Cultural, Economic, Human Rights, International, Political, Religious

Has U.S./Saudi relation outlived its economic and strategic significance?

An analysis by the Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (CDHR):

One of the world’s best kept secrets,the lucrativecontracts between the democratic America and autocratic Saudi Arabia, is crumbling due to varieties of reasons, including cunning manoeuvres (manipulations due to cultural differences and business practices,) to heightened tensions, to new energy sources and to a wide range of more stable, profitable and relevant economic and strategic options. From its formalised inception in 1945, the U.S./Saudi relationship has been based on mistrust and, on the Saudi side, lack of both viable protectors and concern for evolving human ingenuity with its consequential political, economic and social impacts.

Despite its original specific objectives – U.S. companies’ domination over Saudi oil and construction of the state’s infrastructure in exchange for U.S. government protection for the Saudi oligarchs – the contract was expanded to cover a wide range of political and strategic areas, which successive monarchs cleverly utilized to spread, strengthen and export their religious zealotry and political repression, which resulted in anti-American reactions in the Arab East and beyond.

However, due to its financial lucrativeness, the U.S./Saudi pact survived regional threats, such as Arab nationalism and the devastating economic and social fallout from the Saudi-led oil embargo in 1973. It also survived the traumas of the mortifying terrorist attacks carried out by mostly Saudi nationals on September 11, 2001 (9/11) – an event that not only permanently changed American society, but affected the international community.  Furthermore, the relationship could not escape the fallout of the unforeseen Arab masses’ pro-democracy and anti-autocracy uprising (the Arab Spring) where the U.S. and its Western allies had to take sides.

Due to economic and energy exigencies and fewer options for the U.S., the U.S./Saudi relationship weathered the battering events mentioned above. However, the accumulative fallout from these events has profoundly destabilised and exposed the tacit trade-off upon which the eight-decade old profit-driven pact was founded: sacrificing American democratic and moral values to protect a cruel system founded on social injustice, religious intolerance and a sectarian law (Shariah,) which considers the individual’s right to choose antithetical to God’s will, thus blasphemous.

Badly scarred and weakened by prior events, the U.S./Saudi relationship hit rock bottom after the gruesome murder of The Washington Post Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018. Although unspeakable punishment for critics and human rights advocates is standard procedure of the Saudi regime, the brazenness of Khashoggi’s extrajudicial assassination generated unprecedented condemnation of the Saudi monarchy by foes and friends alike, including the Saudis’ closest ally, the U.S. Combined with ongoing U.S. support for the Saudi-led onslaught against Yemen, Khashoggi’s murder coalesced unparalleled anti-Saudi support globally, especially in the U.S. media, among the public and, more ominously, in the U.S. Congress, where a significant number of powerful bipartisan lawmakers not only condemned Saudi behaviour and branded the future king as “dangerous, unstable, crazy and a wrecking ball,” but further alienated the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. government from each other.

In light of these developments, including destabilizing Saudi foreign policies, erratic leadership and unprecedented public denunciations by powerful American politicians, it is inconceivable that the U.S./Saudi relationship can be restored to its pre-Khashoggi-assassination status. 

Regardless of the future status of the U.S./Saudi relationship, the American government and businesses are in superior positions and have more profitable economic and strategic options to choose from now than they had during the Saudi-led oil embargo in 1973 and when ideologically inspired Saudi nationals attacked the symbols of American economic and military power in September 2001. On the other hand, the Saudi rulers are struggling to maintain economic and political stability resulting from a far-reaching decline in oil revenues, unprecedented discordance within the ruling family, costly regional conflicts and rising expectations of an increasingly restless population, most of which is below the age of 30.

Irrespective of the current U.S. Administration’s disputes with countries like China, Mexico and Canada over “tariffs and imbalanced trade,” the American economy needs global markets and natural resources, without which the American standard of living could plummet and U.S. influence economically, politically and militarily could be overcome by undemocratic competitors like expansionist China. This potential possibility can be avoided if seen for what it is, a race against time. There is no shortage of opportunities for American companies’ ingenuity and investment in Asia, Africa and Latin America, where untapped human potential and natural resources abound.

The deterioration of the U.S./Saudi relationship is representative of a larger gloomy future for the Middle East. Caught up in raging self-inflicted violence, political instability, social unrest, rampant corruption, unwillingness to operate within globally recognized and practised business and political norms, the Middle East (with the exception of Israel) is not only becoming an increasingly undesirable region for business, but a global pariah. 

