By Arshad Alam, New Age Islam
22 May 2017
In the run up to the presidency, Donald Trump, embraced a rhetoric about Muslims which put even his far right friends in Europe to shame. Calling Muslims as enemies, he told the Americans that ‘they hate us’ that ‘they’ want to overrun America and all this because there was some fundamental flaw in their religion. For some time, it looked as if Islam and Muslims became the other of America. This polarizing campaign helped him garner votes from even non republicans who were fed on a daily diet of Islamic takeover of Christian America.
The man who advocated a complete ban on Muslims entering America, today has done a complete u-turn and is now telling Muslims to dispel extremist teachings from within their societies. His speech in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia is ridden with confusion and only tells us about his ignorance of the problem that the world is confronting today in the name of Islamic terrorism.
And the first problem has to do with the choice of the locale itself. Trump is wrong in making the assumption that Saudi Arabia represents the Muslim world. The Shias have always hated the state of Saudi Arabia because of what they have done to the Shias. Its own Shia minority population has been up in arms against the Saudi state for denying them rights as citizens. The Saudi state has been brutal when it has come to addressing even the simple demands from the Shia community. The execution of Shia cleric Nimr al Nimr and a host of other only goes on to show that Saudi Arabia does not tolerate even a hint of dissent. Its support to Sunni insurgency, who sometimes have adopted terrorist methods, in Syria and Yemen, have been well documented. Saudi Arabia perhaps became the only state to invade anther country (Bahrain) to quell the Shia rebellion there. What is most problematic is that Saudi Arabia does not recognise Shias as Muslims at all and therefore is at the forefront of leading a sectarian war against them.
Even within the Sunni world, majority of Muslims do not see the Saudi state as their benefactor. There is critique of regime for being un-democratic in terms of perpetuating a family rule even within some sections of hardliner Jamat e Islami. The fact that Saudi Arabia has bulldozed its own Islamic heritage, which includes turning the graves of first Muslims into hotels and even public toilets, has not been forgotten by Sunni Muslims the world over. Millions of Muslims have signed a petition highlighting this a historical deed of the Saudi state and have urged Saudi state to stop erasing the religious symbols of the Muslim world. And of course, doesn’t the American president know that Saudi funding in large parts was responsible for creating havoc in his own country? How does he account for the fact the majority of hijackers during 9/11 were from Saudi Arabia. To expect the Saudi state to do something about terrorism is like asking the executioner to spare ones’ life. Agreed that terrorism is a complex problem but when the world has also agreed that the Wahhabist interpretation of Islam is fundamentally involved in promoting terrorism, then what is Trump doing in Saudi Arabia?
His exhortation to corner Iran over its alleged links to terrorism is therefore likely to be laughed off. Due to America’s own policy of dismembering Iraq, today Iran is much stronger than at the start of the Iraq war. Moreover, Iran cannot be linked to terrorism simply because it comes out openly in support of the Shia population who are persecuted by Sunni dominated regimes. In fact, Iran has been at the forefront of denouncing terrorist organizations like ISIS. It is important to note that if the US wants a removal of the Iranian regime, then it will be very hard for it do to so. Iran is no Iraq or Saudi Arabia where dictators used to rule with little or no legitimacy. The support for the Iranian establishment is immense as it is the product of a revolution and the US would do better to take this political difference into account when it wants to corner Iran.
But perhaps all this rhetoric of Trump is just a dressing up exercise for selling the largest consignment of arms to Saudi Arabia. The presence of the heads of multinational corporations in Saudi Arabia lends credence to assertion that primarily Trump is on a business tour. The fact that Trump mixed up ‘Islamic terrorism’ with ‘Islamist terrorism’ and was not sure what concept to use when goes on to say that this conceptual incoherence is hardly an issue with the Trump administration. To tell the world that the US is serious about tackling terrorism and yet signing a multi-billion dollar agreement with the Saudis is nothing but sheer hypocrisy.
Arshad Alam is a columnist with www.NewAgeIslam.com
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