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- Written by Zafar Bangash
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Crescent International is a publication of the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought (ICIT), Toronto, Canada.
While claiming to be carrying the banner of ‘Sunni’ Islam, the Saudi regime has visceral hatred for any genuine expression of Islam. We examine why.
What explains the Saudi regime’s visceral hatred of Islamic movements struggling to establish fairness and justice in society based on Islamic principles? The question is especially pertinent in view of the fact that successive Saudi rulers have arrogated to themselves the title of Khadim al-Haramayn (Servant of the Two Holy Cities). By so doing, they claim special status among Muslims. In their innocence, many Muslims have unfortunately fallen for this gimmick.
Israel’s barbaric assault on tiny Gaza launched officially on July 8 (it had started on July 1), however, has exposed more than the ugly faces of Zionism and US imperialism. It has also laid bare the criminal nature of a number of Arabian regimes. Leading this pack of villains are the tribal regime in Saudi Arabia and the military dictatorship in Egypt. Both have made their position clear in word and deed as staunch enemies of Islamic movements globally and therefore, of Islam itself.
In the past, these rulers resorted to rhetorical volleys against Zionist aggression in order to camouflage their impotence and complicity in such crimes. Now even that pretence has been abandoned as both regimes and their putative allies among the tribal sheikhdoms and emirates have openly sided with the Zionists. Israeli officials have publicly admitted that Arabian regimes have told them to “finish the job” in Gaza — meaning, eliminate the Islamic resistance movements Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Such messages have not been communicated secretly: the Saudis and Egyptians are quite open about them. In an interview published in the London-based al-Sharq al-Awsat (July 27), the former Saudi intelligence chief Turki bin Faisal (he owns the paper!) said Hamas was responsible for “the crimes Israel has committed in the Gaza Strip following its bad decisions in the past, and the haughtiness it shows by firing useless rockets at Israel, which contribute nothing to the Palestinian interest. The Hamas rockets pose no threat to the Israeli occupation, even when they reach Tel Aviv.” He offered no solution to the ongoing Zionist occupation of Palestine and onslaught on Gaza but went on to castigate Turkey and Qatar for their mediation efforts because they undermined Egypt’s “leadership role” in the Arabian world.
What precisely is this Egyptian“leadership role”? Under the heels of a military dictator who was awarded the highest Saudi medal, the King ‘Abd al- ‘Aziz Necklace, on August 10, General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has been exerting pressure on Hamas and the Palestinians to accept a cease-fire with Israel without addressing the underlying causes of Palestinian anger: the tight siege of Gaza that is strangling its 1.8 million inhabitants to death. The Sisi dictatorship has not only refused to open the Rafah border crossing with Gaza even for injured Palestinians to seek medical help but also destroyed the tunnels through which the Palestinians get much needed supplies. For his services to the Zionists, the Sisi regime has earned the title of Israel’s “most friendly neighbor.”
Saudi King Abdullah has been no less nasty with the Palestinians. In a message delivered on Saudi television on August 1, he blamed “terrorist groups” bringing a bad name to Islam. Of course he also referred to the “terrorist regime” without once mentioning Israel by name. One wonders what disrepute has Hamas, Islamic Jihad or Hizbullah brought to Islam? One can cite many examples of the Saudi ruling family bringing disrepute to Islam. For instance, it is financing the terrorists in Syria and Iraq that are slitting people’s throats and stoning women to death in public, allegedly for committing adultery without meeting even the minimum requirements before inflicting such punishment. Besides, such punishment cannot be meted out by hoodlums brandishing Kalashnikovs.
There are other examples that prove the Saudi regime’s anti-Islamic practices. There is no freedom for people in the Kingdom when Islam grants such freedom to everyone; women are oppressed and not even allowed to drive cars. There is massive corruption in the Kingdom; the thieving “royals” are rotten to the core and indulge in numerous vices —gambling, adultery, drinking etc. — all prohibited in Islam and for which there is severe punishment.
While the Saudi regime has spent billions financing the terrorist mercenaries in Syria and Iraq that incidentally have not lifted a finger against the Zionist criminals murdering innocent Palestinians in Gaza, the king announced a donation of a mere $30 million to the Palestinian Health Ministry to help the people of Gaza. The ministry is controlled by the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas and dominated by Zionist and imperialist stooges. The people of Gaza are not likely to see a penny of this money once it gets into the grubby hands of the PA opportunists. In any case, $30 million is peanuts for what is needed in Gaza. The Saudi “royals” drop more than this in tips in one night when they visit the brothels of Europe!
The Saudis’ hate-filled language against Hamas is identical to that of the foul-mouthed Zionists. Israeli Knesset’s deputy speaker Moshe Feiglin has called for the “annihilation” of the Palestinians in Gaza. A member of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s neo-Nazi Likud Party, Feiglin wrote on his Facebook page on August 2 to re-occupy the entire Gaza Strip. He also called for expelling all the residents of Gaza and for putting them in concentration camps in the Negev desert before shipping them across the world. To achieve this, he said water and electricity should be shut off to the Palestinians to force them to leave their homes. He called for their “extermination,” the precise word used on his Facebook page.