Dr Ali H Alyami, Director of CDHR

Cultural, International, Life as it is, Political, Religious, Technical

Science and Islam

Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi, considered to be the inventor of Algebra (780-850AD)

The title of this write-up may seem a little incongruous as common perception presents science and religion as essentially two distinct and incompatible disciplines. That may be true, but there was a time, some centuries ago, when Islam and science were intermingled ushering in what is now graciously called the “Golden Age” of Islam. Sometimes this Golden Age is flashed around to claim credit for Islam and subliminally proclaim that Islam can attain once again the same greatness in this modern world. The die hard Islamists insist that to achieve greatness once more one has to go back to the period when this was achieved and hence they hark back to the 7th century conditions including the reintroduction of Sharia laws.

So, what is this “Golden Age”? In essence, the Islamic kingdom from the beginning of 8th century to the middle of 13th century is assigned as the glorious period when science and technology, art and culture, music and medicine and so forth all flourished under the patronage of the state. The Arab kingdom, under the Umayyad Caliphate from 661AD to 750AD having Damascus as the capital and then the Abbasid Caliphate from 751AD to 1258AD having Baghdad as the capital, was the melting pot of all human knowledge. The reason for such an epoch rise in human culture and knowledge within just a few decades of the establishment of Islam was that the kingdom that encompassed Persia on the East to Lebanon on the West, Egypt and North Africa on the South to the steeps of Asia Minor on the North brought together the talents from all corners of the kingdom and beyond. Greek science and technology, arts and literature were all translated into Arabic and ilm or knowledge was actively encouraged by the state. All great minds of the kingdom were offered the collective knowledge of other cultures – translated from Greek, Latin etc. – and encouraged to pursue knowledge unencumbered by theological constraints. “Go even unto China to seek knowledge” was the guiding philosophy of that period.

Unprecedented progress was made in many scientific fields, many new disciplines had been invented. Algebra was invented by Muhammad al-Khwarizmi (780 – 850AD) – a Khorasani (which included Persia, part of Afghanistan and part of Central Asia) working in Baghdad, who not only introduced Indian decimal concept and numeral system but also put forward logical thinking in a form which came to be known as Algorithm. This algorithm is used even now as the starting point of computer programming. Another Khorasani, Muhammad al-Farabi (872 – 950AD) was the most prominent scientist and philosopher of the day and wrote on physics, cosmology, psychology, philosophy and on many more. Yet another Persian scholar Abu Rayhan al-Biruni (973 – 1048AD) was regarded as one of the greatest scholars of the medieval Islamic era and was well versed in physics, mathematics and other natural sciences. He was a prolific scientific writer and wrote 146 treatises. His major accomplishment was that he estimated the circumference of the earth using his trigonometric methods and that estimation came within 200 miles of the actual circumference of 24,900 miles! He was a great linguist too – he could converse in Persian, Arabic and Sanskrit, and knew Greek, Hebrew and Syriac. Muhammad Zakariya al-Razi (854 – 925AD) of Persia was the pioneer in medical sciences who invented distillation of alcohol and its use in medicine, identified measles and small pox and wrote a treatise on them which remained the guiding light for centuries. He was the author of the encyclopaedia of medicine spanning over twenty three volumes. Abu al-Husayn ibn-Sina was a philosopher and the most authoritative physician of the day (980 -1037 AD) and produced multi-volume medical survey which was translated into Latin. The initial transfer of knowledge from Latin to Arabic had by now reversed its direction and knowledge started to flow from Arabic to Latin.  

Another physicist by the name Ibn al-Haytham (965 – 1040AD) from Basra may be considered to be the father of modern optics, centuries before Newton, he had figured out that objects were seen because they reflected light which was then received by the retina of human eyes, not the previously misconceived notion that eyes emitted light which then hit the objects. He was credited with the development of scientific methods such as the experiment, hypothesis, modification, theory etc. He wrote a “Book of Optics” (kitab al-Manazir) that is still admired by historians of physics. There were many more physicists, mathematicians, astronomers and medical professionals who contributed to the great achievements of that “Golden Age”.

