Friday, September 24, 2010

On the Subject of Saudi Arabia

Yesterday was the national holiday of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, marking the unification of the country in 1932. What does this especially matter to me for? Well, these days, tell someone you are a monarchist and they will ask you about Saudi Arabia. After all, monarchies like Britain, Holland, Sweden or Norway are pretty tame but Saudi Arabia is known all over the world as an absolute monarchy and to many the image of the worst sort of state imaginable. This, of course, is not true. There are a number of monarchies in the world that are absolute, not just Saudi Arabia, and while they may not fit the modern standard of a liberal democracy they are surely not the worst out there. Many refer to Saudi Arabia as a dictatorship. While it is true that one person, the King, is ultimately in charge of everything, I would defy anyone to say the state of the people of Saudi Arabia is anywhere even close to being as horrible as that of North Korea. In spite of their laws, brutal by western standards, they have nowhere near the blood on their hands as our “good friends” the communist Chinese. So, let us try to keep a little bit of perspective on this issue.

I will state up front that there is a great deal I do not like about Saudi Arabia, a great deal I find distasteful and a great deal I disapprove of. My reasons involve not only the actions of the country today, their policies and so on, but going right back to the founding of the current kingdom by the Saud dynasty. However, for all of the terrible things that go on there (again, by western standards and even in my opinion) I sometimes feel there is a tendency to ‘pile on’ Saudi Arabia. Say what you will of the country, they do not pretend to be something they are not. Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy, proudly so, with Islam as the official religion and Islamic law is the law of the land. Even the national motto is the Shahada (“there is no god but Allah and Mohammad is His Prophet”). If you are not Muslim, you are generally neither wanted nor welcome. For this, many westerners condemn Saudi Arabia for being so intolerant but expecting western countries to tolerate them.

In this case, again, I think people are too hard on Saudi Arabia. They are, after all, living as they always have. They did not first demand tolerance from the West, it was the West that offered it. It is not the fault of Saudi Arabia that western nations have largely abandoned their own religion and, in most countries, emphatically stated in law that they have no religion. Western nations could be just as staunchly Christian (they once were) as Saudi Arabia is Muslim and it is not the fault of Saudi Arabia or any other country that they are not. Saudi Arabia is Muslim, officially and legally and they are not welcoming of non-Muslims and do not pretend to be anything else. Yet in the west many countries have no official religion or are not religiously exclusive and so have little room, as I see it, to complain that others do. What concern is it of anyone else what policies Saudi Arabia enacts in its own territory? If you don’t like it, don’t go there. Why do so many obsess over Saudi Arabia but not other equally less “free” or even worse countries around the world?

Where I think Saudi Arabia is to blame is in trying to play both sides of the fence and some of their actions truly baffle me. One is their funding and promotion of schools which teach a very fundamentalist brand of Islam out of which quite a few terrorists have come. What puzzles me about this, aside from any moral issues, is the fact that these people are generally not supporters of the Saudi monarchy. Osama bin Laden himself is an example. Many of those who condemn Saudi Arabia might be surprised to know that Osama bin Laden fully agrees with them. He is, of course, not upset about the lack of equal rights for women or thieves getting their hands cut off. He is upset that Saudi Arabia allows U.S. military bases on its soil, that the Saudi Royal Family is friendly with western powers and lives a rather different lifestyle quite often while abroad than when they are at home.

This, finally, is the most important reason why, despite my opposition to so much that goes on in Saudi Arabia, I remain at least a nominal supporter of the monarchy there. There is no doubt in my mind that if the House of Saud falls it will be a man like Osama bin Laden who replaces them. The change, I am convinced, would be one to make the change from Shah to Ayatollah in Iran seem miniscule in comparison. That is because the enemies of the Saudi monarchy, on the scene, do not oppose it for the same reason that the liberal-minded west does but rather because they do not view them as strict enough. It is also true that the Saudi monarchy has recently, slowly, been moving more toward the moderate direction. The King recently placed certain restrictions on religious leaders and, for the first time, appointed a woman to a government post. If this is the right policy only time will tell but despite outward appearances Saudi Arabia is far from secure. Already most of the oil industry is run by imported foreign workers while the native population to a considerable degree lives off the largesse of the Saudi monarchy. Aside from the radical religious opposition they are going to be in a very tight spot if the “green” movement succeeds in eliminating “our” dependence on oil. If that day ever comes the high standard of living in Saudi Arabia today will be gone and the people will be left with nothing but a giant sandbox and a population of angry, unemployed and religiously motivated young people. Mind your step Saudi Arabia.


  1. Here, we must part ways Mad Monarchist. I can provide no support to Saudi Arabia. They are a dictatorship that masquerades as a monarchy, just as Islam is a totalitarian ideology masquerading as a religion.

    Sharia is as totalitarian a set of laws as one can get, and it has lasted for 1300 years because it works. It is the best friend of those in power, because it sanctions murder so long as certain circumstances can be arranged (for example, accusations of apostasy, blasphemy and so on can be used to literally get away with murder).

    While you are correct in noting the jihadi distaste for the Saud dynasty, arguably, I would prefer them, because at least they would be honest about being our enemy. The Saudis lie and cheat and steal (and again, all of this is sanctioned by Islam. Look up taqqiya for more information), funding schools and mosques and organisations (along with the Muslim Brotherhood) to "sabotage their (our) miserable house" and destroy what remains of Christian culture in Europe. There's a reason people are warning about Europe becoming Eurabia.

    Jordan and Morocco are, to my knowledge, not party to this cultural warfare (at least explicitly). They are also far more liberal in permitting a degree of flexibility that does not exist in Arabia. I can support them as preferable monarchies in the Islamic world. The Saudis... over my dead body. And honestly, I'd trust a Muslim to take me up on that threat.

