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Ally on Eradicating Terrorism?

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Can Crown Prince Mohammed Be An Ally In The War On Terrorism?

CDHR’s Commentary: For decades, conventional Western experts have been intensely engaged in predicting what Saudi foreign policy would look like under the next king. This was the time when the Saudi royal succession was cemented long before a king died, was dethroned, as in the case of King Saud in 1964, or was assassinated like King Faisal in 1975. But things are changing, complicating the predictors’ tasks.

As the second generation of Saudi princes dies off, the prognosticators are faced with the chore of speculating about who from the third generation will be the next king and why. The conjecturers’ theories normally get torpedoed by the Saudi rulers’ ultra-secretive system where such major decisions are made by three senior princes, namely the King, the Defense and Interior Ministers. After stormy, accusatory and screaming deliberations (according well-informed insiders), decisions are subsequently shared with the second stratum of princes and the top clerics, for uncontested approval and legitimization.

Never before was there such intense indulgence in speculating who would be the most suitable royal to inherit the Saudi throne than what had transpired during King Abdullah’s reign (2005-2015.) Most western analysts and predictors were convinced that Prince Mohammed Bin Naif would inherit the Saudi throne.  They argued that he is a loyal US ally, educated in the US and, more important, he has proven his usefulness in the fight against terrorism.

Bewilderingly, they ignored facts that could have helped them consider Prince Mohammed’s shadowy past. He is the son and protégé of the late Prince Naif, from whom he inherited the feared and loathed Saudi Ministry of Interior for which he has worked most of his adult life. Under his father’s instruction and close supervision, Prince Mohammed created and implemented many of the Ministry’s draconian policies. Prominent among these policies are the arbitrary arrest, lengthy imprisonment and harsh punishment of Saudi reformers who condemn acts of domestic and global terrorism which they attribute to Saudi religious and educational indoctrination.

Prince Mohammed learned his profession from his late father, known to the Saudi people as the most ruthless prince, who vehemently opposed any political or educational reforms and was a staunch supporter of the extremist religious police as well as an advocate of limiting women’s role to raising “good men.”

Prince Mohammed (under his father’s command) was credited with “weakening” Al-Qaeda’s activities in Saudi Arabia after the group blew up lush fortified compounds where dozens of foreign nationals were killed and wounded in 2003 and 2006. Al-Qaeda relocated to Yemen where the terrorist group gained more recruits and became freer to plan and carry out attacks, especially against the US and Europe.

Prince Mohammed and his government are known as allies in the war against terrorism, which incredibly contradicts his country’s support for terror groups in different parts of the Middle East. It is true that the Saudi government and its ferocious religious establishment use brutal force and lush rehabilitation centers to defeat terrorists inside Saudi Arabia while inciting and supporting them to attack their real or potential enemies elsewhere.

Many Western experts assume that the more educated, less parochial younger Saudi royals would guide their country away from their elders’ policies of reliance on religious extremism and its byproduct, terrorism. The recently elevated younger princes, namely Interior Minister and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Naif and Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed Bin Salman, do not currently have the final say in making policies. However, given their current behavior, there is no reason to assume that they will be less brutal than their predecessors. In fact, the princes of the third generation are behaving more aggressively and brutally than their elders, as exemplified by their execution of the Saudi policy of invading and inflicting unspeakable suffering on their poverty stricken neighbor, Yemen. It’s worth noting that Al-Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula, the West’s sworn enemy and the architect and executor of the 9/11 attack on the US, is the singular beneficiary of the murderous Saudi campaign in Yemen.

The analysts’ and Western governments’ admiration for Prince Mohammed Bin Naif and his monocratic family as strong allies in the “War on Terrorism” reflects the former’s naive view of the birth and rise to power of the Saudi/Wahhabi ruling families and their cunning methods of misleading others into believing that the Saudi regime is reliable and loyal. Having successfully used terror tactics to conquer their adversaries at home and form their state, the Saudi rulers know that terrorism (including torture, beheadings, flogging and oppressing women) is the most effective means to achieve their objectives, in the past, now and in the future. In a recent major Arab interior ministers’ meeting in Morocco to “to fight terrorism,” Crown Prince Mohammed told the conventioneers that the pan-Arab Muslim Brotherhood party must be obliterated, a goal that can only be achieved by using terror strategies, given the fact that the Brotherhood is stateless and functions all over the world.

The West’s sense of its invincibility and pursuit of short term economic interests have blinded it to the Saudi royals’ long term objectives: religious totalitarianism over all Sunni Muslims. In addition to successfully spreading their iron-fisted religious and financial influence worldwide, the Saudi rulers are brazenly escalating their political interventions and direct military actions, as in Bahrain and Yemen and promoting regime-change, as in Egypt, Syria and Iraq, all for the purpose of enforcing their dogma and insuring their supremacy.

