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It’s all sorted now: Saudi denounces all terrorism 14, April 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Islam, Saudi Arabia.
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5 comments

The Council of Supreme Scholars, the highest religious body in Saudi Arabia, has issued a fatwa denouncing any and all acts of terrorism including its financing. Those giving money towards such causes will now be considered to be “partners” in the crime.

Whilst this decree is a positive step in the right direction, there are three reasons to hold back with the balloons and party-poppers.

Firstly, it is important to note the precise wording of the fatwa. Terrorism is defined as acts

targeting public resources, hijacking planes or blowing up buildings.

I would suggest, therefore, that this fatwa has been demanded by Saudi’s political establishment to stop those planning to attack Saudi’s oil infrastructure. To the best of my knowledge, it doesn’t mention the killing of innocent people, ergo, it’s a joke.

Secondly, does anyone really think that a terrorist in, for example, Saudi will desist from attacking some “public resource” because Saudi’s clerics have said it’s illegal and haram? Surely 99% of such people ipso facto hate Saudi’s clerics and don’t listen to a word they say. They see them (correctly) as a tool* of the ruling family and surely wouldn’t pay any attention to such a fatwa.

Thirdly, many fatwas are utterly ridiculous. Any religious authority can issue one. Granted, a fatwa from Saudi’s religious authority will carry more weight than most (probably) but still they are, it seems to me, wholly flimsy. Here are a few of the best fatwas that I’ve come across: (Hat tip)

[Incidentally, none of these are from crazy, no-name Imams…]

  • The Fatwa: Grand Mufti Sheikh Ibn Baaz  The Sun Revolves Around the Earth

    In a 2000 Fatwa titled “The Transmitted and Sensory Proofs of the Rotation of the Sun and Stillness of the Earth”, Saudi Arabian Grand Mufti Sheikh Ibn Baaz asserted that the earth was flat and disk-like and that the sun revolved around it. He had insisted that satellite images to the contrary were nothing but a Western conspiracy against the Islamic world.

  • The Fatwa: Ezzat Attiya: Adult Breastfeeding in the Workplace

    In May 2007, Ezzat Attiya wondered how unrelated men and women could work together in the same office, when Islam forbids men and women who aren’t married or related to be alone together. His answer: let her suckle him FIVE TIMES. Yes, that’s right, an adult female breastfeeding an adult male coworker will defuse all sexual tension in the office. See, the female worker will now be the male worker’s foster mother, and they can be alone together anytime. Attiya’s ruling was intergalactically mocked, and quickly condemned on the homefront as well. He was later suspended from his job, pilloried in Arab newspapers, and issued a hasty retraction saying it was a “bad interpretation of a particular case.”

  • Muhammad Al-Munajid: Bring Me the Head of Mickey Mouse

    That’s right, somebody put on hit on Mickey Mouse. Calling Mickey “one of Satan’s soldiers,” Sheikh Muhammad Al-Munajid decreed that household mice and their cartoon cousins must be “killed in all cases”, according to the U.K.’s Daily Telegraph.

    And get this—the guy’s not your average nutjob, either—Munajid used to be a former diplomat at the Saudi embassy in Washington D.C. He made the remarks on Arab television network al-Majd TV after he was asked to give Islam’s teaching on mice.

    But don’t worry, Mickey won’t be alone. Munajid also put a hit on Jerry from “Tom and Jerry”. Maybe they could rent a flat with Salman Rushdie (above).

  • The Fatwa: Rashad Hassan Khalil: No Nudity for Sex

    In 2007, the former dean of Islamic law at al-Azhar University in Cairo issued a fatwa that nudity during sexual intercourse invalidates a marriage between husband and wife. Debate was immediate. Suad Saleh, head of the women’s department of Al-Azhar’s Islamic studies, pleaded for “anything that can bring spouses closer to each other” and Islamic scholar Abdel Muti concurred, saying “Nothing is prohibited during marital sex, except of course sodomy.”
    For his part, Al-Azhar’s fatwa committee chairman Abdullah Megawar backpedaled and said that married couples could see each other naked but should really cover up with a blanket during sex.

*I do not mean this in a flippant way. The nexus between the ruling Al Sauds and the clerical authorities is a fascinating and symbiotic relationship. Each needs the other to maintain their power. Each wants to gain more power than the other. Their relative powers have waxed and waned for hundreds of years now. In a time when the Al Sauds need the Wahabbi clerics to sanction something (such as the stationing of US troops on US soil) they need, the Clerics charge a price according to how ‘much an ask’ that is. In this example, one noted author described this as the descent of Saudi society into “bottomless Islamisation” as the Al Sauds were demanding a staggering broad ranging and unpopular fatwa. Therefore, the Wahabbis seized this opportunity to take control of education and other social services and to bolster their vice and virtue police while they were in the ascendancy. So, in short, I firmly believe that Saudi religious authorities would say absolutely anything if the price was right.

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Hakyel on the bum bomb 27, September 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Saudi Arabia.
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1 comment so far

Bernard Haykel has an excellent piece of analysis in the Guardian about the recent Saudi bum-bomb attack. In short, Hakyel does not really see this incident as a harbinger failure of Saudi’s policies or tactics in their war on terrorism. The key paragraphs are below, but the whole piece is well worth the read.

To an outsider, the episode looks like a colossal security failure, as if the head of the FBI personally greeted one of Bin Laden’s lieutenants at a garden party. But it is just this highly personalised form of politics that the Saudi royals have adopted with defecting al-Qaida members. Indeed, this policy, even with its risks, partly explains al-Qaida’s defeat in Saudi Arabia. Highly personalised politics form part of what might be called Saudi Arabia’s theatre of state, which keeps the royals firmly in power.

Since 2003, Prince Muhammad has been in charge of a successful campaign against violent Islamism in the kingdom. In terms of armed security action, he has developed a strong domestic intelligence and police service that is both efficient and brutal in its tactics. At the same time, the prince has cannily used deeply rooted cultural and religions norms to pressure al-Qaida’s recruits to give up violence.

For example, he offers significant financial inducements to individual jihadis, as well as their families, in return for political obedience. In effect, by not accepting Saudi largesse the militant will be keeping food off his own family’s table – a powerful restraint in a culture and religion in which parents are highly regarded and respected.

Entry into the programme often involves a personal audience with the Saudi prince, in a ceremony that emphasises the paternalistic and personal nature of governance in the kingdom, where all subjects are regarded as well-cared-for children of the royals.

Finally, Prince Muhammad has launched an internet monitoring and disinformation campaign that keeps close tabs on jihadi websites and online forums. As a result, the Saudi security services have a feel for the pulse of jihadi debates, as well as for the radicals’ recruitment strategies.

Al-Qaida has also damaged itself with the Saudi public, which has been repeatedly victimised by terrorist attacks. Suicide bombings of public buildings and attacks on oil and other government installations have alienated many Saudis. With at least 80% of the population dependent on government salaries or grants, the attacks have proved very unpopular.

In addition, ordinary Saudis see the chaos next door in Iraq and do not want the same turmoil at home. For most people, stability, even if imposed by authoritarian means, trumps disorder.

For now, however, the Saudi royals have a prince who is seen as a courageous hero for having survived an assassination attempt while offering the hand of generosity to an unrepentant zealot. Saudi King Abdullah chastised Prince Muhammad for recklessness, but the King must also be thankful that his family has produced a security chief who has broken the back of al-Qaida, at least inside the kingdom.