Friday, January 30, 2015

Saudi Arabia's culpability for extremism

We've been reading and hearing a great deal about freedom of speech recently, with much of the reporting and comment being generated by the appalling murder of journalists and cartoonists in France by Muslim fanatics.

Understandably, their actions were thought by most of the world to be barbaric as well as totally unjustified in any intellectual sense. But justification is essentially subjective, and the savages who murdered the staff of the Paris magazine Charlie Hebdo exulted that "We have killed Charlie Hebdo! We have avenged the Prophet!" as if this were in some way adequate or even laudable explanation of murder.

For them it was irrelevant that killing is forbidden by the law of the land in which they lived. They had been taught that modern-day laws - designed, debated and developed over centuries by impressive intellects - are entirely negated by selective interpretation of the sayings of a religious leader by intolerant clerics to whom the word ‘objectivity' is objectionable.

French President Hollande's statement that "These madmen, fanatics, have nothing to do with the Muslim religion" was well-intentioned and meant to defuse tension in his country where people are understandably furious about the murders. But alas these crazy fanatics were only too representative of a substantial number of those who follow Islam.

Not all, of course. Far from it. But of the 1.5 billion Muslims on the planet, there are some who think the same way as the savages who brought fear, anger and death to the democratic country of which they were citizens. They are convinced that anyone considered to be critical of the Prophet Mohammad, founder of their religion, deserves to be killed. It's as basic as that.

But there is no democracy in the religiously intolerant Kingdom of Saudi Arabia which practices and preaches the most fundamental and intolerant type of Islam and carried out a vicious religiously motivated flogging of a human being on the same day that the assault on freedom and democracy by Muslim fanatics was defeated by French security forces.

Following Friday prayers in the Saudi city of Jeddah on January 9 a man was lashed 50 times. The medieval thrashing was carried out in public because although the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia does not permit government of the people by the people it is all in favor of demonstrating support for Islamic punishments as publicly as possible. The crime of 30-year-old Raif Badawi was to have had a website that "undermined general security" in addition to "going beyond the realm of obedience."

For this he was sentenced to a 10-year jail term and 1,000 lashes to be executed in installments of 50 a week for 20 weeks.

During this savage thrashing in the name of Islam and the King of Saudi Arabia, Mr Badawi didn't utter a word. He didn't cry, shout or scream. He suffered the barbaric beating silently while watched by a crowd of hundreds who yelled "Allahu Akbar" and clapped and cheered while the spirit of Raif Badawi rose above that theocratic kingdom like a star of hope whose reflection sparkles in the water of a putrid swamp.

As the BBC reported, " Saudi Arabia enforces a strict version of Islamic law and does not tolerate political dissent. It has some of the highest social media usage rates in the region, and has cracked down on domestic online criticism, imposing harsh punishments."

We should not be surprised that so many international devotees of Saudi Arabia's "strict version of Islam" are those who support the Paris murderers because Saudi Arabia sets an example to the Sunni world - and therefore to Sunni fanatics.

The official Saudi Arabian interpretation of Islam is inflexible, intolerant and savage. There is no room for sympathetic regard for all humanity; no space to embrace the wider meanings of life; no shade of understanding for those who choose to follow other than the blinkered path dictated by bigoted Saudi clerics and approved by their pliable kings. And although official Saudi statements about the Paris killings were predictably critical, the warped Islamic doctrine of the clerics of the Saudi Kingdom remains uncompromising in condemning unbelievers. Their message is spread worldwide.

The plain fact is that murder is illegal in civilized countries, no matter the contention that "there is no dispute that anyone who curses Allah is killed" - which is the firm conviction of the theocratic autocracy of Saudi Arabia in which over four million people espouse Salafism, an ultra-puritanical type of Islam that advocates jihad as do the matching Wahhabis whose fanaticism beggars belief but whose intolerant teachings gain more adherents day by day.

Osama bin Laden was a Saudi Wahhabi, but Saudi Arabia did and does nothing to attempt to limit the spread and influence of such rancid zealots.

