-documented abuses of human rights. She specifically addressed a recent harsh sentencing of a Saudi human rights activist, Raif Badawi, who was sentenced to 1,000 lashes (flogging in public square), $270,000 fine and 10 years imprisonment. Her presentation was repeatedly interrupted by the Saudi representative who asked the chair of the discussion to “shut her up”, (‘sekteeha.’)

The Saudi objections were soundly rejected by representatives of the US, France, Ireland and Canada, countries where freedom of expression is protected under the rule of law and non-sectarian constitutions. None of the Arab or Muslim representatives at the UN Human Rights Council’s session in Geneva supported the right of the representative of the International Inquiry to address the Saudi government’s abuses of human rights.

Despite his intended objective, the Saudi representative did a great service to his country and its oppressed population: His behavior demonstrated that freedom of expression in Saudi Arabia is not only suppressed, but those who dare exercise this right are severely punished as exemplified by Badawi’s severe and inhumane sentence.

Saudi Religious Police Go After Extremists?

CDHR’s Commentary: The “chairman” of the notorious and most loathed governmental agency (the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, Haia), Abdullatif Al-Asheikh intends to bestow more power on the zealots of his extremist organization. In early July 2014, Asheikh told his men that ‘Your mission is no longer confined to monitoring shops that remain open during prayer times or instructing women to adhere to modest dress codes.’ He told his dogmatist employees, the religious police, that, ‘The mission has now become much more significant as we attempt to eradicate extremist ideas and confront, including using force, those who promote the principles championed by terrorist groups.’

The question is how does the most extremist segment of Saudi society, the religious police, go after those with whom they share religious and social values? Given their rancorous conduct against Saudi society, especially women and religious minorities, but also against anyone who advocates religious tolerance, political reform, women’s rights and social justice, it’s hard to understand how their chief Abdullatif Al-Asheikh can give them more power ostensibly to defend the country against extremists with whom they have more in common than with those they are being empowered to defend.  Either the chief is delusional, unaware of the dangerous men he manages or he is cloaking in politically acceptable terms his real intent, as directed by his bosses (the King, the Mufti and the Interior Minister) to go after the pro-democracy, human rights and social justice activists whom the Saudi government considers a mortal threat to the country’s (i.e. the royal family’s) stability and security.

“Grand Mufti: Don’t use media in blame game”

CDHR’s Commentary: During his Friday, July 11, 2014 sermon, the Saudi Mufti Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh (the highest religious authority in the kingdom) warned against journalists and others who use the media to slander, divide and destabilize Saudi society and turn people against each other. He called on citizens to “… heed the advice of the head of the Dawa affairs in the interest of the nation’s stability and security.”

It is ironic that the Mufti asks people to heed the advice of his religious establishment (“Dawa affairs”) which divides people along religious, gender, ethnic (tribal and purity of heredity) and regional lines. Like his cleric partners and royal handlers, the Mufti’s motivation is driven by his vested interest in the status quo without which he could end up   dispossessed or jobless, at best. The Mufti’s unbounded nightmare is people thinking for themselves, being self-reliant and thinking outside the box.

The irony of all ironies is that the Mufti is “the head of the Standing Committee for Scientific Research.” For fear of being accused of blasphemy (a crime punishable by death in Saudi Arabia), no one in the country dares ask what qualifications the sightless religiously trained cleric possesses in order to hold this prestigious scientific post. Wouldn’t be more fitting for the Mufti to focus on God’s work and other religious matters instead of warning professionals and a new generation of aspiring social media users not to use modern media to express themselves? Unlike the Mufti and his clerics, who are free to express their opinions in multiple fora, the population has no other forum to express safely any opinion regarding any issue other than via modern technologies.

Saudi citizens were not surprised when the Mufti warned Muslims against twitter and other social media. The head of the notorious Saudi religious police, Abdul Latif Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh, a relative of the Mufti, went even further. He was quoted as having said that anyone who uses twitter "has lost this world and his afterlife".

