By Martin Love

It behooves largely Muslim lands to avoid becoming like Saudi Arabia

January 19, 2019 - 10:46

NORTH CAROLINA - A fire broke out in a school building in Makkah back in 2002 from which young female students tried to escape. The Saudi “religious police” allegedly forced some if not all the teen school girls back inside the burning school because they were, in their hasty attempts to escape the fire, not wearing their headscarves and black robes.

 Fights reportedly broke out between fire fighters and members of the “Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice” to keep the girls inside the school because they were not wearing the hijab or maybe black robes -- or whatever the Saudis deem appropriate garb for young females -- and 15 of the girls allegedly died in the Muslim holy city as a result. There also was, as would be expected, criticism of the “police” even in the Saudi media.

 The English-language Saudi Gazette was one media outlet which criticized the “police”. The newspaper reported that the “police” even stopped people who tried to assist the girls escape from the blaze, claiming that it was “sinful” to approach them.

If any incident better speaks of the cruelty of Saudi mentality, not to mention the murder of Khashoggi and lies about that crime and many other scandalous incidents, it is hard to know what it might be. This was clearly an extreme example of Islamic “rules” gone awry in practice.

But it’s entirely correct to insist on modesty in dress. This is a Qu’ranic mandate and it makes a lot of good sense, but in general terms it is a call for the prevalence of modesty is all walks of life and frankly it ought to apply in ANY society, whether Muslim or not. Modesty is a great virtue, and the problem, as usual, arises in what amounts to the application of the mandate.

Far be it for a Westerner, including any American Muslim, to criticize opprobrium towards anyone engaging in truly immodest and scandalous behavior, but the situation in Saudi Arabia, where there are NO churches or synagogues (as there are and supported in Iran), and where the application of what are called “Islamic” laws are so extreme that one has to question whether the Saudis have any claim whatsoever to consider themselves true advocates and champions of Islam. Frankly, the Saudis have no such valid claim and frankly Makkah and Medina ought to be “independent” of the Saudis, perhaps in the same way the Vatican for Catholics has been essentially independent of the country, Italy, where it is located. 

In fact, the Saudis have done little but give the last and most complete monotheistic religion a bad name in the opinion of many across the world, whether Muslim or not, and it is utterly shameful that the U.S. has anything to do with that country.

If the U.S. were itself a solidly virtuous society with a virtuous international polity, it would demand the end of a “Saudi” Arabia. It is difficult, anyway to call American society and its warmongering and hostility to others of different cultures “moral” even while most American citizens are good people, at least in their private lives.

What is really scandalous is Mike Pompeo speaking in Cairo this month and claiming that America is a “force for good” in the Middle East. How can a force that has been responsible for millions of deaths and tremendous destruction be a “force for good”? Washington has become a sump of licentiousness, corruption, greed and overreach even while many there in government, and the American people in general, are no worse than any other people where ignorance, not necessarily bad intentions, often prevails.

Meanwhile, some in the Trump Administration, including figures like John Bolton and the “evangelicals” Pompeo and Vice President Pence, and some members of Congress, seem to have latched on to some kind of sick mania to attack, one way or another, Iran, at the ultimate behest of the most corrupt and literally most immoral society on the planet -- the one dominated by far-right wing Zionists, or Israel, where real Judaism has been largely forgotten. 

The question is whether Trump himself has the wisdom and courage to avoid further attacks on Iran, and especially any kind of military attack. Last September, for example. Bolton allegedly asked the Pentagon to draw military plans to bomb Iran, still claiming that Iran intends to build nuclear weapons. This request by Bolton was apparently looked upon with horror by Pentagon brass, which is obviously a good and welcome reaction, suggesting that there are at least some sane minds in Washington.

It would appear, anyway, that there exists some kind of horrific horserace underway between people like Bolton and Pompeo (and maybe Trump), and potential developments in the U.S. that would definitively forestall further U.S. aggressions against the Islamic Republic. One potential “development” in this race is some kind of economic or monetary collapse that forces the U.S. to rearrange its priorities both domestic and foreign. Many Americans are literally praying something like this will happen to obviate the likelihood of the U.S. further damaging its standing and reputation globally.

There are so many huge shifts in global geopolitics underway now that the U.S., so far, has failed to get ahead of them, and the deployment of brute force, or threats of it, is no answer to the shifts. The growing understanding of Central Asian nations, including Iran, that they exist increasingly in a more interconnected and integrated region is one thing that illuminates U.S. failures so far to adjust to new realities by dropping bizarre and preposterous demands, and not just on Iran, but also on the biggest U.S. rivals, Russia and China.

It’s possible that the U.S. has set itself up for more failure, especially in the Middle East, even if there is no dominating internal “development” like economic or monetary collapse, and especially if the U.S. resorts to more militancy. Meanwhile, it behooves Iran’s leaders to permit Iran’s people a louder voice in Iranian affairs of state and in the formulation of domestic mandates. Above all, Iran ought not to be or become like Saudi Arabia is as a Muslim country.

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