by Zafar Bangash (Editorials, Crescent International Vol. 42, No. 3, Jumada' al-Akhirah, 1434)
Control of the Arabian Peninsula and within it the two holy cities of Makkah and al-Madinah by the House of Saud have cause havoc in the Ummah. It is time to liberate the Arabian Peninsula.
The Islamic self-determination that swept the Muslim East (aka the Middle East) two years ago appears to have stalled, due to a combination of factors. In countries where long-entrenched dictators were swept from power — Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen — the new dispensations have failed to meet people’s expectations. In other locales — Libya and Syria, for instance — the movements have been hijacked by external players, primarily the US and its NATO allies and their local agents, and used for their own nefarious designs. It is also quite revealing that not one monarchy, obviously all oppressive dictatorships, has been removed.
How long they will resist the winds of revolutionary change is the subject of intense debate among Muslims as well as Western policymakers. The US, which backs these monarchical dictatorships, is greatly worried should any of them collapse. The one in the Arabian Peninsula is of greatest concern to the US. The regimes in Riyadh and Washington are so deeply enmeshed that it is difficult to tell them apart. The Saudis know that their survival is entirely dependent on the US; for Washington, the House of Saud is the lynchpin of its policy in the Muslim East. Should the House of Saud collapse, other monarchies in Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Jordan would also disappear quickly. In short, the entire Middle East order crafted through the Sykes-Picot agreement in the last century would come crashing down. Bruce Reidel, a 30-year CIA veteran and currently working at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Centre has warned of the catastrophe that the fall of the House of Saud would present to the US. He calls it an even greater catastrophe than the fall of the Shah of Iran in 1979! Interestingly, Reidel works at the Centre named after Haim Saban, who said, “I’m a one-issue guy and my issue is Israel.”
The tide of history, however, cannot be reversed. Changes that have swept the region are also affecting the decrepit monarchies especially in Saudi Arabia whose top leadership already has one foot in the grave.
The tide of history, however, cannot be reversed. Changes that have swept the region are also affecting the decrepit monarchies especially in Saudi Arabia whose top leadership already has one foot in the grave. Hitherto, protests in the Kingdom’s eastern province were dismissed as the work of Shi‘is in order to isolate them from the rest of the country. For a while, this worked but now discontent has spread to other parts, especially to areas north of Riyadh that has traditionally been the regime’s support base. Similarly, a number of ‘ulama has joined the anti-regime movement. There are 30,000 political prisoners in the kingdom pointing to deep discontent with the existing system in which the people have no input. The regime has spent an estimated $130 billion to buy people’s loyalty and introduced some cosmetic changes like inducting a few women into the toothless body, the Consultative Council but this has not worked.
Despite earning $300 billion annually in oil exports, there is mass unemployment. Coupled with a large young and now educated population and lack of opportunities for meaningful engagement in determining their future, discontent has risen especially in view of developments in the rest of the region since 2011.
Despite earning $300 billion annually in oil exports, there is mass unemployment. Coupled with a large young and now educated population and lack of opportunities for meaningful engagement in determining their future, discontent has risen especially in view of developments in the rest of the region since 2011. The Saudi youth could not have remained insulated from such changes and they have started speaking out. While the regime has tried to deflect attention by co-opting the Syrian rebellion with arms and finance, the point has not been lost on the people in Saudi Arabia who have realized that if the Bashar al-Asad regime is unrepresentative, so is the monarchy in Arabia. Why is the attempted overthrow of one legitimate but that of the other not?
It is however, the involvement of ‘ulama that has got the House of Saud greatly worried. The ‘ulama are now using social media such as Twitter and Facebook to encourage political reform. Despite imprisoning many, some without trial, the ‘ulama have not been silenced. Shaykh Salman al-‘Awdah has been a persistent critic of the regime. He was imprisoned when he castigated the regime in 1990 for allowing American forces to enter the Arabian Peninsula. At the time, it was to fight against the Iraqi dictator Saddam Husain. Now the Saudi regime is deeply involved in Syria and has become even more subservient to the US.
As ‘ulama begin to join the anti-regime movement, it will take away one of the most important defence shields from the House of Saud that has hitherto used its court ‘ulama to stifle dissent.
In recent weeks the news that CIA drones operating from a secret base in Saudi Arabia for the past two years have murdered Muslims in Yemen has stoked anger both at home and abroad. This has led to demonstrations in the crucial heartland of the kingdom with people losing fear of the dreaded secret services that specialize in terrorizing people. As ‘ulama begin to join the anti-regime movement, it will take away one of the most important defence shields from the House of Saud that has hitherto used its court ‘ulama to stifle dissent.
Muslims around the world are also beginning to realize that the House of Saud has used the sanctity of Makkah and Madinah to enhance its own image. Wholesale destruction of the holy sites in the Haramayn (Makkah and Madinah), the Saudis’ close links with the Zionists, and active instigation of sectarianism in different parts of the world have greatly alarmed Muslims. The Saudis’ aura is wearing thin. This was bound to happen although it is surprising it has taken this long for most Muslims to realize. What Muslims and the global Islamic movement must do is to expose the true nature of the House of Saud — it is not the custodian of the Two Holy Places; rather, it is a servant of holier-than-thou imperialism and Zionism — and demand an end to its control of the most sacred sites of Islam. Those struggling for human and political rights in the kingdom must be supported by highlighting their cases and by holding rallies outside Saudi missions around the world.
Muslims can no longer afford to allow the holy places of Makkah and Madinah to remain in the hands of such corrupt people whose rulers are known for their alcoholic binges and vulgar parties. It is an insult to 1.8 billion Muslims that such lowly characters control the most sacred sites of Islam. There is little difference between the Zionist occupation of al-Quds (Masjid al-Aqsa in Jerusalem) and the Saudi occupation of Masjid al-Haram and al-Masjid al-Nabawi. It is time to liberate the Arabian Peninsula from their clutches.