Now, how did that great assimilation of knowledge in the “Golden Age” disappear almost overnight following the collapse of Abbasid Caliphate as a result of Mongol invasion in 1258? Could an empire as well as the human achievement and intellectual progress disappear so suddenly? Admittedly, other civilisations of the past such as the Greek Civilisation, Indian Civilisation, Chinese Civilisation etc. all came and gone, but none did disappear without a trace of intellectual heritage for future generations to pursue as in the case of Islamic “Golden Age”.

To seek out the answer one has to look back at what was happening at the dying days or years of the Abbasid Caliphate. Like any great empire in decline, Abbasid Caliphate was disintegrating for quite some time. In Spain, Christians reconquered Cordoba in 1236 and then Seville in 1248. But the last nail in the coffin was the siege and occupation of Baghdad by Mongols in 1258, thereby bringing an end to the dying empire. For decades or even a century or over, there were internal tension and conflict between the Mu’tazilites who embraced rational thinking and inquisitiveness and the Ash’arités who were anti rationalists. This Ash’arités movement was dogmatic Sunni Muslim movement which held the view that rationalist view was anti-Islamic. Things do happen as God wishes to happen, not as a priori or a posteriori.

Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (1058 – 1111AD) argued that rationalism was incompatible with Islamic teaching. As God’s will is completely free and unencumbered, His wishes are supreme and cannot be compromised by human rationalisation of causes and effects. A storm takes place because God wishes it that way to punish the sinners for their misdeeds, not as a result of any meteorological condition. Rain falls not as a result of precipitation and condensation of moisture, but due to God’s will. By his dogmatic interpretation of Islam he gave a philosophical underpinning of religion, far removed from scientific explanation, and brought Sunni Islam very close to Sufi philosophy.

Following the collapse of Abbasid Caliphate, Ash’arités movement supported by Ghazalites took hold in the Islamic world. From that time on, Islam had been going in the reverse direction to the Western civilisation and Christianity which embraced Renaissance and Age of Enlightenment. Admittedly, Christianity had its turbulent periods when different theological strands vied against each other and did everything to eliminate each other, but eventually rationality prevailed over darkness. Christianity came out of the dark ages bruised and battered, but with its theology intact as long as its boundary is properly demarcated and ring fenced. In other words, in Christianity theology is numinous undertaking segregated from the workings of the nation state.

Islam does not want to accept such segregation of duties and responsibilities. It wants to encroach on the state responsibilities covering politics, economics, education and every other facet of human endeavour. How could a state function when religion tells that there is no rationality, no cause and effect; everything moves as God desires? How could state advance economically or intellectually when faith based religion puts an overarching umbrella over its development plan? A simple practical incident will exemplify this dysfunctional relationship.

Some years ago, when I went from Britain to Saudi Arabia as a Consultant on Radiological Protection, I was invited to present a paper on ‘Effects of radiation on human beings’ at an international conference in Riyadh. The conference was very well attended with many British, American, German, Swedish and Finnish experts. There were high level Saudi presence too including the Saudi Interior Minister, Health Minister and Saudi Atomic Energy Commission’s chairman and so forth. As I presented my paper in English, it had to be translated into Arabic as I spoke. During the presentation, I said that there was a contemporary scientific view that radiation might have caused mutation in human genes that helped the process of evolution. My translator, an intelligent Egyptian man, stopped translating at that point and then came over to me and said, “Sir, I cannot translate this line. If I do, not only I but also you would be arrested for blasphemy.” Then it dawned on me that this was a fundamentalist state where there was no evolution, God made everything. We proceeded without this sentence and any other reference to Darwinism.

In most of the fundamentalist Muslim countries, education at schools, colleges and universities proceed without any reference to evolution, natural selection etc. Islamic teaching takes precedence over scientific developments – God created earth, sun, moon and everything else some 10,000 years ago; everything happens as God wishes; human beings must pray to God to please Him and He will give things as He pleases. With such mental blocks, it is no wonder that science and technology have taken leave from the Islamic world.

Physics Nobel Laureate Steven Weinberg (who shared the prize with Abdus Salam and Sheldon Glashow in 1979) said, “Though there are talented scientists of Muslim origin working productively in the West, for forty years I have not seen a single paper by a physicist or an astronomer working in a Muslim country that was worth reading.”

