I attended a demonstration outside the Saudi Arabian embassy in Dublin earlier this week to protest against the barbaric flogging of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi. His alleged crime was having “insulted Islam” for writing a blog campaigning for liberal reform within the kingdom and for arguing for the separation of Church and State. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1000 lashes, to be administered over 20 weeks. The brutality was such that after the first public beating, medical doctors advised that the next instalment of 50 lashes could not take place when they were due, as the wounds from the first round of savage beatings had not yet healed. I carried a placard with the message “King Abdullah freedom will outlive Saudi Arabian oil – The Stone Age awaits you”. In an ironic twist of fate, the death of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud was announced on Saudi State television on the following morning of Friday January 23rd 2015.
The death of this maniacal despot and fanatical theocrat unleashed a wave of political and western State hypocrisy that had echoed that on display by world leaders at the Je suis Charlie march in Paris following the murder of the French cartoonists at the office of Charlie Hebdo earlier this month. Saudi Arabia sent an ambassador to the protest march of world leaders in France’s capital city as State thugs planned for the public beating of one of their own bloggers that would be overseen by religious fanatics every bit as delusional, callous and psychopathic as the Kouachi brothers who carried out the deranged killings in Paris.
State flags in Ireland, UK, America and elsewhere were placed at half-mast and crocodile tears were shed for an ignorant buffoon and warped minded tyrant who signed off on countless crimes against humanity. King Abdullah’s death should be welcomed as much as Sadam Hussein, Colonel Gadaffi or any other brutal dictator were it not for the fact that his successor is believed to be even more extreme in his religious conservativism, a term when taken in Saudi Arabian context is a byword for supporters of a theocracy so extreme, violent and ignorant that it would not be out of place in 14th century Europe.
The savage barbarity of King Abdullah’s regime is on naked display in this video of mass public beheadings carried out in front of blood thirsty hoards crying chants of Allahu Akbar.
Several western governments have praised King Abdullah as a social reformer despite the fact that public beheadings in the kingdom are on the increase. The organisation Human Rights Watch reported that 19 public beheadings were authorised by this brutal dictator during the period 4th – 20th August 2014. Among the victims were Mohammed bin Bakr al-Alawi who was charged with practicing black magic and sorcery.
Among the most perverse accolades afforded to this imbecilic former State leader was from the head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde. She described King Abdullah as “a strong advocate of women” This comes despite the fact that he starved his own daughters while keeping them under house arrest for advocating for greater equality for women. He divorced one of his wives without her knowledge (which is fully legal in Saudi Arabia) for failing to produce a son. At an estimated worth of $15 billion, King Abdullah had 30 wives. He was violent and abusive to his former wife and denied her access to her daughters.
Sharia law under the Saudi Wahhabi version dictates that a woman’s evidence in court is worth only half that of a man. This makes it near to impossible to prosecute crimes such as rape and sexual violence. This legal difficulty is compounded by the male chaperone law. Unaccompanied women are not allowed out in public. Breaches of this law are often ruthlessly punished by the infamous special branch of religious police known as the committee for the prevention of vice and promotion of virtue. Up until very recently women were rarely afforded the right to work and even women’s clothes shops were staffed by men. It is forbidden for women to try on clothes in shops as the mere thought of a naked woman behind a curtain was deemed too much of a threat to Saudi sexual moral sentiment.
Saudi Arabia and Global Terrorism
Despite the US continually declaring its regard for Saudi Arabia as a partner in the war on terror and despite the Kings occasional rhetoric against and punishment of violent religious clerics who openly promote organisations like Al Qaeda, the refusal of King Abdullah to confront religious conservatives and force modernity on its citizens in the same manner that Ataturk did in Turkey has resulted in the exportation of fanatical ideas around the world through the internet and through Muslims visiting Mecca during the Hajj.
15 of the 19 terrorists that hijacked the planes leading to the September 11th 2001 attacks were Saudi Arabian citizens. The two post 9/11 US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq had very little effect in reducing the incidences of global Islamic terror. Terrorism is about money and the dissemination of poisonous ideas. A former British chief of defence General Jonathan Shaw highlighted the futile nature of military engagement when he declared that Saudi Arabia and Qatar are funding the growth of Islamic extremism around the world. Saudi Arabia is the biggest exporter of malignant Islamism and it has invested literally billions of dollars globally in the radicalisation of Muslims. The fruit of the US invasion of Iraq and the proliferation of Wahhabi propaganda is the birth of ISIS. Sadam Hussein, while being a tyrant, was nonetheless able to crush Islamic extremists. The investment of States like Saudi Arabia in Islamic propaganda is now coming back to haunt them as the head of ISIS, Abu Bakr al Bagdadi has vowed to destroy Saudi Arabia for ironically not being sufficiently Islamic enough to their liking.
Leaked cables from wikileaks showed that in 2009 Hillary Clinton was frustrated at the apparent funding of Sunni militants from Saudi Arabian donors. She declared it was an ongoing challenge to persuade the Saudi administration to tackle terrorist funding as a priority. Terrorist organisations raise millions of dollars annually during the Hajj and Ramadan. Another Islamic terrorist organisation Lashkar –e-Taiba used a Saudi based company as a front to finance its activities. This Pakistani based terrorist organisation was responsible for the 2001 attack on the Indian parliament and a coordinated series of shootings and bombings in Mumbai in 2008.
Western Dependence on Cheap Oil not Prevention of Terrorism is at the Heart of US/Saudi Relations
Successive US presidents have failed to question the Saudi ruler on his commitment to human rights. This is driven by the dependence of the west on cheap oil. Amnesty international have cited several human rights violations from the ban on women driving to crushing all forms of political or religious dissent. Religious persecution of Shia Muslims and other religious minorities is commonplace and a new law that equates Atheism with terrorism shows just how despotic the Saudi regime governed by King Abdullah actually is. While the Obama administration has reduced the country’s dependence on foreign oil up to 50%, imports of Saudi Arabian crude oil have only dropped by 13% since he took office. The US administration is definitely moving in the right direction of becoming less oil dependent but until the country becomes much less dependent on Saudi oil, the US or the west will have little hope of persuading Saudi Arabia to improve their record on human rights.
I have often stated my belief that military intervention is not and never will be an antidote to Islamic or any other form of religious extremism. The hope of a better future for Saudi Arabia and the Middle East will involve less violence and more challenging of malignant ideas and the edicts of despotic leaders. It will only be bought about when Muslims and non-Muslims alike accept that there is a problem within Islam and that the problem will only be resolved through shared values that have absolute regard for free speech, whether it be through debate, humour or satire. It will involve a rush to renewable energy and a move away from dependence on oil from terrorist producing countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE. At the moment the US administration is heavily dependent on oil from all these 3 countries that amount to the largest financiers of Islamist terrorism around the world. The life of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and his legacy to his people and the rest of the world is unfortunately a glaring reminder of the failure of western society to embrace or achieve any of these objectives.
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