Given King Salman’s age and poor health, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Naif is certain to be the next king of Saudi Arabia, unless a palace coup is to occur. At the age of 55, the Crown Prince is likely to rule for at least 3 to 4 decades, baring incapacitation. The quandary that Western regimes (without whose support and protection the Saudi royals may not survive) are facing is whether to continue supporting an absolute anti-human rights regime that breeds and utilizes extremism and terrorism, including targeting Western interests and values; or to support pro-democracy and pro-social justice Saudi women and men, including reform-minded royals.

Given these realities, can Crown Mohammed Ibn Naif (and most of his family members for that matter) be considered an ally of the West in the “War on Terrorism,” when he historically has been an active participant in his government’s policies and actions aimed at maintaining its absolute rule and expanding its supremacy in the Muslim World, which can only be achieved by ensuring that democracy and human rights are crushed?

 

Commentaries and Analysis

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

July 2, 2015

Saudi-Wahhabi Schisms, King’s Promises and Freedom of Expression, Elites and Public Well-being

CDHR’s Commentaries and Analysis

The Foreseeable Extinction of The Saudi/Wahhabi Alliance

CDHR’s Analysis: More than at any time in its history, the Saudi ruling family is facing domestic and external challenges and threats that can result in domestic strife which the autocratic system cannot handle even with external support, including military intervention from the region or the West. Despite the Saudi rulers’ and their beneficiaries’ assertions to the contrary, the most looming threat to the Saudi oligarchy is not external, but springs from the regime’s source of  legitimacy and power base, its rigidly indoctrinated Wahhabis, without whose ferocious services, the Saudi royals could not have been able to survive as they have.

While the Saudi/Wahhabi partnership has not always been easy or peaceful, as exemplified by Ibn Saud’s slaughter of rebellious  Ikhwan in 1929 , by King Faisal’s 1964 deadly confrontation with religious zealots when he introduced girls’ education (a move that resulted in his assassination in 1975) and by anti-monarchy zealots’ takeover of Mecca’s Grand Mosque in 1979 (which almost brought down the House of Saud if it weren’t for  French commandos from the Groupe d’Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale), it has endured for many decades. However, overt defiant criticism by and insubordination of prominent popular clerics, schisms within the religious establishment and steadily escalating differences between the royals and their zealot supporters over social, political and educational issues represent ser ious and irreconcilable divisions that could presage the coming end of the Saudi/Wahhabi alliance.

The centuries old Saudi/Wahhabi power-sharing is based on convenient, albeit duplicitous, promises made by two men, a nomadic chief (the forefather of the House of Saud, Mohammed Ibn Saud) and another nomadic zealot (the founder of the rigid Wahhabi dogma) Mohammed Ibn Abdul Wahhab in 1744 in Dir-e-yah. The latter is a small wasteland village which the current ultraconservative Saudi King Salman is intensely reviving in the hope of reassuring the descendants of Abdul Wahhab of his family’s commitment to upholding the original Saudi/Wahhabi partnership, which his predecessor challenged over educational and social issues.

King Salman’s predecessor, King Abdullah was prompted by well-known members of the royal family like his reform-minded half-brother Prince Talal and Abdullah’s intellectual nephew, Prince Khalid Al-Faisal, as well as some of King Abdallah’s offspring, namely Princes Miteb and Mishal and Princesses Adela and Setta, to undertake some “reforms” to respond to public demands and to give people hope for a better future.

Abdallah removed a number of prominent zealots, appointed women to government agencies, tried to relax restrictions on Shi’a religious rituals and allowed the government’s controlled media to discuss sensitive issues, as long as the royals could only be exalted. These cosmetic but psychologically important initiatives created positive reactions among many Saudis, but increased suspicion among many clerics about the royals’ motives, conduct and commitment to the anti-reform Wahhabi ideology.

Granted, the Saudi/Wahhabi partnership has served its creators, users and beneficiaries well domestically and externally for centuries. However, the alliance seems to be developing serious differences over its domestic andregional objectives and policies. This is due to changing variables, new players, shifting alliances, unprecedented regional mass revolutions, increasing domestic demands for reforms and rising public intolerance of a repressive system that continues to operate as if the earth is flat, time is standing still and human evolution is delusional. The most obvious example of this mummified mindset is the ruling Saudi/Wahhabi elite’s attitude toward and treatment of women as this video and this article demonstrate.

