Western world, listen up!!


muslimahTHREE-QUARTERS OF YOUNG MIDDLE EAST MUSLIMS VIEW ISIS AS ‘PERVERSION OF ISLAM’

Newsweek

Three-quarters of young Muslims in the Middle East and North Africa view extremist groups, such as the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) and Al-Qaeda, as entities that distort the religion of Islam and its core teachings, a new survey has found.

The poll, conducted by Zogby Research Services, commissioned by The Futures Initiative at the Abu Dhabi-based Tabah Foundation and released on Tuesday, surveyed 5,374 Muslims between the ages of 15 and 34 in eight Arab countries—Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Bahrain, Kuwait, Jordan, the Palestinian territories and Saudi Arabia—in October and November.

 “At least three-quarters of millennial respondents in all countries surveyed” see ISIS and Al-Qaeda as “either a complete perversion of Islam’s teachings or mostly wrong,” the survey says.

The countries with the highest number of Muslims who opposed the radical Islamist groups as twisting Islam were Morocco with 92 percent, the United Arab Emirates with 92 percent and Egypt with 83 percent. The lowest of the eight countries surveyed were Saudi Arabia with 53 percent and the Palestinian territories with 58 percent.

The survey found that many held corruption and autocratic regimes as the primary reasons for the rise of extremist groups.

Almost 70 percent of those polled in the UAE and 50 percent in Morocco said “corrupt, repressive, and unrepresentative governments” were the main recruiting factors for men and women joining such groups. Other factors cited by the polling group in its results included extreme religious education as well as poor levels of education.

It also showed that the majority of young Muslim millennials believed that their societies require more active female religious scholars and found Friday sermons to be a tirade, boring or the position of the government, Arab outlet Gulf News reported.

“In most countries, the majority says that religion does not need to be reformed” but rather that it “needs to be made more relevant,” company leader James Zogby said in a statement released alongside the survey results.

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I hope no one is surprised by this


I fully expect this however, I’m sure the writer of the article is approaching this from a Eurocentric view.  Saudi Arabia, the oil drenched monarchy is an anachronistic, despotic backward society so full of irony that it is hardly recognizable from it’s glorious Islamic past.  It touts itself as the guardian of the two mosques in Mecca and Medina with all the attendant pomp and ceremony yet denies its citizens and the Muslim expatriate community that lives there the basics one comes to expect from “society” of freedom of thought, association, human dignity.  Is it any wonder that those most affected by this encroachment on their life choose to abandon what they consider responsible for their plight

 In this country known as the cradle of Islam, where religion gives legitimacy to the government and state-appointed clerics set rules for social behavior, a growing number of Saudis are privately declaring themselves atheists.

The evidence is anecdotal, but persistent.

“I know at least six atheists who confirmed that to me,” said Fahad AlFahad, 31, a marketing consultant and human rights activist. “Six or seven years ago, I wouldn’t even have heard one person say that. Not even a best friend would confess that to me.”

A Saudi journalist in Riyadh has observed the same trend.

The idea of being irreligious and even atheist is spreading because of the contradiction between what Islamists say and what they do,” he said.

The perception that atheism is no longer a taboo subject — at least two Gulf-produced television talk shows recently discussed it — may explain why the government has made talk of atheism a terrorist offenseThe March 7 decree from the Ministry of Interior prohibited, among other things, “calling for atheist thought in any form, or calling into question the fundamentals of the Islamic religion on which this country is based.”

The number of people willing to admit to friends to being atheist or to declare themselves atheist online, usually under aliases, is certainly not big enough to be a movement or threaten the government. A 2012 poll by WIN-Gallup International of about 500 Saudis found that 5 percent described themselves as “convinced atheist.” This was well below the global average of 13 percent.

But the greater willingness to privately admit to being atheist reflects a general disillusionment with religion and what one Saudi called “a growing notion” that religion is being misused by authorities to control the population. This disillusionment is seen in a number of ways, ranging from ignoring clerical pronouncements to challenging and even mocking religious leaders on social media.

“Because people are becoming more disillusioned with the government, they started looking at the government and its support groups as being in bed together and conspiring together against the good of the people,” said Bassim Alim, a lawyer in Jeddah.