The Al-Alshaikh family (descendants of the 18th century founder of the rigid and loathed Wahhabi dogma) is entrusted with the religious affairs, the judicial system, the educational system, the social mores and conduct, as well as official interpretation of the Quran and Shariah. It is not surprising that most Saudis see the Al-Alshaikh family as a tool of the system, and thus a major impediment to political, social and religious reforms and progress in Saudi Arabia.

Expected Fallout of Jihadis’ (ISIS) Surge and Gains

CDHR’s Commentary: After chairing a sobering national security meeting to evaluate potential spillover of the stunning surge and gains of the Sunni terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia ordered all governmental agencies to take any and all measures to prevent “…terrorist organizations or any other groups…” from destabilizing the state. “Destabilizing the state” simply means threatening the domination of the Saudi/Wahhabi ruling tribes, since they consider the state their private property, as exemplified by the country’s name (Saudi Arabia) and by their control of all governorships, major ministries, the security apparatus and the decision-making processes.

Saudi pro-democracy and human rights activists know that the  “other groups” the king meant are those visionary and courageous Saudi men and women patriots who advocate inclusive reforms including government accountability, social justice, tolerance of religious and political differences and freedom of expression. These groups should expect and be prepared to face new draconian laws and harsher punishment from the system. They will be the recipients of the Saudi oligarchy's apprehensive response to the jihadis’ (ISIS) victories in Iraq and Syria.

Given the sympathy many Saudis feel for ISIS and other fanatics, their radical ideology could spread to Saudi Arabia and destabilize its repressive regime. The Saudi government and its religious establishment are known for their ideological and financial support for ISIS and other extremists, thinking that they could control the lethal ideologues that are turning against them. Compared to Syria and Iraq, Saudis are more marginalized and divided along regional, religious, gender, ethnic and age lines. It’s likely that the jihadis will find millions of sympathetic ears in Saudi Arabia, not because most Saudis favor the brutal ISIS theocracy, but because they resent their current system, albeit for different reasons, to the point where they would welcome any change regardless of the consequences.

The silver lining in this gloomy scenario is that most Saudis will not accept a more totalitarian system than the one which they have endured for decades. As in other Arab societies, many suppressed and difficult issues will surface if and when the Saudi people opt for a different form of government. Anytime a society decides to replace its repressive and dysfunctional political system, turmoil will ensue and Saudi society will be no different. To think that Saudi Arabia will be spared the Arab Spring and its fallout is a staggering denial of reality.

Arab Christians: “Convert, Pay, Die” or Flee

CDHR's Commentary: Signs point to what seems to be the birth of a Nazi-like state (“Islamic State” or Caliphate) in parts of Iraq and Syria. Like the Nazis, the operatives of the newly declared “Islamic State” began to identify their targets, especially Christians, but women and other religious minorities as well. Like the yellow Star of David that Jews were forced to wear so they could be identified, rounded up and shipped to death chambers, the ISIS painted the Arabic letter “N” (standing for Nasara or Christians) on Christians’ homes and gave them an ultimatum: pay Jizyah, convert to Islam or face death.

When faced with the ultimatum of choosing among converting and accepting a slavery-like status under Shariah law, paying Jizyah (heavy fines) to be allowed to stay in their countries, albeit as second class  citizens, or being slaughtered by their new Muslim fanatic rulers, the Arab Christians wretchedly opted to flee their homelands.

Purging the Arab World of its small, but vivacious, highly educated, socially advanced, politically progressive, religiously tolerant and industrious Christian communities is not new. Scapegoating Arab Christians has been going on since Islam was established 14 and ½ centuries ago despite the fact that Islam is the youngest major religion in that beleaguered region and in the world.

Christians represent moderation, civil society, academic and intellectual freedom, work ethics and a democratic lifestyle for which most Muslim Arabs yearn, but denied them by their anti-human development and adamantly anti-pluralistic regimes. While the Arab regimes don’t particularly like what the Christians represent, they tolerate them because the minority Christian communities provide an economic engine which helps keep their respective societies afloat, for which the regimes take credit. In turn, due to the hostile and intolerant environments in which they live, the Christians have no choice but to support the absolute regimes in power as the only force that can protect them.  However, the Christians’ support for the Arab dictators is perceived by opposition groups as part of the regimes’ repression.

