Abdulaziz Saud

Saudi family destroying the Islamic Image

Members of the al-Saud family have run up a $100 billion debt by stealing oil profits and squandering them on sleazy business ventures designed to make a few royals extremely wealthy but which leave nothing for the average Saudi. The country has more tanks and warplanes than it has crews to fill them, and yet al-Saud princes are signing new weapons contracts on a regular basis, bringing un-needed high tech weaponry to a region where peace is fragile and also throwing the country deeper into debt so they can pocket the hugely exaggerated middle-man fees for themselves. The al-Sudeiri and the other al-Saud who serve them seem to see the people and resources of the country - both the oil in the east and the holy cities in the west - as their own private property to use and abuse as they please.

Unemployment is high in modern Saudi Arabia, which does not have the kind of vocational and technical schools needed within the kingdom to produce the engineers, technicians, programmers, network managers, urban planners and other professionals needed to replace the expatriates who currently run the country's infrastructure. The country has created programs to send young Saudis to these kinds of schools in the West but the demand for these skills are so great outside the kingdom that there is often little incentive for graduates to come home and work. In addition, anticipated future financial security prompted many Saudis to have many children in the 1980's, and as a result over 50% of it's total current indigenous population is under the age of 15, and has no prospects for any kind of job or livelihood in the future.

Believe it or not, the wealthy Gulf oil state of Saudi Arabia is essentially bankrupt and the government is borrowing from other countries to meet current expenditures. Much of even this money ends up pocketed by al-Saud princes in the form of skimmed profits off of the previously mentioned un-needed military hardware the al-Saud are stockpiling. Making sure that Saudi Arabia is armed to the teeth whether they have the competent manpower to maintain and secure the huge numbers of tanks, missiles, helicopters and assault aircraft they now possess or not. All so a few fat worthless royals, who serve no effective functional purpose to their country, can profit from it's decay and maintain an opulent and un-Islamic lifestyle for themselves at the expense of their own people.

Human Rights?

About a year ago the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the UN made a moving speech about how it is the duty of all civilized countries to work together to end human rights abuses around the world. He said that human rights violations were perhaps the most pressing issue the industrialized world had to face in the twilight of the 20th century. He should know. Human rights as we think of them in the west are virtually non-existent within the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the country is prominently featured in all human rights reports about the region.

Torture of prisoners in Saudi jails is frequent, with methods ranging from electric shocks to brutal floggings. Even many legal judicial sentences are major human rights violations. An Egyptian man working in the kingdom was sentenced to 4000 lashes when we was caught and convicted of breaking and entering into a private residence. This is compounded by the fact that within the Saudi legal system there is no right to a defense attorney, and the severity of sentences is completely up to the judge trying the case. In addition, defendants do not have the right to a speedy trial, and often must sit in prison for months or even years before their case comes before a judge.

And justice for few:

When someone mentions the low crime rate in Saudi Arabia, most people - Saudi or American - will assert that it is because of the swift and brutal punishments (public beheadings, judicial amputations, etc.) meted out to criminals that this is so. I find this generalization to be somewhat ignorant, and I have several specific reasons why I feel this way.

I genuinely feel that, for the most part, the reason crime rates are lower in Islamic cultures is because of the people's faith in Islam itself. Islam is a very pure religion, and the Quoran is a literal text - an exact guide on how a Muslim should live with the world and his fellow man. In cultures like Saudi Arabia, people are simply a lot more likely to believe that when they commit a crime, they do so in front of God, and it is His law they have broken and He they will have to answer to.

While it is all good and well to talk about swift and brutal justice being appropriate for many types of criminals, this generalization makes an assumption that there is a fair legal system in Saudi Arabia, and that the guilty are in fact guilty of the crime for which they are being sentenced. All too often, however, death sentences are handed down to people for drug smuggling (a capital offense in the kingdom) whose only real crime is opposing the al-Saud regime, even if only by expressing their discontent vocally to other Saudis.

Fatima would not be amused Women have fewer rights in Saudi Arabia than in virtually any other state in the Islamic world - including Iran and Iraq, where women hold seats on parliament and serve as officers in the military. They are banned from driving, and must be accompanied by a male family member to go anywhere, even to do simple shopping for the family household. Female "citizens" of the kingdom are essentially seen as breeding stock - expected to be silent, chaste and blindly subservient to the male members of their families, and they routinely tolerate abuses from every facet of Saudi male-dominated society - most especially by the world-infamous Saudi Arabian religious police, the al-Mutawa. These cane-wielding thugs inhabit all parts of the kingdom and make life a living nightmare for women and foreigners. Even veiled women draped head-to-toe in abyaa and in perfect accordance with the strict Islamic dress codes enforced within the kingdom can find themselves targets for their harassment if they are not at all times humble and meek. Stories of the physical and verbal abuse handed out by the al-Mutawa to innocent Saudi women are legendary the world over.