“When they see the ulema [religious scholars] appeasing the government,” he added, “people become dismayed because they thought they were pious and straightforward and just. “

I believe people started being fed up with how religion is really controlling their life and how only one interpretation of religion should be followed,” said activist Fahad AlFahad.

Together, the appearance of atheists, a growing wariness of religious controls on society, as well as the continuing lure of jihad and ultraconservatism signal a breakdown in the conformity and consensus that has marked the Saudi religious field in the recent past. It is becoming a more heterogenous and polarized faith scene.

The mosques are full but society is losing its values. It’s more like a mechanical practice, like going church, you have to go on Sunday,” said a former employee of state media. “We no longer understand our religion, not because we don’t want to. But because our vision of it, our understanding of it, has been polluted by the monarchy…[and]…by the official religious establishment that only measures religion by what the monarchy wants and what pleases the monarchy.”

The growing skepticism about religion and clerics is more visible nowadays because of social media outlets, including tweets, blogs and Facebook pages.

Here are three illustrative tweets from Saudis:

— Prince Abdul Aziz bin Fahad has been tweeting nonstop abt God. I pity his disconnectedness from today’s public. It’s not the 1980′s. Pathetic

— Because our illusion that our version of Islam is the only correct one needs to be washed away

— Could the ulema issue a fatwa against domestic violence? I mean the fatwa committee has prohibited playing Resident Evil 

At the same time, however, there is a countervailing trend in that some young Saudis are joining radical Islamist and jihadi movements, a trend reinforced by the war in Syria.

“When the Arab Spring started, young religious people were asking about Islam and democracy,” said Saud Al Sarhan, director of research at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh. “But now they are just asking about Islam and jihad, after what is going on in Syria.”

This attraction towards militant ultraconservatism is also apparent in the activities of unregulated religious vigilantes. Even as the government’s own religious police have come under stricter controls, these bands of young religious “volunteers” attack social gatherings to stop what they deem as prohibited activities, including music, dancing and gender mixing. In one famous incident in 2012, these “volunteers” raided the annual government-sponsored cultural festival known as Janadriya, where they clashed with security forces.

It is still dangerous to publicly admit one is an atheist because of the dire punishment one can face from a court system based on sharia, which regards disbelief in God as a capital offense.

In addition, conservative clerics who have considerable sway among Saudis, use the label ‘atheist’ to discredit those who question their strict interpretations of Islamic scriptures or express doubts about the dominant version of Islam known as Wahhabism.

That is what happened with 25-year-old Hamza Kashgari who in 2012 tweeted some unconventional thoughts about Prophet Muhammad, none of which indicated he did not believe in God. Still, he was called ‘atheist’ and to appease the religious establishment, the government jailed him for 20 months.

Also, Raef Badawi, in his early 30s, was accused of being atheist because he called for freedom to discuss other versions of Islam besides Wahhabism on the website “Free Saudi Liberals.” Badawi was sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes in July 2013. His lawyer, Waleed Abu Alkhair, a human rights activist who also has been jailed, said Badawi told the court that he was a Muslim but added that “everyone has a choice to believe or not believe,” the BBC reported.

A Riyadh resident who has extensive contacts with young Saudis because of his job in higher education said that he “tries to warn young people that they are living according to an Islam constructed by the government, and not according to the Islam given us by God.”

Increasingly, he said, some youths “are going to ignore religion and become atheist, while others are going to understand the game.”

Saudi racism revisited


In an earlier post, I railed against Saudi racism because of its insidious and destructive as well as anti-Islamic nature. One point from the editorial that particularly caused my ire was this

…. in most Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia most foreigners rarely interact with locals and if they do, they communicate in a language, which is a mix of badly spoken Arabic and sign language. It could be termed gibberish.

I found this video on YouTube which completely demolishes the argument of the author of that piece.

I regretfully conclude however, that no matter how good the person in the video above speaks Arabic he will never be given the chance for full and equal citizenship rights in any Arab Gulf/Khaleeji country because he’s not a ‘true Arab’.  Doesn’t that sound too much like all the other racists ideologies we’ve fought and overcome in the past?!?