Intolerant groups like ISIS (whose main objective is to overthrow their mentors, the tyrannical Arab regimes, and install their own absolute theocracies) target Christians mostly because of their belief and values, and force them to flee their homelands which their communities inhabited long before Islam was established. Despite the Arab Muslim majority’s bigotry and indignation against Christians, purging them from the Middle East is a blow to the oppressed Arab populations, especially women and religious minorities.

Instead of looking the other way or in some cases celebrating the vicious attacks on Arab Christians, all Muslim Arabs ought to embrace and defend their Arab Christian compatriots. The majority of Arab Muslim populations benefit immensely from having strong and vibrant Christian enclaves amongst them, as exemplified by the advanced and prosperous Christian community in Lebanon, the most advanced and democratic Arab country.

However, due to centuries of religious indoctrination against non-Muslims, re-enforced by their political, religious and educational institutions, Muslim Arabs may find it difficult to overcome their anti-Christians prejudices. From an early age, Muslim Arabs are trained to believe that their religion is superior to all others. Such indoctrination is continually trumpeted by media, prominent Muslim scholars and heads of state like King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia (the birth place of Islam and home to its holiest shrines) who claimed that “People have no direction and are rebelling against their inner selves. Only Islam’s mercy, light and guidance can provide people with a way forward in life and toward the Hereafter. Islam, with its comprehensive divine values and a balanced view of life, is alone capable of rescuing humankind from its current behavioral predicament while safeguarding its material gains and wishes.”

Notwithstanding the difficulty of casting off such lifelong indoctrination, Arab Muslims owe it to themselves, their children, their safety and economic prosperity to reject religious bigotry which not only condemns non-Muslim beliefs and lifestyles, but prevents Arab Muslims from emulating the Christian West’s unparalleled contributions to the world’s modern civilization from which Muslims (Arabs and others) benefit immeasurably.

Tragically, it’s not only Muslim Arabs who are failing to defend their own Christian compatriots, but Christian societies and their governments worldwide (with the exception of France) seem to be oblivious to the suffering of Arab Christians.

It’s commendable that western democracies defend the rights of Muslims and other religious minorities in their countries not only to practice their faiths freely, but to ensure their full rights as equal citizens. Why are they not demanding the same rights for Christians in Arab countries?  President Barack Obama defended the rights of Muslims to build a mosque next to Ground Zero, but he has yet to unequivocally and unabashedly demand protection for Arab Christians. Most US media outlets, government officials and churches have yet to speak up against the plight of Arab Christians, let alone call on their governments to intervene to prevent destruction of entire Christian communities in the Arab World. The same laissez-faire attitude seems to be gripping most of Christian Europe.

Christian leaders, church goers, directors of religious think tanks and visual media can help highlight the plight of their brothers and sisters in faith in the Arab World. They should be demonstrating day and night in front of Arab and other Muslim Embassies, businesses and in front of American universities that teach Islamic studies across America. They should demand reciprocities; if Muslims can build mosques in Christian lands, Christians should be able to build churches in Muslim lands.

One can only imagine what would occur if the persecution and purging of Christians in the Middle East happened to Muslims in the West. The Western mainstream media, civil society, members of Congress, Washington think tanks, many Christian leaders and human rights groups would be all over themselves accusing everyone of being Islamophobic.

Why are Arab Christian lives, beliefs, religious sanctuaries and properties expendable in the Arab World without triggering outrage from human rights groups and punitive reaction from Western governments? Is it because Arab Christians are ethnically Arabs, therefore their lives, security, dignity and aspirations are unworthy of Western Christian’s and their governments’ defense? Or is it an extension of the West’s appeasement and apologetic policies toward intolerant and absolute Arab and Muslim regimes?

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

 

 

 

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