    As a final note, I again agree that it is the West that is tolerant towards the Saudis (and reciprocity is not necessary). However, remaining tolerant of the intolerant only breeds greater intolerance, and the West will ultimately have to find a line which it won't let itself get pushed past. We'd have an easier time if we knew what we stood for. Sadly, a century of cultural decline has fogged up the glass, and we've no idea what to stand for, and where to stand around it.

  2. Mr. Wells, on this I disagree with you, but only because my understanding of Islam is, I think, more informed. Islam is a Religion, and like Christianity, many different sects and subsects exist within it. What various concepts mean, and what is and is not right, often varies dependant upon the interpretation one uses, resulting in varies different perspectives within Islam, many of which being far more tolerant and gentle than others.

    I think it is wrong to assume all Islam is a totalitarian ideology, and that it exists only to promote dictatorship.

    While It is True that this Is what Islam means to a good part f Arabia, it is not True of all places and you have already mentioned Morocco and Jordan, and one can add to a degree Indonesia and various pats of Chins, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan to show a far more tolerant aspect of Islam. And yes Indonesia has had some troubles too, but not nearly as much as Saudi Arabia, and is far more tolerant than they are.

    All that said, I would have to agree in general with the Mad Monarchist, if the Saudi Monarchy fell, someone far, far worse would take over. That alone is a reason to support it, and its the same reason we supported Saddam Hussein al those years, for we knew that as Brutal as Saddam was, he was the only real force holding Iraq together and giving Iraqi‘s any semblance of Stability, Unity, and peace within their own boarders. Saddam may have murdered his own people, and was certainly a Dictator, but he was better for the average Iraqi than the current crop of Chaos that now dominates, and better than whatever (Likely Shiite) Government that will emerge once American Troops finally withdraw fully from Iraq. For some reason we ignored conventional Wisdom and removed him, and reaped the Consequences everyone who studied the situation to any degree knew would befall Iraq, because we had grown foolish in thinking we could create a Liberal Democratic Western State if we simply removed Saddam Hussein.

    The same would hold if the House of Saud fell. Saudi Arabia would become an Islamic Republic, on the same order of Iran, and a Radical would Seize power, taking Saudi Arabia into a much scarier direction.

    As Pat Buchannan observes, it is not always in our best interest to push for democracy, when the people are easily swayed to vote against Americas Interests. However, I doubt anyone will heed him in this age in which dreamlike ideals trump any consideration of the Facts.

    I will return to post one last thought, and perhaps answer anything else that was said, if that’s OK.

  3. As I promised. I have had Similar experiences with this sort of topic as the Mad Monarchist, that whenever I tell someone I am a Monarchist they will say “Yeah its such a great system, look at Saudi Arabia”, or, “King Henry the 8th was such a great guy to have in Charge”, or “King George the Third really was so much better than letting us have Freedom!” or “Marie Antoinette didn’t even care about her people”. The last two are of course politically and Culturally derived slams working on a false History created to justify Revolutionaries, but accepted reality in the minds of those who are opposed to Monarchy and view those Revolutionaries as Heroes. When I note that Republics have often been horrible, and even in the United States we can find examples of outright Tyranny, they scoff and tell me “But those people didn’t live up to the Ideal of Democracy!” That is, if they acknowledge my point. (I have difficulty convincing many that Lincoln was a Tyrant, for example.)

    So I tell them that the Monarchs they point to often simply failed to live up to the Royal Ideal, and they laugh at me, claiming I just refuse to accept the Truth that Monarchy is a bad form of Government. If I cote good Kings, they will say “Yes some good ones existed, but most were bad” and if pushed to admit they can’t really back this, they will say “Well there have been enough bad ones to show that bad Monarchs can exist, so the system just isn’t safe. We need a Democracy to make sure we have only good Rulers.” This is even when they admit that Democratically elected Leaders haven’t always let us have Freedom.

    They inevitably describe a bad President or Parliamentary body as a Fluke, or as something that just isn’t really Democratic, something that came along and Destroyed Democracy and is not the Fault of Democracy. Meanwhile, every bad King who ever lived is an indictment to the whole of monarchical Theory, proving that Monarchy at the very least offers o protection to our Freedom and Human Rights. As I’ve said of Thomas Paine elsewhere, they compare a Reality of Monarchy to an Ideal of a Republic, or nowadays an Ideal of Democratic Values.

    Naturally, when pitting the worse examples of Monarchy against the best examples of Democracy, Democracy will look better, but that is hardly a fair assessment. Often they don’t even put the best examples of Democracy out there and just cling the Theorised Philosophies and the Ideals it encompasses. Monarchy can’t possibly look like a better alternative to Democracy is you simply contrast the House of Saud and how it functions in Reality to the Envisioned Ideal Republic, which safeguards everyone’s rights and protects everyone’s liberties and in which everyone gets alone and Accepts election results. However, by only looking at the Ideal of Democracy, VS the worst possible example of a Monarchy, or even more justly looking at a Real Republic like the United States and contrast it to the worst example of Monarchy you can find, you are going to come away with the impression that a Republic is far better, however such arguments are dishonest in that they overlook any good example f monarchy, and explain them away when they are given, and try to dismiss any example of a bad Republic, like China, Iran, or even the Soviet Union as “Not really Democratic”.

    The goal is of course to shore up the beliefs in a Republic, and to ensure the Ideology they hold to is indicated so they simply invent excuses for whatever doesn’t fit their theories whilst using exaggeration and examples of whatever proves their Theory as if that’s the totality of the information and they are self evidently correct. But if you only present that which supports your argument and filter out that which would be problematic for it or would counter it, your really just bending things to suit a conclusion you arrived at earlier.

    Bu this is Human Nature and even if we win and Monarchy is restored as the most Common form of Government, the same will happen, only in reverse with the Republicans now on the Defensive.