When they were killing their victims the Paris murderers screamed that "we have avenged the Prophet!" and followed to their deaths what they had been taught. In doing so they continued to practice one of the most extreme forms of Sunni Islam, the version expounded and preached by Saudi Arabia where personal freedom is unknown - except if you are born into the monarchy.

For Saudi Arabia is a two-faced kingdom. It reeks of hypocrisy as much as it stinks of the barbaric savagery of the punishments it carries out in the name of religion.

One instance of squalid humbug came to light in a Wikileaked US diplomatic communication from Saudi Arabia in November 2009 describing an alcohol-fuelled jamboree in the country that professes to keep to the strictest tenets of Islam, especially concerning prohibition of alcohol and enforced "modesty" of women.

inside the gates, past the Nigerian security guards . . . the scene resembled a nightclub anywhere outside the Kingdom: plentiful alcohol, young couples dancing, a DJ at the turntables, and everyone in costume. Funding for the party came from a corporate sponsor, Kizz-Me, a US-based energy-drink company that now distributes out of Saudi Arabia, as well as from the princely host himself.

Religious police/CPVPV (Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice) were nowhere to be seen . . . [although] our host “His Highness” Faisal al Thunayan (protect) . . . is considered a second-tier "Cadet" prince, not in line for the throne, he still enjoys the perks of a mansion, luxury car, lifetime stipend, and security entourage.

Alcohol, though strictly prohibited by Saudi law and custom, was plentiful at the party's well-stocked bar.

The humbug is obvious in the nightclubs of New York, Paris and London where the gilded youth of the Saudi King's 12,000 strong royal family indulge in alcohol and are otherwise right royally dissipated in exploration of worldly pleasures.

Back home, however, their ferocious religious police are vigilant in seeking out women who drive cars, and it was reported that "two Saudi women detained for nearly a month for defying a ban on females driving were referred to a court established to try terrorism cases on Thursday [December 25]."

What do you suppose the Koran says about female drivers? Might there be a verse describing the evil that would fall upon the world when women get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle? That would be difficult to imagine, because the motor car wasn't invented until some centuries after Islam was founded. So how can anyone claim that it is ungodly for women to drive cars? There is no civil law in Saudi that forbids females to drive (indeed there is no civil law at all), but the clerics who take it upon themselves to interpret the Koran and Hadiths (the reputed sayings of the Prophet) have decided that if women drive cars they will "undermine social values" and must therefore be subjected to persecution.

The Saudi ‘Arab News' had it on September 1 last year that, "there is no law that prohibits women from being behind the wheel, but it is a widely accepted norm that they don't drive. As such, women should accept simple things. First they should be allowed to drive in certain conditions such as taking their children to school or sick family members to hospitals. This is a wise thing women could do at this stage. Being stubborn won't support their cause."

This sort of mindset typifies the warped outlook and dangerous quasi-religious propaganda of the Islamic Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The authentic holy word, as intended by the Prophet, continues to be warped in interpretation by bigoted charlatans and the result is indoctrination of gullible fools to the point that they can become murderous fanatics. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a hothouse that nurtures shoots of distorted dogma. Its acceptance, endorsement and external preaching of perverted ideology is an international disgrace.

There is little wonder that the admirable tenets of true Islam are regarded with suspicion and even revulsion by so many non-Muslims. The murderers in Paris screamed that by slaughtering defenseless people they had "avenged the Prophet!" But of course they hadn't done any such thing. And they had done their religion untold harm. They made countless millions of non-Muslims believe that Islam is a religion of aggression rather than of peace and understanding.

Their guiding spirit came from Saudi Arabia's extremists who are supported by an absurd, outdated and hypocritical monarchic regime that has the unearned distinction of being located at the geographical center of a great religion that has been perverted by self-centered bigots. God help us all.

Brian Cloughley is a former soldier who writes on military and political affairs, mainly concerning the sub-continent. The fourth edition of his book, A History of the Pakistan Army, was published last year.

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