Even Saudi court ‘ulama have been pressed into service against the Palestinians and their supporters. They are always ready to issue whatever “fatwa” the regime wants. The latest “fatwa” of the Grand Mufti of the Kingdom, Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Aziz Aal al-Shaykh denounced marches in support of the brutalized people of Gaza as “useless” and “demagogic.”The grand mufti who is blind, is the President for Scientific Researches and Fatwas. Denouncing marches in support of the Palestinians in Gaza is necessitated by the Saudi regime’s fear of its own people. If they are allowed to march in support of Gaza, people are bound to raise questions about their own lack of freedoms. After all, there are more than 30,000 political prisoners in the Kingdom.
Does the Saudi Grand Mufti’s fatwa have any basis in the Qur’an or the Sunnah of the noble Messenger of Allah (pbuh)? The noble Qur’an says, “And how could you refuse to struggle in the cause of Allah and of the utterly helpless men and women and children who are crying, “O our Sustainer! Lead us forth [to freedom] out of this land whose people are oppressors and raise for us, out of Your grace, a protector, and raise for us, out of Your grace, one who will bring us support!” (4:75).
Let us also consider an episode from early Islamic history when Muslims in Makkah were persecuted because they were weak. Abu Jahl, a particularly nasty member of the Makkan elite, was torturing two early Muslims — Sumayya and her husband Yasir. While the noble Messenger (pbuh) could not rescue them, he did not abandon them either. Every day the noble Messenger (pbuh) would come out and stand at a distance expressing solidarity with them. He would say to them, “Isbiru ya aal Yasir! Inna maw‘idakum al-jannah: Have patience, O family of Yasir; verily, your reward is Paradise! The two were tortured to death becoming the first martyrs of Islam. If the noble Messenger (pbuh) expressed solidarity with the oppressed Muslims in early Islamic history even when he was unable to save them from torture and death, how can the paid preachers of Saudi Arabia denounce solidarity marches for the oppressed Palestinians in Gaza?
But what do the Saudis propose to do about the unending crisis in Palestine? Why, peace with Israel, of course. Prince Turki bin Faisal lamented in his al-Sharq al-Awsat interview that Hamas’resistance to Zionist crimes was undermining the “Arab Peace Plan” put forward by the Saudi regime as far back as 1982 and different versions of it have circulated ever since. The Saudi author, Mohammed Aal Shaykh wrote a recent piece in the regime’s mouthpiece, al-Arabiya headlined “Peace with Israel is the solution.” The problem with this proposal is that the Zionists are not prepared to make peace with the Palestinians. Even the Americans who underwrite all of Israel’s expenses have realized this but the Saudis seem to be oblivious.
Are they really oblivious of Zionist intentions or are they just plain wicked and against any expression of true Islam? The Saudi regime conspired with the Egyptian military to overthrow the first democratically elected government in the country’s history. The Ikhwan-backed government of President Mohamed Mursi was overthrown in July 2013 and thousands of their supporters were mercilessly gunned down in Rabi‘a al-‘Adawiya Square and al-Nahda Square in the suburbs of Cairo in August 2013.
Immediately after the coup, the Saudi ruler congratulated the military for “saving” Egypt and delivered $5 billion in bakhshish. Another $20 billion followed after it carried out the bloodbath. Compare these vast sums to the puny amount promised for Gaza’s brutalized people where more than 2,000 civilians have been murdered by the Zionist regime and virtually the entire infrastructure of the tiny enclave has been destroyed including houses, schools, hospitals, masjids and even the sole power plant.
We must, therefore, ask: what is the reason for the Saudi regime’s visceral hatred of Islamic movements and any genuine expression of Islam outside the archaic understanding it peddles globally? If its opposition to Islamic Iran and Hizbullah is based on the fact that they are Shi‘i, why does the Saudi regime hate the Ikhwan in Egypt and Hamas in Palestine who are both Sunnis?
Islamic Iran exposed the Saudi regime’s pretensions of being Islamic. After all, anyone claiming to represent Islam or having policy based on Islamic principles must live up to those principles by helping the oppressed Muslims everywhere. Prior to the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the Saudi and Egyptian regimes, and indeed all regimes in the Muslim East, had no problem with the US-Zionist backed regime of the Shah even though he was also Shi‘i. The Shah posed no threat to the Saudis’ “Islamic”pretensions; only Islamic Iran does. Similarly, Hizbullah and by extension, Islamic Iran, exposed the fraudulent claims of the Saudis and other Arabian regimes to helping the Palestinians and standing up to Zionist aggression. All these regimes are now openly calling for peace with (read, surrender to) Israel.