Divisions have been developing between those clerics who oppose any change in the status quo, like the Mufti and his circle of intransigent clerics, and clerics who call for moderate reforms, like Dr. Salman Al-Awdah, who has 2.4 million social media followers. Additionally, other clerics, like Mohsen Al-Awaji, call fora constitutional monarchy, question gender segregation, the ban on women driving and women’s dress code and call for an end to the regime’s rampant corruption.

Cleric Dr. Salman Al-Awdah painted a grim picture of the public mood which he attributed to ‘…a lack of housing, unemployment, poverty, corruption, weak health and education systems, the plight of the detainees and the absence of any prospect of political reform.’ Dr. Al-Awdah went on to warn the Saudi regime of severe repercussions if it continues its repressive practices and usurpation of people’s rights: ‘Like people around the world, the Saudi people will not always be silent about forfeiting all or part of their rights… When someone loses hope, you should expect anything from him.’

Even the former chief of the ferocious religious police, Shaikh Ahmed Al-Ghamdi broke away from the religious establishment’s rigid restrictions when he brought his wife to a TV studio without a face cover, which he says is unnecessary according to Islam.

When prominent clerics publically warn and denounce the system they have legitimized, protected and served for generations, such loss of allegiance threatens the pillars upon which the Saudi state was founded and upon which it stands. However, the threats posed by these advocates of moderate and overdue reforms pale in comparison with the threats posed by an increasing number of extremist clerics and many of their  followers who, for example, believe ISIS is a better alternative to the monarchy, which many consider corrupt and incapable of defending their values.

The challenges posed by moderate and extremist clerics and their millions of followers are not only undermining the legitimacy and powerbase of the royal family, but could plunge the country into civil and sectarian war. Unlike the ongoing bloody turmoil in other Arab countries, upheaval in Saudi Arabia will have far reaching repercussion due to the country’s centrality to Islam, its role in the global economy and the international reach of the lethal Saudi dogma, Wahhabism.

The Saudi regime’s extensive and expensive efforts to stop or reverse events in the region and to silence its domestic critics, especially pro-social justice advocates and cleric dissenters, are indicative of its covert recognition that the diverse public discontent and regional upheavals are weighing on the regime’s sense security. Developments like the Arab Spring, Western/Iranian fence mending and the rise of Sunni Muslim rivals such the Nahdah in Tunisia, theMuslim Brotherhood and ISIS pose unprecedented threats not only to the Saudi’s self-proclaimed leadership of Sunni Islam, but to the legitimacy of the Saudi system in its current theo-autocratic form and to the political survival of its operators.

Given these realities, the Saudi monarchy has two choices. It can continue augmenting its historical self-serving relations with the zealots, thus perpetuating its current exclusive sectarian methods of ruling, thereby risking domestic and regional threats and increasing global isolation. Or it can introduce necessary non-sectarian reforms to begin the process of including the overwhelming majority of the disenfranchised Saudi population in the functions and all decision-making processes of the state. This course of action would drastically widen the schism between the monarchy and the zealots, whose loyalty is already eroding and will likely continue to erode due to the appeal and successes of like-minded groups such as ISIS.

Despite King Salman’s and other members of the old guard’s attachment to the past and their dependence on the Wahhabi dogma, the odds are mounting against the continuity of the alliance as it is. In addition to the growing schisms between previous monarchs and the religious establishment and the ideological regional appeal of formidable extremists, the mounting domestic resentment toward the rulers’ use of religion as a tool of oppression and terrorism makes the disintegration of the alliance inevitable. Furthermore, the Wahhabi indoctrinated and inspired terrorists are creating regional and global animosity toward the monarchy, the country and Saudi society.

These well-known and undeniable factors give the Saudi rulers no option (if major strife is to be avoided), but to accept that the religious establishment is becoming a liability and is endangering the country and the monarchy itself. The ruling family’s safest and most pragmatic option is to relinquish its claim of exclusive ownership of the country and share legislative powers with all citizens, thus drawing its legitimacy from the people. This transition can be achieved peacefully and will provide citizens with a sense of ownership of their country, giving them a reason to defend it from internal and external enemies.

King Salman: “Equality and Freedom of Expression” Are Guaranteed

CDHR’s Commentary: During a meeting with his government’s human right groups in May 2015, King Salman told his carefully selected government agencies’ employees that, ‘The foundation of the State is based on adherence to the Islamic Shariah, which calls for the protection of human rights. The rule of our country was established on the basis of justice, consultation and equality. The State’s systems are integrated into the protection of rights, achievement of justice, guaranteeing freedom of expression, impartiality and addressing the causes and reasons of division.’ The king continued to emphasize his point, ‘All citizens are equal in rights and duties, and the Basic Governing Law states that the State shall protect human rights in line with the Islamic Shariah.’

