My Blog Article in Today’s Zaman

28 10 2013

What’s Wrong With This Picture?  Saudi Arabia

http://www.todayszaman.com/blog/hayat-alvi-329853-whats-wrong-with-this-picture.html

 

Saudi Activist

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The Saudi Specter in Syria and the World

10 02 2012

My recent post about Syria, the Russian bear, and Iran passionately describes the plight of innocent civilians being killed in Syria.  While my supportive sentiments for the human rights of Syrians remain steadfast, there are some developments and stories within the stories that are not reaching the mainstream press, and are alarming signs that Syria may be spiraling into another Lebanon (i.e., the civil war in Lebanon, 1975-1990).

One of these signs is the sectarian strife, where reports about Sunnis and Alawites targeting each other, as well as kidnapping for ransom and release of detainees, are surfacing.  Of course, the Assad regime itself has most likely intensified such sectarianism, but nonetheless, the fierce sectarian violence witnessed in the Lebanese civil war is a potential scenario in today’s Syria.  I have already seen at least one anti-Shiite posting on Facebook in reference to Syria.

This brings me to the other specter pertaining to Syria:  the Saudis, with their Wahhabi and very anti-Shiite (read “anti-Iran”) agenda for the region.  No one should be surprised with Saudi propositions for the need to end the slaughter in Syria.  But, we should read between the lines very carefully, considering the source.  Al Arabiya quotes Saudi King Abdullah as calling for “‘critical measures’ to be taken on Syria, warning of an impending ‘humanitarian disaster’.”

Uh-huh.  This is the same Saudi monarch who sent tanks and troops into Bahrain and viciously cracked down on and killed and abused countless civilians to quell the uprising there.  But you see, the Bahraini protesters were mostly Shiites, and once the dust settled in Pearl Square, Shiite shrines were systematically bulldozed.  Starting to see the picture folks?

In my book, the Saudi “government” is never sincere about humanitarian issues.  Look at their own track record inside the kingdom; it’s the epitome of intolerance.  The Saudis are one of the creators of the Taliban, and the supporters and exporters of the most intolerant, ultra-orthodox / literalist, violent, misogynist, and militancy-inspiring ideology in the world, that is, Wahhabism.

If you have any doubts about the Saudis’ human rights track record, go to the Human Rights Watch website and read the country report on Saudi Arabia (http://www.hrw.org/middle-eastn-africa/saudi-arabia).  And, here is another example of Saudi intolerance, reported in David Keyes’ article in the Washington Post (Feb. 9):

“Saudi journalist Hamza Kashgari was detained in Malaysia on Wednesday night and is likely to be extradited soon to Saudi Arabia, where he will be tried for blaspheming religion. Kashgari, 23, had fled the kingdom Monday after he received thousands of death threats. His crime? He posted on Twitter a series of mock conversations between himself and the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

‘On your birthday I find you in front of me wherever I go,’ he wrote in one tweet. ‘I love many things about you and hate others, and there are many things about you I don’t understand.’

Another reads: ‘No Saudi women will go to hell, because it’s impossible to go there twice.’

The tweets came to light last week around a celebration of Muhammad’s birthday, and Kashgari’s ordeal began. Hours before he was detained, Kashgari spoke to me by phone from the house in which he was hiding. ‘I was with sitting with my friends and one of them checked Twitter on his mobile phone,’ he said. ‘Suddenly there were thousands of tweets of people calling to kill me because they said I’m against religion.’

… Kashgari noted with sadness that many young Saudis are leaving their country in hopes of escaping the government’s repressive policies. ‘It’s not logical that, if someone disagrees with the Saudi government, that he should be forced to leave the country. Many of those who have been arrested are fighting for simple rights that everyone should have — freedom of thought, expression, speech and religion.’

The young writer surmised that the threats against him were, in part, a result of the tens of millions of dollars the Saudi king allotted to the religious police last spring. Many Saudi dissidents have noted increased repression in the past few months and are terrified of the ascent of Crown Prince Naif, who has served as interior minister for decades.”

