Thursday, January 15, 2015

Saudi Arabia's history of hypocrisy we choose to ignore

    Thursday, January 15, 2015   No comments

Sir William Hunter was a senior British civil servant and in 1871 published a book which warned of “fanatic swarms” of Sunni Muslims who had “murdered our subjects”, financed by “men of ample fortune”, while a majority of Muslims were being forced to decide “once and for all, whether [they] should play the part of a devoted follower of Islam” or a “peaceable subject”.

Hunter identified a “hate preacher” as the cause of this “terror”, a man inspired on a visit to Arabia by an ascetic Muslim called Abdul Wahab whose violent “Wahabi” followers had formed an alliance with – you guessed it – the House of Saud. Hunter’s 140-year-old volume The Indian Musalmans – given a dusting of internet race hatred, murderous attacks by individual Sunni Muslims, cruel Wahabi-style punishments and all-too familiar proof of second-class citizenship for Muslims in a European-run state – might have been written today.


Even before Hunter’s day, the Wahabis captured the holy cities of Arabia and – Isis-style – massacred their inhabitants. Like Isis, they even overran Syria. Their punishments, and those of their Saudi military supporters, make the public lashing of today’s Saudi blogger Raif Badawi appear a minor misdemeanour. Hypocrisy was a theme of Arabian as well as European history.

In those days, of course, oil had no meaning. The Saudi ruler was dispatched to Constantinople in 1818 to have his head chopped off by the local superpower – the Ottoman Empire – and the European states made no complaint. A young British army captain later surveyed the destroyed Saudi capital of Diriya – close to modern-day Riyadh – with satisfaction. But successive campaigns of Saudi-Wahabi conquest, and then the swift transition of oil from the vile black naphtha, in which Arabian sheep regularly drowned, into the blood vessels of the Western world, meant that the purist Wahabi violence – which included the desecration of mosques, the destruction of ancient Muslim tombs and the murder of “infidels” – was conveniently separated from the House of Saud and ignored by Europeans and Americans alike.

Erased, too, is history; including the fact that Mohamed Ibn Saud, the leader of the Nejd, even married Abdul Wahab’s daughter.

Our disregard of present-day Saudi-Wahabi cruelties and venality might astonish Sir William Hunter; the Wahabi Indian Muslims in his British Empire were led by an insurrectionist prelate called Sayyid Ahmed whose followers regarded him as the next Prophet and whose own pilgrimage to Arabia turned him into a life-long purger of promiscuity. His believers came from Afghanistan as well as India where his power lay in what is now Pakistan. In fact, he was proclaimed “Commander of the Faithful” in Peshawar. His men might have been the Taliban.

Ed Isr

About Ed Isr

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