This is an incredibly deceptive and exaggerated description of the autocratic Saudi monarchy’s policies and practices. By any standard, the Saudi society is one of the most oppressed societies in the world and no one knows it better than the Saudis themselves, especially those who tried to express their opinion peacefully and now languish in King Salman’s dungeons. For example, a group of courageous, highly educated, pro-democracy and social justice citizens formed a peaceful and inclusive non-governmental organization, the “Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association,” led by two visionary professors, Mohammed Fahd al-Qahtani and Abdullah Hamad, who were accused of treason and sentenced, along with their colleagues, to lengthy imprisonments in 2013.

Contrary to King Salman’s claims, many Saudi men and women free thinkers, equality seekers, liberals, human rights and social justice advocates are consistently arrested, interrogated (Saudi style in the torture chambers in the basement of the notorious Ministry of Interior), tried in terrorist- designated courts and thrown into Saudi dungeons for publically expressing their opinion about the government’s polices.

The Saudi “Government Basic Law” which King Salman referenced when he lectured his government’s human rights appointees was decreed by King Fahd in 1992. It was written by the ruling family for the purpose of re-enforcing the royals’ perpetual rule and absolute control over the country. For example, article 5 of the Basic Law states that the “Rule passes to the sons of the founding King, Abd al-Aziz Bin Abd al-Rahman al-Faysal Al Sa'ud, and to their children's children.” Article 6 demands absolute submission to the will of the king at all times under all conditions and circumstances, as stipulated in the Quran and Prophet Mohammed’s tradition. “Citizens are to pay allegiance to the King in accordance with the holy Koran and the tradition of the Prophet, in submission and obedience, in times of ease and difficulty, fortune and adversity.”

In face of overwhelming evidence that contradicts King Salman’s hollow assertions that all citizens regardless of gender, race, ethnicity or religious orientation are equal under Saudi law and are free to express their opinions, the king is either delusional, incoherent or absurdly assuming that people are utterly oblivious and that time is standing still and people never change.  King Salman, his religious establishment, hired advisors and apologists ought to know that, like all peoples, the Saudis are affected by regional and global events and by the uncontrollable flow of globalized information that exposes all forms of injustice, exploitation, discrimination, inequality and differences between democratic and absolute systems.

“Saudi Arabia is the world’s last absolute monarchy” and saying that it is just, egalitarian and free does not make it so.

King Salman “Vows to Punish the Assassins of Shi’a

CDHR’s Commentary: Two days after the murderous attack on Shi’a worshippers in eastern Saudi Arabia on Friday, May 22, 2015, King Salman promised that ‘Any participant, planner, supporter or sympathizer with this heinous crime will be held accountable, tried and will receive the punishment he deserves.’ Not surprisingly, the missing key word in the king’s list of those who will be punished for their role in the crimes against Shi’a is the inciters, the Saudi clerics. King Salman’s religious establishment of which he is a staunch supporter considers the Shi’a heretics, “rejectionist” and “deviants,” therefore suitable candidates for extinction.

The never ending violent Sunni-Shi’a split begun after the death of Prophet Mohammed more than 14 centuries ago and has subsequently gained momentum and become more lethal, especially since the founding of the unbending Saudi brand of Islam, Wahhabism, in the middle of the 18th century. As has been described by many Muslims and non-Muslims, “Wahhabi Islam really is a loathsome and dangerous ideology.” The philosophy of attacking and murdering Shi’a is disseminated in mosques, schools and living rooms in Saudi Arabia and in other majority Sunni countries.

Condemnation of and discrimination against the Shi’a is legal in Saudi Arabia as stated in the Saudi government basic law: “According to the basic law, Sunni Islam is the official religion and the country's constitution is the Qur'an and the Sunna (traditions and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad). The legal system is based on the government's application of the Hanbali School of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence.” Given this practice, how can the Saudi Shi’a get fair treatment or equality under the current Saudi regime and its sectarian laws? Despite King Salman’s and his clerics’ condemnation of crimes committed against their Shi’a citizens, promises by Saudi officials to punish Wahhabi-inspired terrorists in or out of Saudi Arabia are preposterous.

As long as the creators and implementers of the dangerous Saudi dogma, Wahhabism, re-enforce intolerance toward Shi’a in and out of Saudi Arabia, there can be no justice for Shi’a, nor can there be social harmony or equality for them in their own homelands. This trend is likely to intensify under King Salman’s reign, as exemplified by his war against the Houthis in Yemen and his determination to continue his family’s support for the minority Sunni government in Bahrain in its efforts to crush the aspiring majority Shi’a population in that country.

