Wednesday October 25, 2017
Suppose a Dalmatian (a dog breed, in case there is some confusion!) says it wants to get rid of its spots. Suppose further, that a scorpion says it would no longer sting. How much credibility should one give to these claims?
Something similar has happened in “Saudi” Arabia where the Crown Prince, Muhammad bin Salman announced yesterday that “We are returning to what we were before—a country of ‘moderate’ Islam that is open to all religions and to the world.”
Bin Salman (BS for short) was speaking at the Future Investment Initiative, an economic forum in Riyadh attended among others by Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Christine Lagarde. There were also business leaders from around the world.
BS announced plans to create a totally new city at a price of $500 billion. What would be different in this city, to be named Neom that other cities in the opaque kingdom do not offer?
The ambitious young prince wants to lead the way in the use of drones, driverless cars and robotics.
Interestingly, the kingdom only recently announced that women would be allowed to drive cars, but from next year. Why not allow them to drive immediately was not made clear.
Is the idea of driverless cars a way to placate the country’s conservative elements that are not happy with allowing women to drive? They allege that women driving cars would lead to immorality!
We need to return to BS’s claim of representing “moderate” Islam and his pledge to work to defeat extremist ideas. He said this would ensure that young Saudis live in harmony with the rest of the world.
“We will eradicate the remnants of extremism very soon. We represent the moderate teachings and principles of Islam,” BS said.
“Saudi” Arabia is a terror factory. Wahhabism is at the root of most of the sectarian problems in the world. Takfirism is its poisoned fruit that has caused havoc in much of the Muslim world.
So which “moderate” Islam is BS referring to? The very raison d’etre of “Saudi” Arabia is Wahhabism. The toxic alliance between the Bani Saud and Ibn Abdul Wahhab in 1744 is what ultimately led to the emergence of the “Saudi” kingdom in 1932.
“We were not like this in the past,” said BS. A reasonably informed person would say that is absolute BS. Wahhibism and extremism are two sides of the same coin; in fact they are one and the same thing. So what exactly is BS talking about and why now?
The Saudi economy has suffered massive blows as a consequence of the foolish policies pursued by BS and his demented father, King Salman. They have suffered defeats in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Low oil prices have caused havoc in the kingdom.
The Bani Saud need cash and lots of it, hence the Riyadh conference as well as the new makeover of a “moderate” outlook. Ms Lagarde’s presence was reflective of Saudi desperation. At the end of August, the regime went to the IMF with a begging bowl for $10 billion.
That is peanuts in terms of Saudi needs but these are desperate times. And the kingdom has to show it is opening up and it would no longer export extremism.
The real test would be whether the kingdom would now disband such outfits as the Rabita, the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), and Dar al-Ifta that are used as fronts to spread Wahhabi extremism by dishing out largesse in the Muslim world.
There must be proof that the Saudis have stopped financing extremist madrassas in countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Indonesia—the last two corrupted by large doses of cash in recent years—before BS’ pronouncements can be taken seriously.