  4. Saudi Arabia is a monarchy I assure you. Their laws and their method of government have not changed over the centuries -the rest of the world has and that is why they seem out of the ordinary. If they push radicalism in the west it is only because the west is allowing them to. The extent to which they are a monarchy and not just a dictatorship is shown, I think, by the fact that, alongside the Kingdom of Jordan of better reputation, they supported the royalists against the Egyptian-backed republicans in the Yemeni civil war. Additionally, power, influence and government posts are assigned based on birth and not any sort of party loyalty. It may be harsh and acting against its own best interests these days but I assure you it is a monarchy and adamantly so.

  5. taquiyya is mainly used by shia muslims, and not mainly by saudi wahhabis, because the wahhabis consider it blasphemous to deny their god even when under threat of death, however, shia do not becasue they have to hide and assimilate in majority sunni countries

    some of the practices alleged to be sharia and cited as examples of islamic brutality are neither practiced by every single muslims, nor exclusively by muslims.

    Female circumcision is practiced by muslims in egypt, but not in saudi arabia (with only a few exceptions like the northern areas). it is not even discussed in saudi arabia because it is so rare there.

    on the other hand Coptic christians in egypt also do female circumcsion, and they also do honor killings.

    By the way the form of islam practiced in Saudi arabia is relatively recent, a reform movement began int he 18th century, founded by Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab.

    Wahhab did not like the state of islam that saudi arabia was in at that time, he was extremenly puritanical and wanted to "purify" it of perceived influences and deviances that built up since Islam was founded. He then allied with the House of Saud, who helped him propagate his sect all over saudi arabia.

    The wahhabis are disliked by many other muslims all over the world, people who say otherwise point to pictures of international Muslim leaders meeting with the Saudi king, but that can easily be refuted by pointing at pictures of Bush meeting with the King, they are just doing business because the Saudis are in charge there, not because they like them.

    a Saudi King even smashed the graves of Muhammad's family and was going to destroy his tomb because Sufi muslims and shia were worshipping at the graves and he considered it idolatry

    The King of Jordan is directly descended from Muhammad and he would probably not be amused if the Saudi King tried to do that again.

  6. the main reason that Bin laden opposes the Saudi Monarchy, is that because when Bin laden wants to establish the caliphate, the Saudi monarchy would have to go.

    because theoretically all muslims would have to be equal under the caliph, since it says in a hadith that ancestry does not matter, which no doubt bin laden would wave in the face of the royal family, so the monarchy would be abolished under a caliphate.

    Bin laden also does not want a return to the caliphates of the ummayads and abbasids, who were dynastic, he wants a caliphate with non hereditary succession, as in the First Four rightly guided caliphs.

    so he is 100% anti monarchist.

  7. Now I am confused. I don't think either Mr. Wells or myself denied it was a Monarchy.

  8. I was responding to Mr Wells who said, "They are a dictatorship that masquerades as a monarchy, just as Islam is a totalitarian ideology masquerading as a religion."

  9. Well Mad Monarchist, we now get into the definition of a monarchy. Is it simply a hereditary rulership? Well, so is North Korea. So too is Libya. Remember that Saudi Arabia didn't exist as a political entity until 1923 with the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, so saying that their traditions and customs go back centuries is disingeneous. Therefore, I'm disinclined to think of it as a monarchy.

    Zarove, you are wrong in your assertion that you know more of Islam than me. I've read the blog Gates of Vienna for quite some time now, and while Mad Monarchist is right in that we are being undermined because we're letting them do it, very few people are willing to wake up and smell the roses for fear of being called rascist.

    Let me also introduce you to abrogation - verses later in the Quran supercede those earlier. So when a Muslims says "Let there be no compulsion in religion", he is actually lying to you, because later, the Quran demands that apostates be killed. The violent verses come later, and as such, take precedent over the more peaceful, earlier verses (generally held to have been written in Medina while Muhammed was politically weak, whereas the violent versus came out when he was strong in Mecca).

    I have heard of no evidence of Coptic genital mutilation, and a quick glance over Wikipedia states outright that where it is practiced, it has everything to do with customs that pre-date Christianity. And as for honour killings, I refer you to Nonie Darwish's Cruel and Usual Punishment, where one can see how ingrained a Muslim's honour is with the "purity" of his women, something that Christianity does not share (and with it, the practice of honour killing. Besides, the Copts don't need to kill each other. Plenty of Muslims to go rampaging around in their towns).

    On the subject of reform movements (in this case, the Wahhabis and the Muslim Brotherhood), unlike the Bible, where the core message of Christ is one of love and peace, accepting the principle of abrogation means that returning to the core of Islam returns one to a message of war, hate and conquest. Islam has expanded by subversion, sedition and outright war, and once converted, to attempt to leave is to invite death.

    And finally, I've just pulled Cruel and Usual Punishment off my shelf (I should make a note that Nonie Darwish is, in point of fact, an Egyptian-born Muslim apostate who is now Christian), and it says that when a Muslim leader is seen as kaffir (an unbeliever), it is the requirement of Muslims to overthrow said leader. That means assasination, and subversion of Christian monarchies (and even republics) where Muslims live. The entire sixth chapter goes into great detail on how Sharia is a dictator's dream.

    And the reason I noted Morocco and Jordan is because there, they are not completely Sharia compliant. Certainly, there is much I find distasteful about them as Muslims, but they are far superior to their Arabian counterparts.

  10. What is your proof that they are not considering they themselves and virtually the entire rest of the world considers them a monarchy? Is it simply that you consider all absolute monarchies to be tyrannies and not monarchies at all? Because, in that case, there are a number of other kings, sultans and one Pope who would fall off your monarchy list as well. Their political system is based on what sociologists call "traditional authority" which North Korea certainly is not, even if it is effectivelt hereditary. And I am most certainly not being "disingeneous" because a "state" is nowhere near the same thing as traditions and customs. Islamic law, which is the law of the land in Saudi Arabia, the Arab tribal culture and even the tribal warfare which brought the House of Saud to power in the first place has been around and standard operating procedure on the Arabian peninsula for many, many centuries.