Perhaps the most degrading aspect of a woman's position in Saudi society is that from a legal standpoint she is seen effectively as the property of the men in her family. This becomes evident when a woman somehow transgresses the law (which isn't very hard for a woman to do in Saudi Arabia), as it is the male members of her family who are usually punished for minor first and second offenses. While this might sound like some kind of return justice, it is not, because the men are then free to punish the women in any way they choose within the privacy of the family home. This punishment can be as extreme as the men decide, and can legally include severe beatings and even death. Many Saudi women have paid with their lives for simply doing something that her father thought dishonored him or the other men in the family. A woman cannot even flee from such abuse, because in Saudi Arabia a woman is someone's wife, daughter, or sister and she must have written permission by a man in her family to leave the country. The kingdom of Saudi Arabia is not responsible for starting this ultra-conservative view of woman - it has long existed in many Islamic and other conservative patriarchal cultures - but no other single force is trying to carry this outdated concept into the 21st century more arrogantly than the al-Saud and specifically the al-Sudeiri Seven under King Fahd (a polygamist to the extreme, who has married over 100 different women in his life). They are responsible for trying to sell to the world this idea that property is all a woman is supposed to be in a truly Islamic society, and in doing so they have insulted a great religion and furthered the abuse of many innocent people the world over.

As much as the al-Saud and the vast media empire they control would like the world to believe that this is the way things are in true Islamic nations, there is too much evidence - even in other Gulf countries - that the tide is turning against them. Even little Yemen, generally seen as one of the more conservative Islamic states in the Arab world and certainly the poorest nation in the Gulf, is holding first-ever democratic national elections, and with 17 women among the candidates.

In mockery of God:

No one family or organization has done more to misrepresent the true nature of Islam, a religion and culture already misunderstood in the West, or to fuel Muslim stereotypes outside the Middle East than the al-Saud. In fact, it can literally be said that Saudi Arabia under Sudeiri Seven al-Saud rule has become the epitome of the modern Islamic/Arab stereotype. While more progressive Islamic states are trying to move ahead into the 21st century with the rest of the world, the kingdom as run by the brothers grim seems determined to stay as ancient in it's thinking as Arabia is in it's history.

A common rationale often used to justify the ultra-conservative and restricting moral codes within Saudi Arabia is to say that it is only appropriate that such rites are strictly maintained in Arabia since it is on this land where the Prophet Mohammed was born and it was from there that he spread the message of God. This betrays little understanding of history, and even less of what the Prophet really said. When Mohammed began spreading the message of Islam, he seemed to see what he was doing as lighting the torch that would move his people, the Arabs of the Arabian peninsula, out of the dark ages and into a better way to live - with each other, with their spouses, with the world, and with God. The Holy Quoran - the word of God as related through the Prophet Mohammed, spoke of the equality - given by God and not revocable by any King or Ulema - between men and women, of tolerance to other faiths and - more than anything - of complete obedience to the will of God, and not to the vanity, volitions or greed of men.

How then can the rigid and frankly un-Islamic random application of the moral codes of modern Saudi Arabia be any kind of testament to His word, when a woman cannot legally drive herself to one of the few low-end jobs she can legally have, or even have her word count the same as a man's in court, or even seek divorce from a man who beats her? How can this modern day abomination of Sudeiri al-Saud allow the lashing of Christian expatriates working in the kingdom by al-Mutawa religious police thugs for simply practicing their faith in private ceremonies within their own housing compounds, then expect anyone with a sense of decency - Muslim or otherwise - to take seriously the al-Saud-invented role of King Fahd, or any other past or future Saudi king, as guardian of the holy sites of Islam? Islamic cultures have been tolerant throughout history, but not in the current land of Mecca and Madina. The arrogance of the al-Saud seems matched only by their ignorance, and the worst thing is that they seem to think that God is as insecure as they are.

Progress, anyone?

There is an assertion made by many that Islam and progress are contradictory philosophies. This view is often taken by some western writers who seem to feel that the only thing worth writing about in the Middle East are car bombings and the occasional public stonings of adulteresses. Unfortunately for such believers and exploiters it is all too easy to find places where in fact the exact opposite is the case. The United Arab Emirates is one such example. A small nation situated along the lower part of the eastern Saudi border, the UAE is a conservative Gulf Islamic state with a culture virtually identical to that of Saudi Arabia, yet it has become a leader in trying to integrate Arabian Gulf culture into the modern world, and do so in a way that does not trample on it's proud Islamic heritage.