Prof. Abdus Salam, First Muslim Nobel Laureate in Physics 1979

Even Prof Abdus Salam, a Muslim of Pakistani origin, who carried out his ground-breaking research in the UK, had to suffer the ignominy of being declared non-Muslim by the Pakistani authorities as he was from the Ahmadi sect. Before his death in 1996, he wished to be buried at his home country, Pakistan. On his burial, his graveyard was desecrated by Muslim zealots, as the headstone at his burial site had the inscription ‘Prof Abdus Salam – First Muslim Nobel Laureate’. As he was declared non-Muslim, the word ‘Muslim’ had been covered-up by an order of the Lahore Court. But then, as he could not claim ‘First Nobel Laureate’; so the whole inscription was covered-up.  

From time to time, Western leaders patronisingly speak of Muslim heritage and scientific and intellectual contributions to civilisations by Islam, but the fact remains that those contributions were nearly 1,000 or more years ago and mostly by people (Shias) who are now considered either non-Muslims or renegade Muslims by Wahhabi Sunnis.

Now, going back to the fundamental question, what caused the catastrophic collapse of “Golden Age” of Islam after the fall of Abbasid Caliphate? Why it could not have been revived in any of the 56 Muslim majority states of the world? The answer is quite simple. Islam, or its fundamental version of it, is not compatible with science and technology. Prof. Steven Weinberg claimed that after Ghazali there was no more science worth mentioning in Islamic countries. Only way Islamic countries can revive the culture of scientific studies is to relegate Islam to back burners, far away from the state functions. The religion of Islam should be totally segregated from all branches of science. Otherwise, Islam will keep creeping back to damage scientific disciplines.

  • Dr A Rahman is an author and a columnist.  (This article was published in bdnews24.com in 2014)
Cultural, International, Life as it is, Religious, Technical

Albert Einstein’s Views on Religion

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Einstein and Tagore, the two intellectual giants of the 20th century, from the West and the East

Many people, particularly those promoting and propagating religious beliefs (in all major religions), had over the years laid claims that Albert Einstein was a man of religious conviction. They often put forward Einstein’s famous quote, “God does not play dice”, implying that belief in God’s harmony and absolutism in creation was inbuilt in Einstein’s thought process. Nothing, I emphasise nothing, could be more egregiously misinterpreted and misrepresented than this.

Albert Einstein was not a man of religious conviction by any standards. His religious views, if considered dispassionately, would verge on the side of atheism; although he did not like him to be branded as an ‘atheist’. His views on religions were very well contained in his one and half page letter, written in German in 1954 (just a year before his death) to the German philosopher, Eric Gutkind, which contained, “The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable but still primitive legends, which are nevertheless pretty childish”. He also said, “No interpretation, no matter how subtle, can change this”. That letter had been sold in an auction at Christie’s in New York only a few days ago (2018) for the staggering sum of $2.9 m (£2.3 m).

Einstein's letter

That “God does not play dice” was not said by Einstein out of devotion to God, but as a retort to the underlying theme of “Copenhagen interpretation” produced by Niels Bohr/Heisenberg and others on quantum mechanics. Although Albert Einstein and Max Planck were the pioneers of quantum concept in the first decade of the 20th century, subsequent developments of quantum mechanics by Niels Bohr / Schrodinger / Heisenberg / Pauli / Dirac and many more leading to probabilistic nature of objects (elementary particles) were very much disputed by Einstein. An object is either there or not, it cannot be half there and half not; Einstein contended. In that context, he rejected the probabilistic nature of objects by that quote. He also said, the moon is there on the night sky whether we observe it or not. Just because we cannot observe the moon because of cloud in the sky does not mean the moon is not there!

However, quantum physics was relentlessly moving forward into the probabilistic interpretation of objects and successfully explained many hitherto inexplicable physical processes. Einstein struggled the latter part of his life with the nature of reality. When Tagore and Einstein met in Berlin in 1926 (and at least three more times until 1930 meeting in New York), they had a very fascinating philosophical discussion/debate, not so much on the existence of God but on the nature of reality. Tagore held the Eastern philosophical view of convergence of man (meaning life) and nature, Einstein held the view of ‘absolutism’.

In the letter, Einstein, an Ashkenazi Jew, also articulated his disenchantment with Judaism. “For me the Jewish religion like all others is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people,” he wrote.