    I fail to see how the unification of the current state happening in 1923 has any bearing on why you would not consider them a monarchy. Was not Iraq then a monarchy? Is Jordan not a monarchy? They were all hatched out of the same egg that was World War One. You may regard the Saudi monarchy as illegitimate (I all but said as much myself in the piece above), you may consider their policies atrocious (I said as much in the post), you may dispise their religion (I don't think my own is much of a secret) but along with failing to thus understand why you are so adamant that you are in disagreement with me I have not seen any explanation presented as to why you would consider them to be anything other than the Islamic absolute monarchy that they claim to be and the rest of the world recognizes them as (including your own sovereign by the way).

    Remember that Saudi Arabia didn't exist as a political entity until 1923 with the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, so saying that their traditions and customs go back centuries is disingeneous. Therefore, I'm disinclined to think of it as a monarchy.

  11. MR. Wells, I am a Christian. I have made no secret of this. Thus, I would find Islam to be at least in its principle assertion of Muhammad as a Prophet to be wrong, and must conclude he was a False Prophet, for to conclude he was a real one is to renounce Christianity for Islam.

    By the same token, though, my source for understanding Islam is not an Anti-Islamic Blog or Anti-Islamic books and other Media, I have taken the time to read English Translations of the Koran and have researched the Faith. though my research has not been thorough, I do have an understanding of Islam, and the fact that it is very much like Christianity in that it has many, many different sects who do not all agree on every aspect on how Islam is to be interpreted.

    For instance, not all Muslims use the same collection of Hadith, so while some will have one Hadith in their collection, another won’t. Then there are some Muslims who don’t follow the Hadith at all, thinking that only the Koran is Authoritative over them.

    Conversely, Shariah is not a uniform standard of law agreed to by all Muslims. Sunni Muslim women in Western societies aren’t expected to wear a Veil, and dress for the most part like any other woman in Western Culture, for example, and Sufi Muslims seem to be very much more liberal in how they attend Shariah. Many of the aspects of Shariah law you are referring to are found only in some interpretations of the Koran not shared by all Muslims, and many times they are sourced in the Hadiths used by said group rather than the Koran itself. When you say something like the Monarchy in Jordan is not really following Shariah, your making an assumption based on what you think Shariah is, and this is derived from accounts of what others have told you base din urn on what a small minority of Muslims has done, or how Shariah is interpreted through an existing Islamic Nation-State that has been influenced in a specific school of thought. However, it is a mistake to assume that a Kingdom like Jordan is not following Shariah fully just because it follows a different understanding of what Shariah is than does Saudi Arabia or Iran. In fact, Iran and Saudi Arabia have radically different interpretations of Shariah themselves.

  12. That has been a problem in peoples approach to Islam, in that they are too ready to see all Muslims as following exactly the same Religion, with each agreeing to exactly what that Religion teaches, and following the same basic teachings, when in Truth its only the same basic Religion, and the different schools of thought are often as divergent as Christian Schools of thought. No one would say a Mainline Church like the Episcopal Church USA, Or modern Liberal Anglicans elsewhere, have the same teachings as Traditional Anglicans, or Traditional Anglicans with Anglo-Catholics, and that’s all in the same Family of Churches. Imagine the distinctions between the United Methodists and a Modern Pentecostal Church of the Foursquare Gospel. Imagine the distinction between the Mainstream Modern Lutherans and the more Traditional Lutherans, and between Lutherans in general and Evangelical Christianity. Heck, the differences between Catholics and (at least most) Protestants is sharp enough!

    The same is true of Islam. Not all Muslims are part of the Muslim Brotherhood, not all view Shariah the same way, and there is no consistent definition within Islam as to what Shariah is. It seems you want to treat all of Islam as a singular edifice, a unified monolithic set of teachings to which all Muslims agree and disagree not one wit, or at least not too much, and all follow the same patterns and beliefs. This is simply not the case.

    So I ask you to perhaps reconsider, knowing you likely won’t. Perhaps learn more about Islam form sources mean tot teach Muslims their own Faith, and from secular studies of Islam, and see for yourself that there is more to this than you believe.

    While I certainly disagree with Islam, I do think it best to really understand it before condemning it, and all Muslims, as something they aren’t in the interest of not living in a mistake.

  13. OK, first off, you know I'm Catholic. I'm not about to knock the Pope for having the power he needs to be the independent leader of the Roman Catholic Church. Neither will I remove the Tsars, the Austrian/Holy Roman/Byzantine Emperors, the German and French royals, nor the Chinese or Japanese Emperors, nor any other absolute regimes. That is because we distinguish between absolute and arbitrary power, and so did they.

    My disagreement lies in that Saudi Arabia is totalitarian. I suppose one could place it in a category of one - a tyrannical monarchy (just as tyrannical republics exist). It does often confuse absolute and arbitrary power. Power is constrained solely by the tenets of Sharia and Islam, which are already quite tyrant-friendly and supportive of totalitarianism.

    So I suppose you're right - it is a monarchy. But it isn't one I ever intend to support, because it is one that enforces a totalitarian set of laws in Sharia. I guess it is a matter of degrees. While you might prefer the Saudis to the jihadis, the jihadis would probably galvanise the West into saving itself from being sold to the Muslim world. An evil I would prefer, as I could see a greater good from it.

    [And before you start - I know I probably use Saudi oil myself. But it isn't the oil that has sinned, so I see no reason why I can't use it].

  14. Nonie Darwish is someone who is trying to appeal to a western audience with sensationalized views, and deliberately harshly criticizes Islam in order to get herself more well known

    Sounds like any "christians" who became atheists and started shooting their mouths on how barbaric christianity is?

