Why the world lets Saudi Arabia get away with murder

No one acknowledges that the Saudis have a vested interest in democracy's failure in the region.

 |  BREAKING NEWS INTO PIECES  |  4-minute read |   20-06-2015
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With the beheading count already over 100, Saudi Arabia may beat its own record of 192 beheadings in a year. It has advertised for the positions of eight new executioners. State-approved killing or capital punishment remains common in the world, and China and Iran beat Saudi Arabia by a mile. But capital punishment by decapitating at town squares is not common, and only the self-declared Islamic State (IS) can beat Saudi Arabia in this macabre practice.

The difference is that while no civilised country claims to be friends with the IS, countries fall over each other to call Saudi Arabia their friend. This is probably why the richest Arab nation can bomb the poorest Arab nation without any international outrage.

Crackdown

Yemenis have accepted this bitter truth, as they pray for a peaceful Ramzan. The day before the holy month began, 27 Yemenis were killed in air raids. The officially-over "Decisive Storm", as the Saudis named it, continues to batter Yemen. The current spike in public beheadings came in the second half of 2014, before King Salman bin Abdulaziz, took over the reins after his half-brother Abdullah died.

Some attribute this rise to the appointment of new judges who are clearing pending cases. Others say that the spike is seen because of a general crackdown on vice in the country, where Sharia is implemented and capital punishment is prescribed for crimes ranging from serious ones like murder to minor ones like drug use, and even perceived crimes like sorcery and apostasy. Human rights organisations and parts of Western media have often pointed out the inherent injustice in the Saudi justice system, but by and large the world has looked the other way.

The renewed Saudi enthusiasm for public beheadings may be a side effect of the rise of IS. The popularity of IS is peaking at this point, as even Saudis stencil-paint their white-on-black Shahada on walls. The Saudi regime is warning the restive youth of Saudi Arabia to fear the monarchy's heavy hand. At the same time, it also helps display to the people at large that their state is more Islamic than the Islamic State. Going back to the ancient, pure roots of the Islam is the IS' main proposition. The Sharia principles of the Hudood (literally limits, specifically those defined by the Quran and the Hadith), Qisas (basically the eye-for-an-eye) and Tazir (the new laws like those against drug trafficking), all have provisions for capital punishment.

Monarchy

It's the Sharia laws that modern Islamic societies have a problem with. At the same time, it is the Sharia that people are most possessive about, because it stems from the religion. The region's regimes know that religious people, the majority, may be uncomfortable with the strict implementation of the Sharia, but will not speak against it.

The Saudi monarchy also has an undue advantage in the world. In Muslim countries, they do not have to earn respect. It comes by default, like the respect for their language. The title of the Khadim al-Haramain al-Sharifain creates an aura about the Saudi royal family, though being the custodian of the two holy sites has come to them by war and not any divine design. Here, in the subcontinent, you will hear religious leaders, even Arabs, condemn any condemnation of the al-Saud family. Because the Arabs have drilled into them a sense of inferiority, where Saudis are the top of the table, followed by other Arab Muslims, then the south and southeast Asians followed by black Muslims. Even breach of Islamic principles are forgiven.

Countries that roar against disrespect of Islam don't so much as purr when the monarchs erase Islamic heritage to build seven star hotels in Mecca. It goes against the purpose of Haj, where male hajis wear unstitched cloth (women wear loose clothing) to ensure the rich and poor are the same before God. Opulent hotels overshadowing the holy Kaaba only reiterates the rich-poor divide. Many of the sites related to the Prophet of Islam have been replaced with glass and chrome skyscrapers.

Victims

Half of the victims of Saudi beheadings also come from these countries. Their governments rarely register a protest with the Saudi authorities. For example, a good number of people beheaded last year belonged to Pakistan, a country patronised by the Saudi monarchy. The Western preachers of human rights won't utter a word.

The Obamas, the Clintons, the Bushes, the Blairs, you name whoever. All powerful heads of states are family with the House of Saud, witnesses of their generosity and large-heartedness. The country that lived on Muslim generosity until the discovery of oil, now dictates their policies by the crude power of oil and the title of protector of Mecca and Medina. The battered Yemenis are looking up to god, the Shia-dominated East is restive but suppressed, the IS is still at the doors but not knocking yet, and Muslims of the world aren't speaking up.

For how long? The regime changes in the region have disappointed people as the vacuum created by a dictator's removal was invariably filled by people far worse than the dictator. Though all fingers point towards Jeddah, no one acknowledges that the Saudis have a vested interest in democracy's failure in the region. Because if democracies succeed, the Saudi grip on its people, the region and the religion may fail.

Writer

Kamlesh Singh Kamlesh Singh @kamleshksingh

Journalism student. Ed honcho at the India Today Group Mediaplex. God's Loyal Opposition. Useful Warning: Tweets may hurt religious sentiments.

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