However, as a child he was religious; as is the case with most of the children of religious families anywhere in the world. But he had a fiercely independent mind and a deeply inquisitive trait. He disliked authoritarian attitude – whether in teaching or training. He was very unhappy at the Luitpold Gymnasium (a strict discipline focussed school) in Munich, where his parents enrolled him for proper education. He described later that he deeply disliked the ‘rote learning’ method at the school with no opportunity for creative thinking. He, however, remained at that school to keep his parents happy. Years later, he advised people, “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning”.

Einstein did not or could not completely discard the notion of supremacy of the supernatural power, which became inbuilt in his childhood, although he rejected consciously the idea that this religion or that religion derives from the orders or massages from God. By the age of 13, he started doubting the religious teachings and “abandoned his uncritical religious fervour, feeling he had been deceived into believing lies”.

He believed in or had strong inclination towards “Spinoza’s God” (Baruch Spinoza, a 17th century Dutch thinker), “who reveals himself in the lawful harmony of the world, not in a God who concerns himself with the fate and the doings of mankind”. Einstein had the same or similar mindset. This streak of thinking had a strong resonance with the Eastern philosophy that man and nature merge into one or have strong inter-connection.

The physical world follows a set of laws and principles with specific physical constants relevant to the natural world. Any variation of these laws and constants would negate the existence of this universe and could possibly generate another universe. That may be the underlying thinking in the idea of multiverse. So, to claim that a grand designer created this universe with specific set rules and laws for our habitation in mind is a mendacious presumption.

Einstein was, to a large extent, ambivalent about God, the so-called grand designer. He could neither prove or disprove the existence of this ‘Uncaused Cause’, the ‘Unmoved Mover’ and hence it was sensible to maintain some ambivalence; but all his instincts were against such a presumption. He said facetiously, “I want to know how God created this world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know His thoughts; the rest are details.”
– Dr A Rahman is an author and a columnist.

Cultural, International, Literary, Political, Religious

When Continents Clash

It is not the collision of the tectonic plates that I am alluding to here or the drift of the continents nudging each other out, it is the mighty clash of dominant religions from the adjoining Continents. The religion of Islam from the East (the Middle East and North Africa) crossed over to the West in Spain and clashed for centuries for prominence.

Spain was the battle ground of two dominant religions vying out for territorial gains. Islam from North Africa and North West of Middle East eyed Spain some twelve centuries ago as the gateway to Europe for religious expansion. Obviously, the dominant religion (Catholicism) of the region resisted and fought back and what happened during the next few centuries not only shaped Spain but also the whole of Europe.

Recently I travelled to ‘Classical Spain’ with the Riviera Travels visiting places like Seville, Cordoba and Granada, among others, where Islam came, conquered and eventually beaten and relinquished the gains some centuries later in the face of relentless adversarial reaction from the indigenous religions.

Our travel started when we landed at Malaga airport (a southern coastal city of Spain), when Riviera Travels grouped together tourists from Manchester and South of England and brought them through Manchester and Gatwick airports. We spent the night at a 4* hotel which was some 1100 ft above the sea level and hemmed in on the sloping banks of a hill overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. After a drink reception in the evening followed by buffet dinner where I came to know other tourists, I retired.

Next morning, we travelled to Ronda, a small town on the outskirts of Sierra de Grazalema national park trekking a scenic route past Marbella (a holiday resort famous for night clubs) and on the way managed to have a glimpse of Gibraltar across the sea. It is surprising that for such a desolate rocky mountainous outpost, two countries went to battles a number of times over the centuries. We spent nearly five hours in Ronda, which is famous for bull fighting, in particular. It is claimed that bull fighting started in Ronda, but other cities like Seville and Madrid would dispute that vehemently. After having fantastic mixed tapas for lunch, we went to see the ‘new bridge’ connecting two hill cliffs over a gorge of some four hundred feet drop. The sound of cascading water in the gorge is soothing, but the sight of hundreds of feet of almost vertical drop is awesome. As I looked from the bridge down the gorge, I saw people trekking along the small stream meandering along the boulders, rocks and some tropical trees.