    Note that in China, muslims have gone out of their way to pull quotes from the quran to support imperial rule in the Han Kitab. Not only is their Emperor not christian, but he is polytheist. One of them even used the Quran to justify the Mandate of Heaven, which is polytheist in every single aspect.

    I never said female circumcision was "Sanctioned" by coptic christianity, i said it is practiced by coptic christians-

    "Many Coptic Christian women in Egypt have been circumcised."

    "There is no doctrine in the Coptic Christian faith that supports or refutes the practice of female circumcision. It is believed that the practice among this religion is primarily based on the cultural belief, that has formed into part of the religious tradition; that women should remain chaste until marriage. Although high officials of the Christian religious establishment have voiced strong opposition to this practice, it is still supported by centuries of tradition and family faith. "

    Another article notes that female circumcision is NOT practiced in Saudi arabia, but it is practiced in egypt by both muslims and coptic christians-

    "Among religious conservatives in Egypt, female circumcision is typically defended on the basis of sayings attributed to the prophet Muhammad. But others contend the practice has no basis in Islam. They is unknown in ultraconservative Islamic countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, occurs widely within Egypt's Coptic Christian minority and may date to the time of the pharaohs, long before the advent of Islam. "

    By the way, I have never, ever head of honor killings in central asia, muslim parts of china, and other places etc.

    But if you actually look up news articles and other recent events, Honor killings have been commited by Palestinian Christian families

    Note that i am not condoing interfaith marriage but having your head crushed because of it is extremely innapropiate and disturbing-

    A BBC report, "Killed for the family's honour" notes that a palestinian christian named Faten had her skull crushed by her father and aunt because she was going to marry Samer, a muslim

  15. OK Zarove, let's just step back to the fundaments of Islam. The Quran is held to be the absolute, direct and totally correct word of God. Mohammed is held as the highest example a Muslim can aspire to. In addition to the Quran, his sayings and biography are generally considered extremely important. Sharia came about as a set of laws after his death though.

    So, now that we've gone back to the fundamentals, let's actually consider what you've said. Comparing Islam with Christianity is disingeneous. Apart from a few fringe groups of a negligible statistical significance, Muslims fall into Sunni, Shiite or Sufi sects. You are correct in asserting that they have different collections of hadiths, and somewhat different interpretations of Sharia (there are four schools of jurisprudence in Sunni Islam, and one in Shiite Islam). However, I get the feeling that you overstate the differences.

    In large part, my condemnation of Saudi Arabia comes from the fact that it has perhaps one of the most puritanical versions of Sharia as its law. Jordan and Morocco follow more liberal schools of jurisprudence. Therefore, it is probably more accurate for me to withdraw my earlier statement about them not following all of Sharia in favour of this clarification.

    Second, the Quran is what it is. There is no changing it. To change it, or to consider it as not the absolute word of God is to apostise, and apostates are killed in every variation of Islam (this occurs right across the Islamic world - Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey... and it's also creeping into the Islamic diaspora in the West).

    Third, you presume too much on similarities of understanding. Christianity accepts that the Bible, containing many, many seperate books written by authors separated by time and (often) space, as "God breathed" (i.e. inspired by God, and guided by Him). The assistant parish priest of my local parish admitted to me that the creation stories of Genesis were myths, not in that they didn't happen, but because they contain truths that transcend historical reality. The Quran, by contrast, is absolute. It must be taken literally. To change it is sacrelige, and frankly, the way Islam is set up means that any reform attempt would be very difficult to keep going (as it would need to throw out Sharia, destroy the principle of abrogation, and so on, all of which would be to the detriment of present power structures).

    Finally, the only questions of Islamic theology remaining refer to the applications of Sharia. They have decided that God is unknowable (The Incoherence of the Philosophers), and have been known to take credit for the work of the dhimmis under their rule (the Islamic Golden Age has been attributed to dhimmis and unobservant Muslims who are generally despised in the Muslim world).

    With regards to the actual people who are Muslims, I am certain that, above all else, they want exactly what I want - peace, security and happiness. And many of them, wouldn't go out of their way to kill me. I'm not dumb enough to create a monolith of Borg-like zombies. They are people, and I understand that.

    But I cannot deny that the news is mostly grim. Studies of Islam and sources on it that are presented to the West by Islamic scholars generally whitewash some of the less sanitised and desirable aspects (such as the murder of apostates and the requirement that one-eighth of alms be directed to jihad). Ergo, while perhaps an anti-Islamic website may not be the most completely unbiased account, it reveals a very dark underbelly which I might otherwise be unaware of. They quote from the Quran, from The Reliance of the Traveller (a basic guide to one school of Sharia). There's more to this than meets the eye.

    Spend some time lurking there Zarove. These people aren't extremist nutters. They're smart. They've been doing this for years. The effects of Islam are on daily display in the news feeds.


  17. I just read the Mad Monarchist because I support monarchy, and am unconcerned, at the moment, with the above debate.

    However, I will go as far to state that ignoring their faults, the Saudis seems just about as monarchist as anyone is ever going to get...

  18. LAW Wells states well my own concern about Islam and the Saudi regime, which promotes the most puritanical and extreme variant of the religion - Wahhabism. For that reason, I cannot strongly support the regime unless its policies change.

  19. I have only been reaffirmed in my opinion that people just have a 'thing' about Saudi Arabia. They are not the only absolute monarchy in the world, not the only "extreme" Islamic law country in the world and yet a post full of criticism in which I state only "nominal support" due to the fact that what would replace it would be worse draws immediate and vociferous statements of disagreement with that position. People just have a 'thing' about it. I even re-read the post just now to make sure I did not post some string of efusive praise that I have no memory of. Nope, I disagreed with their founding, their establishment and their policies with a remark that I nominally support them because I have learned on numerous occasions that things can *always* get worse. My position remains unchanged.

