The kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the 21st century is desperately holding on to the Middle Ages in order to save and prolong its corrupt and antiquated polity. The recently issued royal edicts of Saudi Arabia recalling its envoys from Qatar, denouncing the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt as a terrorist organization and its latest ambition to harness nuclear power are all seen by the international community as last-ditch efforts by the unpopular kingdom to salvage its rule.
Saudi Arabia within its territory at Mecca houses the Kaaba, the house of Allah, according to the Islamic tradition. This gives it an edge over the rest of the Muslim world as the whole Muslim “Ummah” turns toward the “Qibla” to perform daily prayers, and individual Muslims from all over the world visit the kingdom for the mandatory annual Haj pilgrimage.
Muslims worldwide have a deep-rooted respect for Saudi Arabia and hold its puritanical,albeit arbitrary, laws and traditions in great esteem. The reality, though, is far different from this utopian and simplistic picture. In Islam, there is no ground for a kingdom; had it been so then Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of prophet Mohammad (as he had no male heir) would have been unanimously selected as the caliph, which, owing to the democratic traditions of Islam, he was not. It was Abu Bakr , the trusted and tested companion of the Prophet, who became the first caliph after Mohammad’s death, the chosen one to lead the nascent Muslim state. This precedent proves beyond doubt that hereditary power is shunned in Islam, and that Saudi Arabia is an aberration in Islamic tradition as were other, now defunct dynasties.
The human rights record of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia is also very poor. This can be seen in the way women are denied their basic fundamental rights that Islam gives them. Another blatant abuse of human rights is the way the foreign workforce–which is instrumental in spinning the wheel of the economy of Saudi Arabia–is treated inhumanely.
Saudi Arabia, too, is the main exporter of terrorism the world over. Osama bin Laden was not an Afghan or a Pakistani, but an Arab citizen of Saudi Arabia. The kingdom in order to save and prolong its unpopular rule has exported its “Wahabi” brand of Islam to the rest of the world, which led to the 9/11 tragedy.
Sunni Saudi Arabia, in a desperate attempt to prolong its illegitimate rule and save its kingdom, is also meddling in the internal affairs of Shi’ite Iraq and Syria. The kingdom is an avowed enemy of Shi’ite Iran. The stance of the kingdom vis-a-vis Iran is close to that of Israel. Although Saudi Arabia does not recognize the state of Israel, many historic instances can be cited when it looked the other way where the interests of Israel were concerned. For instance, the Israeli F-15 flew over its air space unchallenged, and bombed to rubble Iraqi nuclear installations during Saddam Hussein’s era.
American imperialism and the state of Israel are looked upon with suspicion by the rest of the free world, especially Muslim world but to Saudi Arabia, American imperialism and the state of Israel are necessary components of its survival as a kingdom in the present day and age.
In conclusion, it can be safely presumed that Saudi Arabia today is fighting a losing battle, nationally and internationally, in its desperation to save the last vestiges of its unpopular kingdom.
Op-ed by Iftikhar Tariq Khanzada
The Washington Post