As far as the Ikhwan in Egypt and Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Palestine are concerned, the Saudis see in them rivals to the claim of carrying the mantle of “Sunni” Islam. The Saudis do not want to share this title with any other group unless of course, it is completely subservient to its version of understanding Islam. As far as the Ikhwan are concerned, many of them spent decades in Saudi Arabia and were instrumental in designing course material for their schools and universities and share many common understandings with them but that is not good enough for the Saudis. The Ikhwan pose a “threat” because they offer an alternative model to that of the Saudis, hence the Saudi regime’s tight embrace of the brutes in uniform in Egypt that perpetrated a bloodbath against the Ikhwan, having thrown tens of thousands of others into prison.
The Saudis display no less hatred for Hamas because it refuses to surrender to the Zionists. Hamas has compounded its problem, according to the Saudis, by aligning — horror of horrors — with Islamic Iran and Hizbullah who are both Shi‘i. Some Saudi officials like the Kingdom’s ambassador to Britain, Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf Aal Saud, have tried to put a benign spin on their policy and even claim they are “supporting the Palestinians” but the reality is clearly very different, as David Hearst, editor of Middle East Eye exposed in an article published in Huffington Post on July 28.
Hearst did more; he exposed the Saudis’ close links with the Israelis and scoffed at the ambassador’s claim that the Kingdom’s dealings with Israel are “limited to bring about a plan for peace.” Hears wrote, “You are privy to the cables, Mr. Ambassador. Tell us what passed between Prince Bandar and the Mossad director Tamir Pardo at that hotel in Aqaba in November last year . The Jordanians leaked it to an Israeli newspaper in Eilat. Were Bandar and Pardo: 1. soaking up the winter sun, 2. talking about the Arab Peace Initiative, or 3. plotting how to bomb Iran?
“And why are your new friends the Israelis being so loquacious? Why, to take the latest example, did Dan Gillerman, Israeli ambassador to the UN 2003–08, say at the weekend [July 26-27] that ‘representatives from the Gulf states told us to finish the job in Gaza time and again.’ Finish the job? Killing over 1,000 Palestinians [by July 28; the total death toll has exceeded 2,016 as of August 18 when more bodies are pulled out from underneath the rubble], most of them civilian. Is that what you meant when you said, ‘we will never do anything to harm them’?”
Despite vicious anti-Hamas propaganda in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, especially in Egypt, the masses do not share the regimes’ view of the resistance movement. Outside of official circles and the small coterie of hangers-on, there is widespread support and sympathy for the resistance movement and the Palestinian people in general. In Egypt, the official media — there are no other media outlets allowed to function — has been relentless in attacking Hamas and the Ikhwan. The latter is seen as the regime’s nemesis and el-Sisi has vowed to eliminate the Ikhwan from Egyptian politics. The movement has been banned after being declared a “terrorist”organization; its assets are frozen, as are those of its leaders. Thousands of its members are languishing in prisons undergoing horrible torture for which the Egyptian regime is notorious; hundreds of others have been sentenced to death.
In Saudi Arabia, anti-Hamas propaganda is not so blatant but the regime has made its hatred very clear in statements and actions. Yet the majority of people in Saudi Arabia do not share this view. A poll conducted by Rakeen, the leading pollster in the Kingdom, among a representative sample of 2,000 Saudis found 95% support continuation of the resistance against Zionist aggression despite the regime’s open rejection of it. Similarly, 82% support the firing of rockets into Israel while a mere 14% opposed it (Prince Turki, please note!).
Muslims elsewhere, especially in places like Pakistan where there is a naïve view of the Saudi regime, there is need for a realistic assessment of its policies. A Pew Research poll in 2013 found a massive 97% of Pakistanis have a favorable view of Saudi Arabia even while the desert kingdom’s standing everywhere else took a beating. True, both the Pakistani government, especially Nawaz Sharif, and the military are very tight with the Saudis because Saudi rulers give generous bakhshish, such association is costing the Pakistani society dearly. The extremist ideology sweeping the country is the direct result of Saudi financing of Wahhabi ideology in the country. Unless this is checked, and soon, Pakistan itself may not survive the tsunami of hatred that grips much of the country.
What Muslims everywhere must understand is that the Saudi regime is a staunch enemy of Islam and Muslims. For decades it peddled the fiction that it was concerned about Muslims; its policies vis-à-vis the Palestinians especially in Gaza hava removed the mask from its face. It is time to support the strugglers for human rights in the Kingdom and demand that the corrupt regime relinquish control of the Haramayn. It is distorting the teachings of Islam and preventing the performance of Hajj according to the commands of Allah (swt) in the Qur’an and the Sunnah and Sirah of the noble Messenger (pbuh).
If committed Muslims were to reclaim the Arabian Peninsula, the Ummah would be well on the way to resolving many of its problems and such heart-wrenching tragedies as those witnessed in Gaza would no longer occur with such regularity.