  20. About "extreme" islamic countries, if you are talking about Iran, Iran internally is extreme, but not as extreme as Saudi arabia, it does not make women cover their whole face, only the headscarf, and plus Iran's foreign policy is almost atheistic in comparison to Saudi Arabia's.

    Iran only sponsers two islamist gropus, Hamas and hezbollah which have not even declared sharia law, and have almost nothing islamist about them except the statements they make, Hamas even sent condolences on the death of the palestinian christian leader George Habash.

    Other countries whom iran has made friends with were and are atheistic latin american regimes and others whom the Saudis would never deal with.

    Saudi arabia supports tons of islamist groups, unlike Hamas, these groups have delcared real sharia, and the behead and stone people to death......

  21. Mad Monarchist, the simple thing here is that some of us just can't even offer them the most qualified support that you have. That's the disagreement.

    And as I recall, Hamas and Hezbollah do still declare Sharia (and Iran is quite Sharia compliant, but being Shiite instead of Sunni, follows a different school of jurisprudence). Not only that, but I feel that Iran's foreign policy is basically to make allies with anyone who is against the West, and outside of the Middle East, the West's most vocal critics are in Latin America.

    Iran is a long way from atheistic, and Hamas and Hezbollah are committed to direct jihad. Make no mistake, Iran is just as Islamic as Saudi Arabia. The only thing that differs is that Saudi Arabia pretends to be our friend. Iran does not, which is ironically to its credit.

    And on a final note, this has been a most enlightening discussion, even if it is over a matter of very little substance (i.e. extremely qualified support v no support at all). It's good to have a bit of fun like this.

  22. MR. Wells, my point is one you seem to miss. As much as Western Studies may Whitewash Islam for Political Correctness, oftentimes the more Conservative elements go out of their way to find that Dark Underbelly, and it all too often reminds me of how Atheists will look for explicitly bad things Christianity has been involved in, in order to justify their never-ending hatred of Christianity as a whole. They will even depict things Christianity did that eere right, like the Crusades which were necessary to preserving Christian Civilisation in Europe, as evil knowing full well no one will question them. Even many Christians believe the Christian Church committed a Great sin in going to War with otherwise se peaceful Muslims in their own Land, an will apologise for it. Atheists will also show Hate Verses from the Bible and places where the Bible teaches us to be Violent or Intolerant. Even Jesus said things like “Bring my enemies here and slay them before me”, a Quote used often by Dan Barker of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The context of the Quote is always removed, and few are aware it is form a Parable and not an actual direct thing Jesus said of literal enemies, and the Trick works because people are primed to think of it as a Hate Verse before its even uttered. I see the same in Selective Quotations of the Koran by those Hostile to Islam.

    While I would not deny the problems in the Middle East or how they are Rooted in an Understanding of Islam, I also wont forget that in History not all Muslim Societies were quiet so bad, like the Ottoman Empire, and today’s Islamic World isn’t all bad. Jordan, for example, is pretty open for an Islamic Society, but so is Kazakhstan, a Nation with a Muslim Majority that has never Imposed Shariah Law. Indonesia and Malaysia are also considered far more Open, though in Indonesia a growing persecution of Christians exists, it is no where near as bad as in the Majority of Middle-Eastern Nations.

    And having read the Koran itself, and actually reading what Islamic Scholars writing for Muslims have actually said f it, I conclude that its very easy to create a much more Gentle variety of Islam than we see in Saudi Arabia or Iran.

    Unlike the Bible, but rather similar to the Book of Psalms, or for that matter Proverbs, the Koran is not really a singular work but a collection of Sura’s, or long Poems in which specific topics are discussed. Each Sura was written at different times, and reflect diverse situations. Many are clearly written as symbolic or poetic, whilst others cold be taken as such without much effort, and very little of the Koran seems to be written in a way that only allows one singular interpretation.

    While I do have some problems with the Koran, such as how Muhammad granted himself permission to marry his Sons Wife, or more wives than his followers were permitted, I see it as no more divergent than any other False Prophet of Old who came Along. It is like its Mother Arianism, and like Menancheism, a Heresy developed off the back of Christianity, and lead by a Teacher of Doctrines of his own. Those who follow it today, though, are only guilty of what they themselves do.

  23. Perhaps it would help if you were to briefly list what the Saudi monarchy actually does that merits them your opposition. Of course there are many who oppose them, most in the west who do so oppose them because they are not democratic, have a law based on religion and so on. In other areas they are opposed because they are not religiously "pure" enough and maintain friendly relations with western, non-Muslim powers. I would not immediately think either of these would be your reasons.

  24. Since you asked, Mad Monarchist, my opposition to them comes from them being a bunch of dishonest, lying theives who intend to undermine and destroy the (nominally, at best perhaps) Christian West, and replace its core with Islam. They lie, because they pretend to be our ally, and because we don't understand the way they think, we accept them, even as they prep the knife to land in our backs.

    Basically, they're enemies in a culture war, and one I'm not ever going to support (Jordan and Morocco get off easy because they're not as active; they still are foes, but ones I am not in active conflict with. They're Muslim, and thus allies of the Sauds, but they're not doing as much for jihad, and there may be hope for them yet).

    And Zarove, that's my point exactly. It is in the interests of Islamic scholars to whitewash the unsavoury points of Islam. There was a fatwa issued some time ago from Al Azhar in Egypt that a woman could not be with a man she was not related to unless she breast-fed him. No, seriously, I am not making this up. That's how wierd and embarrassing Islam is.

    And you have yet to counter my point regarding the principle of abrogation. The violent versus generally held to have been written in Mecca cancel out the earlier, more peaceful words Muhammed wrote in Medina.