Instead of staying fat and ignorant on oil wealth, the UAE has worked hard to expand it's sources of revenue so it will still be an economic power once the oil is gone. The nation openly seeks and accommodates tourists and business people interested in experiencing the Gulf, and explains Islam and how it is practiced in the UAE/Gulf region. People may freely practice other religions within the country, and there are even several Christian churches throughout the emirates.

This openness, if only relative to other Gulf states, has shown the UAE to be secure with it's own culture, and has enabled it to diversify tenfold and quickly become the leading cultural, technical and financial center in the Gulf region. Much of this progress occurred out of necessity, as the UAE is a small nation whose only natural resources are fossil fuels. Do not misunderstand, the UAE is still very much a monarchy and in many ways a strict Islamic state, but at least it's rulers see the danger of isolating themselves culturally in a backwards and outdated mentality, and in relying on a source of revenue that takes the planet millions of years to make and will most likely be gone by the year 2040.

Our Allies:

It has long been the opinion of the writer of this essay that a big part of the reason that the US is so dead-set in trying to portray the Islamic Republic of Iran as a rogue state and a terrorist threat is because it is in the al-Saud's interest to do so. It would not be to their advantage to have the people of the US learn about a country that is proudly Islamic yet allows women to participate in it's government and culture. This is not to imply that Iran - with morals police of their own very similar to the al-Mutawa - is a bastion of human rights respect. A woman is still not equal to a man in the Islamic Republic, but their position does seem to be more in keeping with the words of the Prophet than anything one would find in Saudi Arabia, and this is embarrassing, not only to the al-Sudeiri Seven, but to all the other al-Saud who want to maintain the status quo within the kingdom as well.

I am not suggesting that there is no valid evidence supporting the claim that the government of Iran has sponsored acts of terrorism, but there is just as much if not more evidence that terrorist groups operate within the Saudi kingdom and that the government in either unwilling or unable to stop them. It was these terrorists who were more than likely behind the Khobar Towers blast that killed 19 US servicemen - and was obviously intended to kill so many more - but no one is calling for sanctions against the al-Saud, economic or otherwise. The Saudi government does not want the West to see the cracks in the facade, and they are scrambling to find any scapegoat they can before it becomes general knowledge outside the kingdom that the bombing was done by radical forces once financed and loyal to the king - but now apparently exercising a lethal independent will of their own.

Despite of all of the lies, deceptions and stalling strategies the al-Saud have employed in their dealings with the State Department, the US government, while certainly critical of the slowness of progress in the investigation and lack of information being shared with the US by Saudi authorities, is still backing the al-Saud, and rationalizing their actions. I love the USA, but the moral hypocrisy of some of the positions the US Administration takes is simply too laughable for words, not to mention the phony resolve with which they try to sell it to the American people, who grow weary of condescending double-talk.

We're all for freedom, but only in our hemisphere:

Western politicians and even, apparently, the people of the West seem to be of the belief that Islamic cultures don't need - no, in fact, could never understand a true democracy and the freedom that goes with it. They seem to genuinely feel that, for some reason, Muslims just like living under the quaintness of outdated monarchies like the al-Saud, who rape and pillage the people and resources of a great land and a beautiful culture, and who answer to no forces but greed and avarice. This racist attitude seems to see Muslims not as humans with the same basic needs as all other humans, but as sheep who need to tended.

Saudi Arabia is not a western culture, and should never be judged like it was one. But it is one of the most important places on the planet, both as a symbol of economic power and as a symbol of spiritual power - and it's people need to be heard. It is the home of Islam, and Islam will always be the true oil to the Saudi people. There have been many comparisons made between the current social unrest in the kingdom and the political turmoil which generated the Islamic revolution in Iran in response to the brutal policies of Reza Shah. Only time will tell if this prediction comes to pass, but the US can no longer sit still and do nothing but give blind support to a brutal regime whose time even the US State Department knows has come. It is time for the US government and the US people to decide if being "friends of the Saudis" means the people or the al-Saud, because as the accusations mount and legitimacy continues to falter in the palaces of Riyadh and Taif, it is becoming ever more clear that we cannot, with any integrity, continue to be friends with both.

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Online Resources:
- Inhuman Rights

Saudi Sites:
- Saudi Embassy
- Sports in Arabia
- Arab Net

Misc. Sites:
- Arabia Online
- Arabic Newspapers