by Brecht Jonkers (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 48, No. 4, Ramadan, 1440)
It should not come as a surprise to anyone that Saudi Arabia, and Bani Saud in particular, is on the forefront of some of the most heinous atrocities that are being committed across the world today. The monarchy, which has the gall to call itself the “Custodian of the Sacred Masjids,” has committed crimes that are numerous and leave little to the imagination. However, it is still worth investigating the extent to which the Saudi regime has turned to atrocious criminal conduct in order to further cement its hold on power in the heart of the Muslim world.
The most obvious recent example of the crimes of Bani Saud is the war against Yemen. In over four years of conflict since the Saudi invasion began, tens of thousands of Yemenis have been killed in airstrikes, war crimes, famine, and epidemic diseases. The continued Saudi blockade of Yemen has led to widespread starvation and lack of basic necessities. According to former US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Dafna Rand, the Saudis have no interest whatsoever in avoiding civilian casualties during their strikes on Yemen, and even deliberately target water and food supplies.
More than 17 million Yemenis are estimated to be at immediate risk of starvation, with at least 3.3 million children, pregnant women, and young mothers are suffering acute malnutrition. According to estimates, by November 2018, over 85,000 children had died of starvation. Humanitarian aid barely gets through to the affected zones, as Saudi warships all but prevent access to the port of Hodaydah.
Aside from engaging in bloody violence directly, Saudi Arabia is also fanning the flames of a potentially greater and far more destructive conflict. On May 18, Saudi Arabia agreed to the further deployment of US military forces in order to “deter” Iran, despite the fact that Tehran has made no hostile moves against either the US or Riyadh.
On April 23, Saudi Arabia executed 37 so-called “dissidents,” most of whom had not been involved in any acts of violence or even real resistance, nor did they pose any danger to the monarchy.
Twenty-two of the victims’ only “crime” was their participation in protest marches during the Arab Spring. Six of them were minors at the time the alleged “offense” was committed, like Mujtaba al-Suwaykat, who was arrested while about to fly to the US to start his college career, and Sa‘id Muhammad al al-Sakafi, who was only 17 when he participated in a protest rally. The charges that led to the execution of the 22 activists ranged from “chanting disloyal slogans about the king” to “using social media to incite demonstrations.”
Eleven others, all of them members of the Shi‘i minority in the Kingdom, were convicted of being “Iranian spies,” once again playing into the agenda of anti-Iranian propaganda and the fomenting of sectarian violence. Their “crimes” consisted of denouncing the massacres conducted by Saudi forces against the population of the Shi‘i-majority province of Qatif in February 2012, and of saving footage of the 2012 rallies and subsequent crackdown. Many of the victims were beheaded and one had his body crucified publicly, in a typical display of the cruelty of the Saudi regime.
The ceaseless violence committed by Bani Saud against its own population is not limited to the Shi‘i community. Multiple high-ranking Sunni scholars have also been jailed over the past years ever since crown prince Muhammad bin Salman (MbS) took over much of the day-to-day running of the country.
One of the clearest examples of this came in September 2017 when several influential Sunni scholars were arrested and jailed on extremely contentious charges.
One of the most prominent victims of this crackdown was Salman al-‘Awdah, a senior member of the International Union for Muslim Scholars, who was reportedly jailed for not having explicitly supported the aggressive behaviour of the Saudi regime toward Qatar. As of July 2018, the shaykh is being held in solitary confinement, and in September 2018 the prosecutors demanded the death penalty for him.
Aside from al-‘Awdah, two other well-known scholars jailed in the brutal Saudi campaign are ‘Ali al-‘Umari and ‘A’id al-Qarni. Both scholars were known as orthodox Sunni preachers with a large following, who refused to submit to control by the royal family. ‘Ali al-‘Umari was famed for his television and social media appearances, in which he called for unity against terrorism and criticized Riyadh’s horrible record on women’s rights. A’id al-Qarni was known for his 2008 fatwa calling for “attacks on Israeli interests worldwide,” a position for which he was heavily censored in his own country. Both clerics remain in jail as of writing this article. The prosecutors called for the death penalty for these scholars as well alongside al-‘Awdah.
In both cases — of Shi‘i activists and Sunni scholars jailed by the Bani Saud regime — we see charges of “terrorism” appearing regularly. In fact, the Saudi elite has a tendency to use “counter-terrorism” as an excuse to further cement its own position and eradicate any form of dissent. Meanwhile, Riyadh promotes itself as the epicenter of a so-called “moderate Islam,” despite being one of the main financier of takfiri terrorist organisation worldwide.
Even Sarah Leah Whitson, Executive Director of the Middle East and North Africa Division at Human Rights Watch, remarked upon this highly ironic development, stating, “These particular cases highlight how the government is pursuing its own extremist, intolerant agenda under the absurd guise of ‘moderate Islam.’”
By claiming the title of “moderate Islam” for itself, thereby denouncing all other Islamic movements whether Sunni or Shi‘i as “extremist,” Saudi Arabia effectively positions itself in the camp of the Islamophobic West. In May 2017, King Salman stood next to US president Donald Trump in the unsettling opening ceremony of the so-called Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology. They were joined by the Egyptian Pharaoh ‘Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi, the fanatically secular military dictator who has gained notoriety for his crackdown on the Islamic movement in Egypt.
Meanwhile, ‘Abd al-Karim ‘Isa, the handpicked head of the Muslim World League (a farcical organisation completely at the mercy of the Saudi ruling family) has openly called for cooperation with the Zionist entity. The Wahhabi cleric even went so far as to personally meet with Ronald Lauder, chairman of the world’s foremost Zionist organisation, the World Jewish Congress. Last month, the League announced it was planning to invite a Jewish delegation to Saudi Arabia in the year 2020. Even the highest-ranking Wahhabi religious authority in the Kingdom, Grand Mufti ‘Abd al-‘AzizAl al-Shaykh, has openly voiced his support for Zionism and issued a fatwa stating that “fighting against Israel is forbidden.”
Contrary to what mainstream media and Western “analysts” would have people believe, the main conflict in the Islamic world or the Middle East is not the “Sunni-Shi‘i divide.” Nor is it a conflict between “Islamism” and secularism, with Islamism usually being the ill-defined catch-all term, or the so-called “clash of civilizations.”
The main conflict is the clash between an imperialist bloc that seeks to dominate and subdue the Muslim world both materially and spiritually, and the larger Muslim Ummah. Perhaps the greatest crime of the Saudi regime, which holds the keys to the two most holy sanctuaries of Islam, is the fact that it remains a major player in the unholy imperialist-Zionist-Wahhabi alliance.