    And the Quran being held as the exact word of God doesn't lend itself well to metaphorical interpretations (unlike the Bible, what with the various authors and the varied meanings and symbolism). In fact, it encourages a far more literal interpretation than might otherwise be preferred (or perhaps even intended; who is to know?).

    I will admit ignorance on their actual scripture (I've got a copy, but I haven't really applied myself to it). However, the news seems to support me position that Islam as a dangerous beast, to be trifled with carefully lest it consume you. And it is made all the more dangerous for the presence of people like you prepared to apologise and rationalise their actions.

    I just want to reiterate that point - they don't think like we do. Don't make that fatal assumption. Long has it been that the West has viewed all as the same, when nothing could be farther from the truth. It would require a much longer post than what I can afford (and our host might prefer), what with it being after midnight here.

    So let's agree to disagree on the matter. Either that, or we can take this up by email (I am sure it would be a most interesting discussion).

  25. Hamas and Hezbollah do not stone people, they do not behead, and most importantly, altough they "Recommend" and "encourage" the wearing of the veil, they do not force it on women.

    The "jihadi talk" by hamas and hezbollah ia all just for show. In reality, those two troups are arab nationalist groups in disguise as islamist groups in order to attract support.

    and iran does not support a pro islamist foriegn policy, it doesn't encourage islamism in the caucasus region of russia even though its right next door

  26. Now this is a step in the right direction, which is amazing in its timeliness with this discussion:

    "Saudi Arabia to re-educate its clerics against extremism: Imams and preachers will attend lectures that encourage moderation in sermons."

  27. I would stick to the 'war of cultures' if I were you. When it comes to being dishonest there are few to no countries on the world stage that can cast stones in that direction. I don't know where Australia stands with them but the Saudis have allowed the US to establish bases in the country since 1951. They joined the coalition forces against Iraq in the First Gulf War to restore the Emir of Kuwait and after 9-11 broke off relations with the Taliban. They have not *officially* done anything against the west. Alot of funding comes out of the country in Al Qaeda's direction but, truth be told, alot of funding for the IRA came out of the US too. That's a hard thing to control without a radical change in centuries of religious tradition. If we don't understand the way they think, as you say, that is our fault not their own. I tend to think they gave a little bit of warning that "radicalism" for lack of a better word was on the rise in the country. In 2001 the King wrote to President Bush that both countries needed to look to their own individual interests, referencing the fate of the Shah of Iran as a warning of what could happen if he ignored public opinion (which I read as the religious hierarchy).

    I guess, in short, I should say that I do not blame Saudi Arabia for acting in way different than what the rest of the world expects. It's like the coyote who found a scorpion about to be washed away in a flooded creek. The scorpion promised not to sting the coyote if he would carry him across. The coyote agreed and when they got to the other side the scorpion stung him. When the coyote asked why, the scorpion said, 'you knew I was a scorpion, that is just my nature'. Who is at fault there, the coyote or the scorpion?

  28. and actually, Saudi Arabia has on some occasions, shown complete indifference to when muslim brotherhood was destroyed in Syria.

    The Saudi King Fahd was a friend of Rifaat Al assad, Rifaat is an Alawi muslim, and therefore he is considered a heretic and even a kaffir (infidel) by muslim brotherhood and wahhabis, but the Saudi Monarch did not some to care.

    It was Rifaat who performed the 1982 "operation" on Hama, to destroy muslim brotherhood, and rifaat advocated the harshest measures possible, including torture, on brotherhood measures, to preserve Syria's secular constitution.

    After Rifaat did that, he was still welcome in Saudi Arabia, and Rifaat was even allowed to make a pilgramage to Mecca.

    According to wahhabis, Alawis are not muslims and would be banned from going to Mecca. Alawis by tradition do not do the pilgramage, they have only started recently to make themselves look more muslim.

    The King himself, im sure is enjoying all his luxury palaces, jaccuzis, sports cars, and does not give a flying crap about support terrorist groups. The problem is that he can't reach decisions without concensus in the entire royal family and some of the princes are terrorist sympatheizers while others are not.

    For example, Prince Talal ibn Abd al-Aziz founded the Free Princes movement, modeled after Nasser's Free Officers, and Prince Talal wanted to make Saudi Arabia a constitutional monarchy with civil rights, he wants to allow women to drive cars, and to form political parties.

    His relative Prince Turki al-Faisal bin Abdul Aziz, was a terrorist sympathizer and the link to Bin Laden.

    The Saudi royal family has literally thousands of members with different opinions and the King cannot act with concensus from all the male members.

  29. Being muslim does not mean being a Saudi ally.

    according to that logic, if muslims are automatically friends with each other just because they are muslims, then the islamic world should have a 0% murder and crime rate....

    and about Fatwas, sunni islam is not like Catholocism. There is no single head of the religion.

    an Imam can issue as many fatwas as he wants, and muslims can still ignore him and listen to another Imam. For example If one Imam said all muslims should exclusively use animals for transportation, muslims are free to ignore him and continue using cars, and listen to another Imam, or not even listen to any Imam.

    Muslims in bosnia do not listen to fatwas from muslims in China, Muslims in China do not listen to Imams in Indonesia, muslims in India do not listen to Imams and fatwas from Indonesia.

    If all muslims were automatically allies of each other, then India would have been taken over by Pakistan long ago, because India has had two Muslim Presidents, Zakir Hussain and Abdul Kalam. They supported Indian national interests, not Pakistani national interests.

    Muslims serving in the Qing Imperial Chinese army crushed rebel muslim forces. Mr. Wells, according to you, if muslims are indeed all liars and seek to impose their rules on others, China would have been taken over by Islam long ago, because a Muslim bodyguard called the Kansu Braves were guarding the Qing Emperor Guangxu and Empress Dowager Cixi on their flight from Beijing to Xian during the boxer rebellion.