Another three hours of bus trip took us to the famous city of Seville. After checking in at the hotel at the centre of the city, we went to have ‘tapas tasting’ at a local restaurant (given free for Riviera travellers) and then after the dinner, we went to see the famous ‘Mushroom Tower’. This ‘Mushroom Tower’ has a fascinating history. Some twelve years ago, Seville politicians had the bright idea of digging a tunnel across that area to construct a relief road. As they dug, they started getting more and more Roman artefacts and then they found a Roman burial chamber. Obviously, they could not demolish the Roman Remains for the relief road. They built an archeological museum on the burial site and a fantastic mushroom bridge towering over the surrounding areas (some three hundred feet above the street level) had also been built. The site now is a major tourist attraction.

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Mushroom tower in Seville

Seville is a place bristling with numerous historical and cultural monuments from both Islam and Christianity. The next morning, we had been taken by a bus to have a whirlwind tour of the city – so that afterwards we could go and see individual attractions at our leisure. We saw Seville Cathedral with the Giralda, Alcazar palace, the bullring and then we walked through the Maria Luisa garden to Plaza de Espania (half-crescent palace).

Seville Cathedral (Spanish: Catedral de Santa Maria) is a Roman Catholic cathedral. It is the third largest cathedral in the world (after the St Peter’s cathedral in Rome and St Paul’s cathedral in London). Seville was conquered by the Umayyad in 712 AD. The Almohad caliph Abu Yaqub Yusuf decided to construct a grand mosque in the city in 1172 on the site where a mosque was built in 829 by Umar Ibn Adabbas. The grand mosque that was built was massive in size (15,000 sq.m. internal space) but it was not completed until 1198.

Shortly after the conquest of the city by Ferdinand III, the grand mosque was ‘Christianized’ by converting it to city’s cathedral. In 1401, city’s leaders decided to build a massive cathedral on the site so grand that people would say after its completion that the leaders were simply mad. The work was not, however, completed until 1506!

But some aspects of the grand mosque were preserved. The courtyard for ablution for the Muslim faithful was preserved. Now it is a long pool of water, some 15 ft wide, with fountains on both sides criss-crossing the pool and orange trees adorning it. Also, the minaret of the mosque (some 342 ft high) was kept, but converted into a bell tower, known as La Giralda, which is now the iconic symbol of the city. There are wide ramps, not steps, that lead up to the bell tower. The muezzin used to go up the ramps on horse back to the bell tower to carry out calls for prayers five times a day! The cathedral also contains Christopher Columbus’ burial site.

Alcazar is a royal palace, built for the Christian king, Peter of Castile, on the site of an Abbadid Muslim residential fortress. The name Alcazar comes from the Arabic word al-qasr (the castle). The castle, with its extensive garden, was used as a royal palace by the Moorish rulers. It is still being used as a royal palace and, in fact, it is the oldest royal palace in Europe. In 1987 the cathedral, the adjacent Alcazar palace complex were all given the status of World Heritage Sites.

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Flamenco dance

In the evening, at 9pm, we went to the Flamenco performance. The gypsies from Southern Spain created the flamenco dance and music since their arrival at Andalusia in the 15th century. It is said that the gypsies came from a region of northern India called Sid, which is now in Pakistan. The folk-lore of Andalusia is conveyed by vibrant expressive dance, trapping of feet and the accompanying music. It was very entertaining.

After spending three nights in Seville we headed for the famous Moorish city of Cordoba. We did not spend night in Cordoba, but spent the whole day there. We visited the Royal Palace, the famous Mezquita (mosque) and a museum. Cordoba, during the Moorish time, had the largest library in the world and the Cordoba University is reputed to be the oldest university (older than Oxford by centuries). After lunch we headed for Granada through the countryside covered with olive groves and absorbed the spectacular views of Sierra Nevada Mountains.

We stayed in a hotel in Granada right on top of a mountain next to the Alhambra palace. Next morning we walked to Alhambra Palace and spent literally the whole day exploring various avenues and absorbing the lifestyles and traditions of bygone days. The history and tradition of Muslim rulers were conveyed to us by a local tourist guide. That the ruler would come in to one of the chambers (which chamber would not be disclosed previously for security reasons), sit on a high chair to give audience to the public is still being practiced by many Muslim leaders in many countries. (It is said that Sheikh Mujibur Rahman of Bangladesh practiced the same tradition). The following morning we went on a train tour (actually a bus shaped like a train) of the city, had lunch there and came back in time to board a bus to go back to Malaga airport.

After the hectic seven days we headed back to England.

