By Faraz Talat
Jun 9, 2017
All (Muslims) Are Equal – But Some Are More Equal Than Others
Yemen is a Muslim country. Yemen is under attack by ostensibly the most Muslim of Muslim countries. 81 unlawful assaults have been carried out on civilian centres in Yemen as part of a devastating aerial campaign, enabled by a $3 billion arms agreement by the United Kingdom and a $100 billion agreement by the United States.
Iran is also a Muslim country. According to WikiLeaks, King Abdullah repeatedly urged its ally, the United States, to invade Iran. In 2008 meeting between General Petraeus and top Saudi officials, the Saudi King exhorted the US commander to “cut off the head of the snake”. Saudi Arabia has adamantly sided with Western powers against the Islamic Republic of Iran, so WikiLeaks’ revelation did nothing but confirm our long-held suspicions.
Palestine is a Muslim territory, and one with which the Muslim world overwhelming sympathises. The oppression of the Palestinian people has been compared to the South African apartheid by most left-wing commentators around the world; though Noam Chomsky claims that the comparison is unfair…to Palestine, as appears to be doing a lot worse than Bantustan. Palestine is the reason Pakistan has consistently refused to recognise the state of Israel, and has usually served as the lightning rod for global Muslim unity against Israel and its formidable allies.
Regrettably, even Palestinians have failed to gain the sympathy of the Guardians of Haram Sharif. Saudi Foreign Minister – Adel Al-Jubeir – recently confronted Qatar and demanded it to terminate its support for the Palestinian resistance. It also demanded Qatar to end its support to the Muslim Brotherhood that is opposing the military coup in Egypt carried out by General el-Sisi – famously photographed next to Trump and the Saudi King, leaning maniacally over a glowing globe like super-villains in a Marvel comic. Interestingly, Egypt is also a Muslim country.
Also a Muslim country, is Syria. While Europe has been repeatedly criticised for letting its xenophobia and Islamophobia get in the way of its humanitarian service towards Syrian refugees, little has been said about the telling inaction of Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries. Saudi Arabia has responded to what little criticism it has received over the matter, by claiming that is has issued residency permits to 100,000 Syrian refugees. Even if these claims are true (its human rights record begs our suspicion), that is still only a third of the refugee load Germany has assumed.
Germany’s efforts in the European Union to maximise the number of Syrian refugees accepted by various members of the continent, have been admirable. One might joke about Germany being a more worthy ally to the Muslim world than Saudi Arabia, but I do not find that proposition absurd.
Recently, Saudi Arabia – along with UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt – have severed diplomatic ties with Qatar, which one may have correctly guessed, is a Muslim country too. Naturally, Saudi Arabia’s decision was lauded by Israel. Even a person least likely to believe in conspiracy theories, may experience a pang of suspicion after this spontaneous, push-button diplomatic crisis. The reasons for this hostility are still strangely nebulous and unconvincing; almost as if the breakup was planned for the sake of it, and reasons are being improvised to justify this clash.
One of the reasons put forth by Saudi Arabia, was Qatar’s involvement in global terrorist activities; whose irony even the least politically enlightened among us may be able to relish. A December 2009 memo by Hilary Clinton, confirmed Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest sponsor of terrorism; adding that the Saudi government is reluctant to stem this flow of money to organisations like the Afghan Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba. A 2014 email by Hilary Clinton published by WikiLeaks, repeated the same warning.
An apologist may argue that these violations – as well as many internal violations like arresting, brutally punishing, and executing minority activists, political dissidents, transgender people, and “witches” – may be ignored in the light of Saudi Arabia’s great service to the Muslim world as the guardians of Haram Sharif. But in order to do so, one must be able to ignore decades of poorly organised pilgrimages that have led to countless deaths and unspeakable suffering. After the Mina stampede of 2015 which resulted in the deaths of over 2400 Muslims, the Saudi authorities not only refused to acknowledge the full death toll, but even went as far as to blame the pilgrims themselves for being unruly.
Saudi Arabia, till now, has been a guilt-free beneficiary of the capitalist world order that has been the bane of much of the non-Arab Muslim world. What has Saudi Arabia done for the Muslim world, besides inheriting the most sacred sites known to Muslims around the world? What has the House of Saud done to deserve its centrality in the Islamic bloc, other than this accidental dominion? What has Saudi Arabia done to deserve its great politico economic stature, other than their serendipitous existence over a vast field of liquefied dinosaur remains, which funds the Saudi royals’ profligate lifestyles?
In the last 20 years, Saudi Arabia has been unable to offer the Muslim world anything more than occasional charity, which pale in comparison to what it receives from the Muslim world in the form of hajj income; and the political influence it enjoys due to its status as ‘Khadim-e-Harmain Sharifain’.
The Saudi establishment has been the recipient of enormous respect from the Muslim world, precisely because most of us are unable to differentiate the sanctity of our holy sites, from the fallible human monarchs who just happen to rule the territory within which they’re located. But anyone who pays even the slightest attention to Saudi Arabia’s political history, knows that whenever prompted to choose between Western imperialists and Muslim allies, the Saudis have always chosen the former. One must time travel back to 1973 to witness Saudi Arabia’s last significant act of defiance against the West.
Why does Saudi Arabia mean so much to us, when we mean so little to them? What would it take for Saudi Arabia to reciprocate the support and respect we’ve been granting it unconditionally, for many generations?
How long would it take for the Muslim world to address the elephant in the room, and acknowledge this great betrayal?