    The Muslim Generals had near exclusive military control of the forces guarding the Qing court because all the other Generals refused to defend the city when the foreign forces attacked. Imagine how easy it would have been for one of the muslim generals to massacre the entire court and declare himself head of state, make concessions to the foreigners, and then take over China.

    This is not what happened, and this was why Muslims were used as crack troops in the Qing army.

  30. I'm aware of all that, and indeed, if we don't understand the Muslims, that's our problem, not theirs. In large part, much of our present predicament arises because of our own denial of our cultural heritage. And thus, we are easy targets, easily fooled and subverted. We indeed are the coyote, playing with a scorpion out of ignorance of its sting.

    To the anonymous apologist for Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran, one cannot deny that these people are terrorists and murderers of the worst kind. Iran, by supporting Hezbollah (which has seen a rise in Islamic fundamentalism in Lebanon which has forced many Maronites to flee), and the stated aim of Hamas to destroy Isreal (for any land taken from the Ummah (the Islamic world) is left in the hands of infidels to the shame of said Ummah), all suggests an exceedingly religious look at things. That they also support the president of Sudan, who is by any measurable sense a war criminal for the actions (and inactions) regarding the Darfur, also indicts them as Islamists (Erdogan declared that no Muslim can commit war crimes... methinks it doesn't quite click with these people that there can be one law for all).

    That they were formed for "nationalist" aims is superfluous (if they were truly nationalist, they'd concentrate their efforts on Jordan, where the King sent in his troops to quell unrest in the refugee camps). That nationalism is closely intertwined with Islamic doctrine of jihad and military expansion.

  31. " In large part, much of our present predicament arises because of our own denial of our cultural heritage."

    YES! Bingo! Nailed it -though I might even go farther than to say a large part and say the largest part if not the whole root our modern crisis lies exactly there.

  32. The President of Sudan, Omar Al Bashir, has been killing muslims in Darfur, not christians or polythiests.

    You are disproving your own claim that muslims are unified and out to get every single "infidel", if a muslim president is genociding muslim people then how could that claim be true?

    By the way, the beef Hezbollah has with maronites is not religious. Hezbollah is the right arm for arab nationalists, which includes Eastern orthodox arab chrisitans.

    The maronite catholics belong to the "phoenician" movement, which rejects lebanons arab heritage. PLus the maronites are allied with israel

    On the other hand, Muslims, and Orthodox christians in lebanon see themselves as arab and hate the maronites for this.

    The orthodox christians in lebanon sympathize with their palestinian orthodox christian brothers, so they do not like israel, unlike the catholic maronites.

    Souha Bechara, an orthodox christian, tried to assasinate a maronite catholic General in lebanon. Greek catholic arabs and orthodox arabs are generally aligned with hezbollah against maronite catholics, because they are arab nationalists vs phoenicianists, Hezbollah is a fake islamist organization, yes, it is terrorist, but not islamist.

    One of the founders of arab nationalism, Michel Aflaq, was an orthodox christian. Another one was a greek catholic arab, i forgot his name.

    Arab nationalism is far from being intertiwned with jihad, since it was founded by christians.

    By the way, i never said i approved of arab nationalism or hezbollah. I think ethnic nationalism of all sorts leads conflict. I just said that they are not as islamist as everyone thinks they are.

    1. Correct, but while Aflaq was Christian, other Baathists were not, like Zaiki al-Arsuzi. Ironic, since the latter was Shia, and Baathist Saddam killed and brutalized Shias.
      Also, it is important to note, Aflaq saw Islam as a political tool, not as a religion. Another great argument in favor of MM's whole point with the blog: politicians degrade and use religious conviction to achieve their goals.

  33. My problem with Saudia Arabia is that they are Wahabists, Wahabism is to Islam what cancer is to the body, killing it from within. Wahabis believe anyone who a) disagrees with them, or b) commits a minor sin, is a heathen. They do not accept Islam. Islam teaches love, brotherhood, and tolerance, where as Wahabis teach hatred. Arabia brutalizes Shias, Ibadis, and Sufi. misrepresent the Islamic community. Sufi, many Shias, Amahdiyya, are all pacifists, but
    thanks to Wahhabi westerners mistake them for terrorists. 99.99% of non-Wahhabi Muslims are perfectly peaceful, but damn Salafists and Wabahis divide the Muslim community, and degrade Sufi saints. Most "terrorists" armies who are not Wahhabi, like Hezbollah, Hamas, Mahdi army, etc, are really political, not religious. The comment above, written by Anonymous, is correct: Muslims have no desire to kill non-Muslims. The Qur'an actually calls for tolerance of all monotheists, no matter what faith. I don't have my copy with me, but if you want I can tell you the passage later.

  34. I would like to ask, what is the difference between an absolute monarchy and a dictatorship besides the ceremonies, hereditary rule (though monarchies may be elective and dictators may be hereditary), and political parties (dictatorships are usually single party states).

    I need an answer to explain the difference to republicans who can't see the difference since both absolute monarchies and dictators are not "hindered by a constitution and democracy."

    1. Well you've listed a few right there. If you're dealing with people who are going to be pedantic there really isn't much of a point, the rule of one person is the rule of one person. But that's like saying there's no difference between Germany, America and even Communist China since they all have elections and are all ruled by someone who was elected (by somebody).

      If one is to be extremely precise a dictator is a distinctly republican phenomenon as it originated in the person granted authoritarian powers by the Roman Republic in a time of crisis, a sort of king for a limited time only. However, if you are to disregard the hereditary nature of the vast majority of monarchies in the whole of human history, and disregard tradition (which is what the 'ceremony' is all about), disregard how the position is obtained, then, no, there's no difference between a dictator and an absolute monarch just as, by that same standard, there's no difference between the Pope, the Ayatollah and the Dalai Lama. However, I don't think it would require much intelligence to see that so artificially narrow a view such as would produce that result is absurd.


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