Attacking and killing Shi’a in eastern Saudi Arabia may spiral out of control and may reach the door steps of the royals themselves, as exemplified by the May 29 car suicide bomber who blew himself up in front of a Shi’a mosque, killing four people and injuring others. This mayhem took place in Dammam, the power seat of the Eastern Province of the country where the massive Saudi oil facilities and a large Shi’a population share the same region.

Given the unparalleled domestic and regional threats and amassed enemies facing the Saudi regime and its kingdom, it might only be a matter of time before the targeted Saudi Shi’a or one of the other Saudi regime’s enemies, such as ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Al-Houthis or the Muslim Brotherhood, decide to blow up one of the massive and vulnerable oil facilities in Eastern Saudi Arabia where oppressed Shi’a and Western expatriates work and live.  Thousands of miles of oil pipelines, as well as scores of storage tank farms, refineries, oil fields, harbors and the expansive oil administrative headquarters in Dhahran are easy targets despite the vigilance of Saudi and foreign security forces.

If this scenario were to occur, it’s more likely than not that the US will use its Persian Gulf naval and ground military might to ensure the defense, production and shipment of oil to the world’s markets in order to prevent global economic meltdown. The question is at what price to the Saudi people, to the US and other oil consuming powers?  Can a costly military intervention by the US to protect oil be minimized or avoided? Potentially, yes, if the Saudi oligarchy is willing or can be induced to embark upon doable political reforms so that all citizens (regardless of religion, race, region or gender) are legislatively empowered to participate in all aspects of their country’s affairs, including all decision-making processes, disposition of the country’s wealth and the formulation and execution of domestic and foreign policies.

Would it not be more pragmatic, safer and less costly for the Saudi monarchy’s major allies, the US and its democratic allies, to make it unequivocally clear to the Saudi royals that the status quo is unsustainable?  Given the Saudi regime’s history and mindset, it’s likely that this proposal will be vehemently rejected. However, the Saudi regime can be convinced, especially at this juncture in its history when it has never been more vulnerable, that its options are limited.

The Saudi Royals, Businessmen And Clerics Have Things In Common, Including Suppression, Larceny And Hypocrisy

CDHR’s Commentary: Wealthy Saudi businessmen like this one and their royal and religious partners live in the most expansive and expensive palaces, mansions and chateaus throughout the world, especially in democratic Europe and in the US. While this is taking place, millions of Saudi people are suffering from poverty, unemployment and numerous diseases, including diabetes, heart ailments, malnutrition and genetic syndromes due to inter-marriage. Furthermore, the most progressive Saudi advocates of human rights, social justice, accountability, transparency, freedom of expression, religious tolerance and equality for women and religious minorities are languishing in Saud i prisons, awaiting flogging or other forms of retribution.

All segments of Saudi society know the hypocrisy and misdeeds of the ruling elites and their partners in the looting of public wealth. The people are becoming increasingly resentful of the way they are being ruled, exploited and abused by their political and religious rulers and by the wealthy Saudi businessmen who hardly invest in human development or in the well-being of Saudi society.

Additionally, the Saudi people are not only languishing under  their regime’s severe domestic policies, but they are also paying the price for Saudi foreign policies which include, but are not limited to, exportation of lethal ideology,support for extremists and terrorists worldwide and more recently, by the Saudi royals’ intervention militarily and subversively in most Arab and Muslim countries, such as Yemen, Bahrain, Egypt, Pakistan, Iraq and Syria. Consequently, the Saudi people are among the most detested people in the world.

Myopically, Western decision-makers, traditional think tanks and prominent educational institutions not only look the other way when it comes to the Saudis’ draconian domestic and perilous foreign policies, but defend the Saudi regime as an ally in the war on terrorism. This is dangerous because in reality,Western Civilization and its democratic values are the targets of Saudi dogma-inspired terror groups like Al-Qaeda, ISIS, Al-Gamaat Al-Islamiyya and many others.

Unless the Saudi political, religious and business elites and their Western partners realize that the current status quo of repression, exploitation, intolerance and inequality for women and minorities is unsustainable and act to remedy the situation, a mob-like uprising is inescapable. The Saudi regime ought to embark on transitioning to a more inclusive society where all citizens participate in all aspects of the state’s activities, especially the decision-making processes. Continuing to claim that all is well, stable and ideal is suicidal given the current realities of the Middle East.

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Last Updated on Saturday, 04 July 2015 11:02
 

King Salman's Agenda--Perlious?

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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.

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New King, Uncertain Future and Human Rights

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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.

 

 

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