Saudi racism


English: Saudi Arabia

English: Saudi Arabia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The following editorial is not unique to Saudi Arabia, rather it’s an Arab Gulf mentality that is steeped in tribalism and nationalism and from the looks of the comments generates intense feelings among many of the people who live there.  I remarked after reading it, what would the king of Abyssinia or the people of Medina say to the nascent Islamic community that came to them seeking shelter from the oppression of the Quraish; would there even be an Islamic community if they were not afforded freedom from oppression that all mankind is entitled?  If these two diverse communities of faithful….the Christian king of then Abyssinia or the at that time faithless people of Medina (Yathrib) had not been forthcoming with this fundamental right would there even be a Saudi Arabia today?  Of course one could not know that….but equally certain, the all encompassing faith of Islam cannot coexist with the racialism of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Read on and then take time to read the comments posted after the article

Since the beginning of the campaign against illegal workers, some foreigners who were born in the Kingdom or spent years working here have started calling on the authorities to consider granting them Saudi citizenship.
Those born in the Kingdom argue that they have spent most of their lives here, speak Arabic and adapted to its culture. They say it would be very difficult to adjust in their home countries.
This sounds to be a valid argument if one was born in a developed industrialized nation. In those countries, a foreigner makes efforts to assimilate in society by learning local languages and adapting to its ways of life.
However, in most Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia most foreigners rarely interact with locals and if they do, they communicate in a language, which is a mix of badly spoken Arabic and sign language. It could be termed gibberish. Moreover, almost every ethnic group lives nearly in complete isolation from the rest of the local community, and other ethnic groups. Every group lives in self-designated neighborhoods busy with its communal activities. For instance, Ethiopians mostly inhabit Riyadh’s neighborhood Manfouha.
In such neighborhoods, there are community schools that only teach their own curriculum instead of using Saudi textbooks. The students only engage with those from the same ethnic background and are deprived of any possibility of interacting with Saudi children. Moreover, communal activities are limited to the same group, including social visitations and functions, as well as religious celebrations, such as Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha. These communities even have their medial care and business systems, which cater specifically to their needs. How could a person living in such a social and economic setup hopes to become a Saudi, not to mention if that person is living illegally in the country?
On the other hand, there are those who claim that they have lived long years in the country enough to earn the right to Saudi citizenship. But for decades they have taken away jobs that rightfully belong to the Saudis and yet they demand citizenship.
In my opinion, it would be a grave mistake to grant foreigners Saudi citizenship on any basis. These demands run counter to the objectives of Saudization of the labor market, which is controlled by foreigners with skills that can be found among the local population or Saudis can be trained to occupy these jobs.
Observers may recall that when the new naturalization law was introduced a few years back, the naturalized citizens were flocking to government’s financial institutions seeking loans of all types and to even avail themselves of the benefits of Hafez, a program that provides monthly stipends to the unemployed. One can obviously conclude that the primary purpose for seeking citizenship is to acquire monetary benefits rather than a genuine sentiment of belonging to the Saudi society. We have seen in the past that thousands of foreigners succeeded in obtaining Saudi citizenship and most of them started their businesses in various areas. Interestingly, when one visits their establishments, one would find people belonging to their native countries only.
This situation has been exacerbated by the investment law that permitted foreigners with almost trivial financial resources to invest in projects that have no added value to the economy or in the employment of Saudis. Nevertheless, they are eligible to receive all economic benefits. One of the consequences of opening doors to foreign investors is that they began operating as monopolies. Ubiquitously known among Saudis, each ethnic group controls a particular type of trade, and does not like outside competition. When a Saudi decides to start a new business, such groups work to drive this person out of business or force him to sell his business project to the group. Moreover, these ethnically dominated businesses only hire staff belonging to the same group. In case they hire a Saudi national, it is because of the labor law, and eventually this person would be driven out of his job by creating uncomfortable environment or by alienating and undermining his skills and potentials.
The local press frequently reports the same methods being practiced by most foreigners at managerial or mid-level positions in the private sector. It is not hard to imagine what such elements would do to Saudis if they were granted citizenship.
The Saudi education system and various training programs have produced thousands of competent graduates for the job market. They can easily occupy most of the managerial and mid-level jobs currently occupied by individuals from the developing countries. Hence, the cause of the massive unemployment of Saudis is not due to a lack of skills; it is because of an unfriendly environment and the continuous undermining of the skills and potentials of the Saudi youth by foreigners, pushing them away from their rightful jobs.