Reports are indicating that Saudi King Abdullah has personally demanded Kashgari’s arrest.  If Kashgari is extradited, he faces the possibility of execution for blasphemy.  This is coming from a strong US ally.

All of this does not in any way exonerate the crimes of the Assad regime.  But, we must remain vigilant about scrutinizing sources of information and news, and read between the lines when heads of state in the region so vociferously call for action to help the Syrian civilians.  Clearly, they have their own agendas, and that couldn’t be more the case when it comes to the Saudi king.  Hypocrisy, intolerance, and systematic anti-Shiite agendas constitute the Saudi specter concerning Syria.

NOTE:  Everything I write in this blog constitutes my personal opinions and views.





Danger Ahead: Tipping the Ideological Balance in the Persian Gulf

10 01 2012

Attacking Iran would be an ideological victory for hard-line Salafists / Wahhabis, tipping the regional balance-of-power in favor of the ultra-orthodox.  This is not a minor consequence.  Like it or not, Iran’s Twelver Shiite national ideology is somewhat of a counterbalance to the ultra-orthodox Salafists in the region.

The Egyptian parliamentary election results show that the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom & Justice party gained 193 seats (45.2%), and more worrying are the gains of Al-Nour, the Salafist party, which has 108 seats (25.3%), according to Jadaliyya.  And the Saudis are arming themselves to the teeth.

Now that tensions are rising with Iran, and supposed progress in its nuclear program may trigger further confrontations, what policy-makers are potentially failing to see is that Iran’s demise might translate into the ideological hegemony of hard-line Islamists, namely Saudi-oriented Salafists / Wahhabists, throughout the region.  That is not a good thing for Western national interests, nor is it good for the Middle East region, as it is the antithesis to liberal democracy, and I will even go as far as to say that it potentially will arrest the region’s development prospects.  That is a controversial statement to make, I know, but nonetheless, that is my opinion.  Theocracies by definition restrict people’s rights and freedoms, which in turn arrest comprehensive socioeconomic development; and Saudi Arabia, which exports its hard-line ideology globally, is the epitome of a totalitarian religious-police state.  If the region is tilting in that direction, then that’s very bad news for secularists, liberals, and in my view, women and minority groups.

Western powers need to be very careful about which regional horse they want to back in the showdown against Iran.  There’s no denying that the Iranian regime must be contained, but the danger is a scenario wherein we might inadvertently end up backing and empowering hard-line Salafi-types in the effort to keep Iran in check.  The longer-term ramifications, even ideological ones, must be thought out carefully, or else we’re doomed to repeat history.  Can we say “Afghanistan”?

In a January 9th opinion piece in the Tehran Times, former Iranian Ambassador to Syria, Hossein Sheikholeslam, placed the blame for the current turmoil in Syria squarely on Western powers allegedly backing the opposition Salafists.  He says:

The Arab governments that have dispatched representatives to monitor the situation in Syria actually have terrible records in terms of human rights and political liberty in their own countries. This hypocrisy shows that instigating a civil war in Syria is the real goal of these countries. The recent wave of suicide bombings in Damascus is a clear illustration of this policy, which is directly sponsored by the United States and is being implemented by the Salafis.”

Yes, we must be mindful of the source of that quote.  However, if there’s an element of truth to this, then we risk backing a horse that could potentially emerge as a Frankenstein’s monster down the road, not unlike what happened with the Cold War zeal to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan by supporting the most diehard militants in the Af-Pak region (i.e., the Reagan Doctrine).

And, this quote is in no way cited in support of the Assad or Iranian regimes on my part, so please do not misconstrue my comments.  My posting is only meant to serve as an analytical caveat.

As I remind my students, the Middle East is a 3-D chess game, with a lot of moving parts.  We must tread very carefully.  Expediency can lead to mistakes, some far too costly.

NOTE:  Everything I write in this blog constitutes my personal opinions and views.