SHAFAQNA – “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.” ― Winston S. Churchill
Those are chilling words indeed if we consider that such has been Saudi Arabia’s theocracy’s intent upon the Islamic World, and by extension the world at large. From the moment Al-Saud was raised a giant onto the Hijaz at the turn of the 18th century, so that it could affirm itself holiest and most legitimate upon the teachings of two heretic scholars: Ibn Taymiyah and Muhammad ibn Abdul-Wahhab, Islam has been wielded as a weapon of war – its tenets betrayed, its verses defiled and decontextualized to rationalise bloodshed.
Powered by the wealth of Al-Saud and the religious might of Al-Saud’s bought-out clergy, those schools of thoughts that existed on the fringe: Wahhabism, Salafism, and Deobandism devolved into the expression of a hate that since, has decimated communities, destroyed pluralism, and most of all claimed our collective religious heritage.
We cannot hope today to speak of counter-terrorism if we cannot admit to the one genocide that has eluded us – that of our History, that of our right to recall our forefathers’ beliefs and traditions, so that we would remember who we are and how we came to be.
I once wrote:“We are all products of our History, and without those markers, without the pluralism of our collective past experiences we would have no civilization to speak of, no culture to claim, and no spirituality to experience. History is more than the recollection of past events. History is the very fabric of our memory, a canvas upon which communities have been weaved so that they could affirm themselves.” I stand by those words !
If we cannot see what irreparable damages are being perpetrated against the World Religious Heritage then truly we have failed to understand the nature of this hate, which legions have slayed, hacked and exploded at our treasures.
The Islamic Heritage Research Foundation in London estimates that over 98% of Saudi Arabia’s historical and religious sites have been destroyed since 1985.
“It’s as if they wanted to wipe out history,” said Ali Al-Ahmed, of the Institute for Gulf Affairs in Washington, DC in comment to the Shafaqna Institute of Middle Eastern Studies. It has been estimated so far that in Saudi Arabia alone, the birthplace of Islam, Over 7000 Islamic sites have been destroyed to assuage Wahhabis’ own sense of self-righteous bigotry. But not only that, Christianity and Judaism only to name those two faiths, were driven out of the country altogether, a betrayal so few have attested to. It may well be that the world cannot remember a time when Saudi Arabia was not exclusively Islamic … and yet it was. The Hijaz was once multicultural and pluralist. Religious communities moved alongside one another and with each other on the basis that they all shared in the same rights and obligations to recognise each other’s humanity in their respective differences. And while disputes did in fact at times erupt, no one faith imagined itself so grand as to disappear the other.
Al Saud’s theocratic model made sure that such memory was forever erased … where have the churches, temples and synagogues gone to? What of the rich religious past of a region that saw walk upon its sands and its roads several prophets? Such history was claimed to intolerance and religious exclusionism.
Our silence has been those treasures’ tombstones.
It is this silence of ours that claimed the shrines of Prophet Jonah in Nineveh, Prophet Daniel, Prophet Idris and Prophet Seth in Mosul, Iraq by those acronyms we came to fear: Al-Qaeda, ISIS, al Nusra ….
But one organization has rallied to denounce such genocide, so that one community could be set free from religious oppression.
Every year the Baqee Organization has held a demonstration before the White House and the Saudi Embassy in Washington DC, demanding that one of Islam’s holiest of grounds be restored to its former glory: al-Baqee cemetery.
“Our duty is not only to the reconstruction of the Baqee Cemetery, in that its ground is holiest of all to Islam, but the preservation as a whole of all our religious historical heritage. The right to religious freedom does not stop at the practice of one’s faith, but all that made a faith: its history, its culture, its traditions, its monuments, its art. Losing our past to sledgehammers and exclusionism would be tragedy too far! We will not stand for it.” – The Baqee Organization
The last resting place of some of Islam’s most brilliant and respected personalities, al-Baqee cemetery was reduced to rubbles by al-Saud’s clergy on account it spoke of a legitimacy al-Saud coveted for themselves. For al-Saud to sit atop the Islamic World the house of the Prophet Muhammad had to be denied. Beyond such a religious exercise lies a imperious political will – whoever can claim power over Islam would control over a billion souls to their flag. That of course has been Saudi Arabia’s ruling elite ambition all along.
And so one must ask: why sit by a power and an ideology which is anchored in destruction and negation? Why tolerate the intolerable and allow for our past to be raided, never to be seen again?
Sameera Khan’s words I believe best describe America’s cognitive dissonance vis a vis Saudi Arabia and its natural repugnance towards Terror. “It is necessary to ask this administration why Saudi Arabia, a terrorist state, isn’t included in the “Muslim Ban,” especially when they’ve been funding and arming terror groups all over the world — and when its state ideology has been named as the global source of terror? And… we should also ask why Trump has held Islam as a whole responsible for terror attacks — when these very terror groups were non-existent prior to the proliferation of Wahhabism?”
And: “Our overt support for Saudi Arabia and their state ideology has resulted in terror attacks on our own soil, but we refuse to cut ties with them. We are the master of our own destruction.”
There is a point in time … and surely such time has come, we must realise Terror seeks to erase our individualities to drown us in the collective and rule over a monotone Society.
By Catherine Shakdam – Director Shafaqna Institute of Middle Eastern Studies