 

A Rahman is an author and a columnist

 

Human Rights, International, Political, Religious

Erdogan’s noose round Saudi neck

We all have heard of and enjoyed the fictitious stories in films like the murder in the orient express, murder in the Nile, murder on the dancefloor and so on and so forth. But hardly anything can match the real-life gruesome murder of a journalist in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in all its viciousness and barbarity. Even more striking is that this killing would be remembered by the world for the blatant and repeated lies by the Saudi government after perpetrating this gruesome murder.

Saudi duplicity

Jamal Khashoggi (JK), a Saudi national of Turkish heritage and an American green card holder, was a journalist contributing to a number of newspapers including the Washington Post. He had been a thorn on the side of the brash young crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman (MbS) and to the whole of the Saudi royal family for his political and religious views. It is not because he was propagating non-fundamentalist Islamic ideology, but because he upheld Muslim Brotherhood ideology and advocated moderation of the extremist Salafist/Wahhabi ideology, which is the cornerstone of the Saudi royal family’s existence.

This ideological battle that pitted between Khashoggi and the Saudi royal family was going on for quite some time. The conundrum was that when MbS had been implementing, as the moderniser of Saudi Arabia, such things like women be allowed to be educated, women be allowed to drive etc., which Khashoggi had been advocating; battle royal emerged on other issues that led to his brutal death. On issues like Saudi’s blockade of Qatar, Saudi’s relentless killing of Yemenis, Saudi’s surreptitious support of extremist Islamic groups round the world etc., Khashoggi fell foul of the royal family. He was viewed egregiously by the royal family as the existential threat to Saudi Arabia.

However, Jamal Khashoggi and his family had close connection with the Saudi royal family. His grandfather was the personal physician to King Abdulaziz Al-Saud, the founder of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. He was the nephew of the billionaire Saudi arms dealer, Adnan Khashoggi. It may also be mentioned that he was the first cousin of Dodi Fayed, who was dating Diana, Princess of Wales, when the two had died in a car crash in Paris.

In some quarters it had been proclaimed that Khashoggi was an ‘enlightened’ journalist from Saudi Arabia who embraced western liberalism at heart. Nothing can be furthest from the truth. He was an ardent ‘Muslim Brotherhood (MB)’ supporter and preached political Islam and tried to garner support for the Muslims to unite to dominate the world.

The Saudi royal family upholding Wahhabi ideology opposed ideologically MB version of Islam, which does not follow the raw fundamental tenets of Quran and Hadith. The king of Saudi Arabia is the custodian of two holy mosques in Saudi Arabia and hence he was the de-facto keeper of Islam and Islamic ideology in all its purity and pugnaciousness as enunciated in Quran and Hadith. To maintain King’s political power through the religious platform, he had to uphold Wahhabism/Salafism. (Abd-al Wahhab’s preaching was full of vindictiveness and hatred towards other religions or even towards other denominations of Islam itself, all in the name of purity of Islam. For his inhumanity, he was kicked out of his community and his father, who was an educated and devout Muslim, disowned him.)

The Saudi royal family does not tolerate any dissent – gruesome torture, whipping, lashing, stoning to death, beheading etc are common practices in Saudi Arabia as well as in other middle eastern countries. Brutality, inhuman torture, murder etc in the name of God are peddled in Islam as virtuous things and promised to be rewarded in paradise.

When the dissident Jamal Khashoggi left Saudi Arabia to live in London and then in America, he was effectively outside the reach of the Saudi royal family. But a God gifted opportunity arose when a few days before 2nd October, Jamal Khashoggi went to Saudi consulate to get his divorce papers. He was told to come back a few days later, on 2nd October, to collect them. Then Saudi consulate officials went on overdrive. Saudi royal family including of course the crown prince, MbS, had been informed and a plot had been hatched to get rid of him.

When Khashoggi reported at the Saudi consulate just after 1 pm on 2nd October, he was invited to go the consul general’s office upstairs. Unsuspectingly he went to the upstairs office and sat in a chair. The murder squad were waiting in the next room and soon two of them came, grabbed him and took him to the next room. They made him lie down on a long table and started chopping off his fingers! A fully conscious man having his fingers chopped off would have been most excruciating and painful experience. The leader of the murderous team put on a head phone, as he quipped that he enjoys listening to music when he is doing such things. Hardly did they know that all those screams, all those flippant conversations even in the closed room in the consulate are being recorded. Probably even the video images may be in existence!

