One crown to bind them, one prince to save them all … or so he says

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SHAFAQNA – Saudi Arabia’s future king: Prince Mohammed bin Salman, promised that he would return the kingdom back to the warm embrace of “moderate” Islam, forever relegating the violence of Wahhabism to the pages of History, and with one swing of his sword usher a new era of tolerance where before only fanaticism reigned …

We are returning to what we were before – a country of moderate Islam that is open to all religions and to the world,” he said at an economic forum in Riyadh, as quoted by AFP. “We will not spend the next 30 years of our lives dealing with destructive ideas. We will destroy them today,” he added. “We will end extremism very soon.”

If only he could … If only Saudi Arabia had not in fact rose its system of governance on the religious aberration that is Wahhabism – that school of thought which consecrated the principle of Takfir an expression of religion righteousness.

Takfir is the process by which a Muslim declares another an infidel, thus proclaiming his or her right to forfeit the identified infidel’s life. Under Wahhabism strict theology all  non-Wahhabis are considered apostate worthy of death. Saudi Arabia’s love affair with public beheadings, flogging, stoning and crucifixion attest to such gruesome penchant.

An absolute theocracy dependent on its ability to claim religious prominence, and to an extent legitimacy through its clergy, the House of Saud’s life expectancy is intimately tied to the Wahhabist establishment – the reverse applies.

More to the point Saudi Arabia, as formulated under the watchful eye of al-Saud kings was never moderate, nevermind normative. For one to return to a state of ‘tolerance’ towards other faiths, one would need to have experienced it. I’m not entirely sure the kingdom understands what religious pluralism entails if we consider that any criticism levelled against the king for example constitutes an act of apostasy.

Raif Badawi stands a cautionary tale to Saudi Arabia’s propensity to leniency.

Prince Muhammad’s posturing might have echoed more sincerely if only his security apparatus was not hell-bent on brutalising Shia Muslims up and down the country on account their faith offends Riyadh’s religious sensitivities.

Maybe we could fathom the possibility of a change if in fact the kingdom had not systematically taken  an axe to the world religious heritage and thus overseen the destruction of countless irreplaceable religious artifacts and sites.

Over 7000 Islamic sites have been destroyed to Wahhabism. The Islamic Heritage Research Foundation in London estimates that over 98% of Saudi Arabia’s historical and religious sites have been destroyed since 1985.

In recent years , Wahhabi-inspired terrorists have carried such acts of barbarism further out, striking outside Saudi Arabia’s borders: the shrines of Prophet Jonah in Nineveh, Prophet Daniel, Prophet Idris and Prophet Seth in Mosul.  

“We will not spend the next 30 years of our lives dealing with destructive ideas. We will destroy them today,” said Prince Muhammad.

But what if by ‘them’, those infamous ‘destructive ideas’ the future king actually meant not Wahhabism but something different entirely?

What if his promise of a do-over was in fact an assertion of more violence to come – only against an enemy the world could stomach to sacrifice?

Earlier this year, the crown prince accused Tehran of promoting an “extremist ideology” and having ambitions to “control the Islamic world.” Asked if there is any room for dialogue with Iran, the 31-year-old prince replied: “How can I come to an understanding with someone, or a regime, that has an anchoring belief built on an extremist ideology?”

I believe here an emoji will better express my bewilderment:

Allow me to translate for you which extremism Prince Salman is referring to here. Our Saudi prince is pointing his majestic finger at Shia Islam – the apostasy Wahhabism would like to disappear in blood and fire for all eternity.

So much for moderation then!

Saudi Arabia’s propensity to project hatred on both Iran and Shia Islam is hardly a state secret.

Toby Craig Jones pertinently remarked for the New York Post: “Over the past decade, Saudi rulers have turned to Iran and Shiites every time they needed an easy scapegoat. Anti-Iranian and anti-Shiite sentiments have long existed among religious extremists in the kingdom, but today they are at the heart of Saudi Arabia’s national identity.”

And so one must ask: what does religious pluralism looks like in Prince Salman’s mind, and more to the point should we run for the hills?

By Catherine Shakdam – This article was published first in the Huffington Post

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