SHAFAQNA – “How can I come to an understanding with someone, or a regime, that has an anchoring belief built on an extremist ideology? What are the interests between us? How can I come to an understanding with this?” – Mohammed bin Salman, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia
An interesting statement on the part of dignitary whose regime has been systematic in its targeting of religious minorities on the basis of religious supremacy. How insufferably hypocritical and malicious to deflect one’s depravity onto those communities one earmarked for genocide.
Yes genocide … it is time we learn to use the word so that difficult truths could be made to surface.
The grand architect of all things sectarian Saudi Arabia has pursued a vicious campaign of defamation and persecution against Shia Islam stretching back several centuries. Ever since Wahhabism rose its perversion from the desert sand of Nejd (Hijaz) at the turn of the 18th century, religious minorities have lived under the blade of brutal tyranny.
An old demon, a grand intolerance to outshine all others, Wahhabism and its sisters in exclusion: Deobandism, Takfirism, Salafism, have all banded together to create Terror’s complex. How many times will we need to hear those calls for religious cleansing before admitting that the very nature of Saudi Arabia’s regime is in fact genocidal?
Maybe we should learn to be less selective in our outrage and calls for justice … maybe we should act on principle and not out of ethnocentric political motivations? Maybe then, we would see that the very enemy we claim to fight, we have fostered and shielded.
Was it not Adel Al Kalbani, the leader of the congregation at the Grand Mosque (Masjid-ul-Haraam) in Mecca in 2009, who, in an interview with the BBC boasted that all Shia Muslims were apostate, unbelievers, and as such should be hunted down and killed?
Was it not Saad Al Durihim, a Saudi cleric, in April 2013, who posted a series of comments on Twitter in which he advocated that militias in Iraq demonstrate a more “heavy handed” approach when dealing with Shia Muslims and kill any Shias they might encounter – women, men and children in order to instil fear in their hearts?
In between the calls for mass genocide, the rampaging, looting, raiding, warring and grand apocalyptic declarations, Wahhabism has already positioned itself a devolution of dizzying magnitude …. Daesh, al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, al-Nusra, the Taliban, AQAP … how many more acronyms before we learn to look at Riyadh as the very seat of religious annihilation?
Wahhabism breathes religious cleansing. Its very existence, the basis of its tenets and the nefarious wind in its sails are furious blades against all those who dare speak another faith, and pray a different fashion.
One has only to look upon the ruins of Najran in the Hijaz (now known as Saudi Arabia) where Arabia’s thriving Christian communities once stood, or Yemen’s disappeared Jewish heritage, or Iraq’s Yezidis’ massacre to appreciate the sheer insanity of the Wahhabi doctrine. And still, many capitals insist on calling the kingdom a friend, a tactical partner, an ally even in the fight against terror.
How much must we all lose to finally see the hate Saudi Arabia has projected onto the global narrative? More importantly what will it take for us to dare face to our own complacency?
Terror we must admit was allowed a space it should have long been denied. Terror I would argue, whether anchored in religiosity, politics or ethnicity can only exist out of our inability to denounce tyranny.
Tyranny … I have written that word more times than I care to count and yet it appears my arguments were never compelling enough to provoke more than a murmur of outrage against those we should drown in our anger.
Forget political discourses and those rhetorics that ambition to conflate faith and nationality to better exploit western capitals’ misgivings towards Iran, to really grasp at the many grave and great horrors Shia Muslims have had to endure by Saudi Arabia’s hands.
For all of Saudi Arabia’s claims, Iran neither speaks nor represents Shia Islam. Whatever alignment Riyadh has projected through its many echo-chambers is no more than the expression of theo-political bigotry and one imperious desire to demonise a faith to better justify its victimization.
What of the persecution of a cleric? How can anyone stand by the victimisation of a man of God, a man whose lineage speaks of Islam traditions and not recognise the hands of fascism?
Back in 2007, as he prayed before the Kaaba in Mecca – one of Islam’s holiest of sites back, with several other Shia pilgrims, Seyed Jawad Qazwini was savagely attacked by Saudi police.
How is that relevant today? Why should anyone care of the mistreatment of a few men when so much blood has flowed since?
Beyond the status and religious authority Seyed Qazwini represents lies the reality of Saudi Arabia’s ideology – that which allows persecution on account of a man’s faith. Beyond the act of torture and death threats it is the declaration of intent Saudi Arabia made against all religious minorities we must see.
It is not just Shia Islam Riyadh targeted when its henchmen aimed their wrath at one of Iraq’s most prestigious clerics but freedom of religion. The kingdom merely counted on mainstream media prejudices to fly unchallenged in the face of human decency.
So yes to answer my own question I will say that that this incident is relevant. I would go as far as say that this particular incident epitomises Saudi Arabia’s hatred for all that or whom it deems unworthy.
One may argue that in the case of Seyed Qazwini justice came by way of release after the US embassy intervened. But what of those innocent men and women whose nationality cannot guarantee salvation from barbarism? What of those voices we will never hear because they were snuffed out by a system that strives on religious bias and ignorance?
It is only when acts of Terror will be challenged and heard that we stand a chance at defeating its ideology … it begins with the acknowledgement that Freedom is not tethered to a flag or a particular faith, but rather all that call for it.
NOTE TO READERS – The Baqee Organisation in the United States of America intends over the coming months to gather testimonies from Muslims across the world, who, because they hail from a school of thoughts different than that of Saudi Arabia: Wahhabism/Salafism, were persecuted, abused, and otherwise brutalised.
The incident report that can be found here: http://baqee.org/irform/ will help tremendously towards both asserting and proving the suffering hardship pilgrims have been put through by the hands of the Saudi regime, out of a misplaced need to exert theological control over the Islamic world.
Ever since the Hijaz was rebranded Saudi Arabia, ever since Wahhabism/Salafism has sat over Islam’s holy sites, religious minorities have been denied the rights to their traditions and their history.
To reclaim what was lost and push against those who seek to divide and exclude on account of sectarianism the Baqee Organisation intends to take its fight to the United Nations and demand of all member-states to examine all testimonies.
Success …. and one may argue, Justice, lies within the hands of all victims.
By Catherine Shakdam – Director of Shafaqna Institute of Middle Eastern Studies
This article was published first in the Huffington Post