But that is not all. After killing him, his body was dismembered, cut out into smaller pieces to be disposed off in small bags. A black van had pulled in to carry the bags and disappeared innocuously into the main street. In the meantime, a man wearing Khashoggi’s clothes (but not his shoes) and false Khashoggi beard had walked merrily out of the consulate pretending to be Khashoggi. That was recorded in the CCTV as evidence that Khashoggi had left the building!

Saudi Arabia under the helm of MbS thought that they have pulled off a major coup – finished off the thorny man once and for all. But Erdogan, the Turkish president, who had long been at loggerheads with Saudi Arabia for a long time, had other ideas.
The chronology of Saudi government’s lies and damn lies are as follows:

1. Saudi government to quell press speculation issued a statement just a day after JK’s arrival at the consulate that he had left the consulate and might have disappeared after that. But Turkish officials disputed that.
2. MbS said categorically on 5 October that JK is not in the consulate.
3. When on 6 Oct Turkish government said that JK was murdered inside the consulate, alarm bell was ringing for the Saudi government. The following day the Turkish government released a statement that 15-man Saudi hit squad had actually arrived in Istanbul in private planes at the early hours of 2nd Oct and left the country for Riyadh late in the same evening after completing the job. Two days later, Saudi Arabia admitted that JK died accidentally in the consulate after a ‘fist fight’ with officials. But Saudi government did not give details of who were involved in the fight or what had happened to JK’s dead body.
4. Turkish government was drip-feeding genuine information about how he died and released the names of those 15-man hit squad. Saudi Arabia was stunned at these revelations. How could Turkey know all these things when it was carried out in secrecy under closed doors in the consulate? Saudi Arabia then admitted that JK was actually killed by rogue operatives. Saudi Arabia claimed to have arrested 18 men suspected of murdering JK, after denying any knowledge of his death for over a week.
5. It is obvious that crown prince, MbS, had his finger prints all over this episode, but Saudi Arabia would not admit it. They are trying desperately to protect him and defuse the situation.
6. King Salman sent his trusted envoy, Khaled al Faisal, governor of Mecca, to Ankara on 10 Oct to placate Erdogan and carry out mega-dollar diplomacy with Turkey. But Erdogan would have none of it, as he was after even bigger bounty.
7. Turkey released details of how JK had been brutally tortured – cutting off his fingers while he was conscious, heading him and then dismembering his body. Saudi Arabia today (25 Oct) released a statement that the Turkish investigation had shown that the “suspects had committed their act with a premeditated intention”. Surely the suspects did not carry out this gruesome premeditated murder in the embassy on their own!

All along this episode, Donald Trump had been trying to rescue Saudi Arabia by asserting that there should be an investigation and before that nothing can be said. When Saudi Arabia was giving all sorts totally bonkers stories like “fist fight with officials”, “rogue operatives” killing JK etc, Donald Trump said that this is the worst cover-up story in the world. Of course, Donald Trump is fully qualified to say so. When he covered up his presidential election tempering and colluding with America’s worst enemy, Russia, all the American intelligence (and foreign as well) operatives could not exactly put their fingers on it, he definitely is very well qualified to judge cover-up stories.

Donald Trump is now eyeing mega bucks from Saudi Arabia. Previously America had to compete with other exporters (arms, military equipment etc) to Saudi Arabia to get contracts. Now many genuine exporters are moving away from Saudi Arabia, America will have a field day.

Recep Erdogan is playing even more a sinister game – he can have the cake and eat it. Saudi King was literally begging to Erdogan to show mercy suppressing the murder investigation and mega deal was for him for the asking. Erdogan may enjoy the fruits now and keep the audio tape of the last moments of JK’s heart-rending scream, chattering of the murderers in this gruesome incident etc on hold until the time when he feels that Saudi Arabia is trying to wriggle out. Erdogan may even have the video shots of JK’s murder. How incredibly explosive that video would be and that could spell the end of Saud dynasty.

Erdogan’s action is like a cat and mouse game – a cat does not kill a mouse outright, it plays vicious killing game and watches with relish the utter helplessness and image of death on mouse’s face. Turkish cat and Saudi mouse will usher in a new era in the Muslim world.

 

  • A Rahman is an author and a columnist