Wednesday, May 18, 2005

On human rights in Saudi Arabia and the corruption of the saudi religious establishment

On Sunday, May 15, three saudi political activists have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms for calling for the establishment of a constitutional monarchy in Saudi Arabia.

For a background on how the whole thing started, you can read the following Washington Post article (which, by the way, I learned about by reading a post on Jawad's blog). According to Human Rights Watch [English, Arabic] "the charges brought against them [the three activists] include incitement to unrest, attempting to disturb the peace, rebelling against the ruler, speaking to foreign media [how can this be a crime?], and incitement against the Wahhabi school of Islam. Using the defendants’ petition and other writings as evidence, the judges found that they had overstepped the bounds of criticism by challenging the king’s authority, according to press reports."

"The three men have consistently refused to sign a pledge to refrain from any further criticism of the government in return for having the charges against them dropped. Initially, 10 other individuals who supported the reform petition had been arrested together with the three defendants in March 2004. The government released these 10 detainees shortly after they agreed to sign a pledge to cease publicly speaking out for reform."

The three defendants also presented a detailed rebuttal of the charges against them in a 150-page document published on the Internet.

It is significant that the chief mufti of Saudi Arabia issued a fatwa condemning the action of these militants, describing it as a "fitna", i.e. a potential source of discord and social unrest. Once more, the Saudi religious establishment shows a deep complicity with the authorities. Instead of being a moral force for progress and human dignity (a role that at least a fraction islamic scholars have more of less tried to uphold during most of islamic history) , Saudi clerics side with an oppressing government and give their full support to absolute autocratic rule. Their motives? The following article, which appeared yesterday in Al-Quds al-Arabi, tries to answer this question:

محاكمة دعاة الاصلاح في السعودية: السلفية السلطانية حاربت البدع الدينية وكرست البدع السياسية

د. مضاوي الرشيد
صدر يوم الاحد 2005/5/15 الحكم علي دعاة الاصلاح الدستوري في السعودية من قبل محكمة مثلت ونطقت باسم السلفية السلطانية التي تبلورت في البلد وتطورت تحت عباءة النظام السعودي. واقل ما يقال في هذا النوع من السلفية انها اشتغلت جاهدة منذ اكثر من قرنين علي محاربة ما اعتبرته من البدع الدينية ولكنها بذلت جهدا اكبر من هذا بكثير في سبيل تكريس بدع سياسية توارثها اهل السنة والجماعة من سلف ماض ترعرع هو ايضا في ظل السلاطين السابقين

To read the full article, click here.

As a side note: not many arab (or even international) newspapers talked about the harsh sentences received par the three Saudi activits, which is (in my view) and indication of the collusion of many journalists and publications with the saudi regime.

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