Fareed nailed this one….


When I first read the news headline that Saudi Arabia declined a seat on the United Nations Security Council my first reaction was who cares?  Citing the UN’s inability to solve the Syrian conflict and how Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime continues to kill its one people, including with chemical weapons, without facing any punishment Saudi Arabia has some nerve.  Syria opened itself up tosaudi_arabia_map inspection in ways the Kingdom would never dare do; chemical weapons are no longer an issue there and yes Syria is still embroiled in a civil war but it’s really a matter of degree.  What Middle Eastern Arab country is NOT killing or otherwise oppressing its citizens?  Fareed states the case rather well.

Saudi Arabia was one of only three countries in the world to recognize and support the Taliban-led government in Afghanistan until the 9/11 attacks……

Saudi Arabia’s objections to the Obama Administration’s policies toward Syria and Iran are not framed by humanitarian concerns for the people of those countries. They are rooted in a pervasive anti-Shi’ite ideology. Riyadh has long treated all other versions and sects of Islam as heresy and condoned the oppression of those groups. A 2009 report from Human Rights Watch details the ways in which the Saudi government, clerics, religious police and schools systematically discriminate against the local Shi’ite population, including arrests, beatings and, on occasion, the use of live ammunition. (And not just the Shi’ites. In March 2012, Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti issued a fatwa declaring that it was “necessary to destroy all the churches in the Arabian Peninsula.”)……

Saudi royals have been rattled by the events in their region and beyond. They sense that the discontent that launched the Arab Spring is not absent in their own populace. They fear the rehabilitation of Iran. They also know that the U.S. might very soon find itself entirely independent of Middle Eastern oil.

Given these trends, it is possible that Saudi Arabia worries that a seat on the U.N. Security Council might constrain it from having freedom of action. Or that the position could shine a light on some of its more unorthodox activities. Or that it could force Riyadh to vote on issues it would rather ignore.

The US must learn to say to all those in the Middle East that America will act to preserve its interests and sometime they will not concur with those of our allies in which case we must be able to say good riddance, so long and if an ally has a conniption fit because America is doing something that ally doesn’t like the US must stay the course of whatever interest it has embraced, all others be damned.

 

Protest or parody


women driversWomen in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have been asking for the right to drive for sometime and it culminated in a recent protest whereby they took to the wheel of vehicles and drove them without official permission.  However, such protests aren’t without some risks to those involved or for those who might tacitly support the protest.

Hisham Fageeh, a Saudi-American made a video whose timing coincides with the women’s protest but I leave it up to you whether it is in support of the protest or of the government’s position on the subject of women as drivers.  No doubt Fageeh is well aware of how  the Kingdom handles dissent or the ridiculous lengths the monarch goes to persuade women NOT to want to drive.  I’m a bit incredulous but does driving really damage women’s ovaries?!?!

 

 

UPDATE

At least 16 Saudi women have received fines for taking the wheel on a day set by activists to defy the kingdom’s traditional ban on female driving, police and reports said on Sunday.

Only few women braved official threats of punishment and drove on Saturday in response to an online campaign headlined “Women’s driving is a choice”.

“Police stopped six women driving in Riyadh, and fined them 300 riyals (Dh293.67) each,” said the capital’s police deputy spokesman, Colonel Fawaz Al Miman.

Each of the women, along with her male guardian — who could be a father, husband, brother, uncle, or grandson — had to “sign a pledge to respect the kingdom’s laws”, Miman told AFP.

In Jeddah, police also fined two women for driving, according to the Red Sea city’s police spokesman, Nawaf Al Bouq.

Saudi newspapers, meanwhile, reported that six women were stopped by police in the Eastern Province, and at least two others were stopped in other parts of the kingdom.

A dozen Saudi women posted videos on the Twitter account of the campaign, @oct26driving, showing themselves driving.

Activists had originally issued a call on social media networks for women across the kingdom to drive their cars on Saturday to challenge the ban.

Some say they received telephone calls from the interior ministry asking them to promise they would not drive on Saturday.

On Wednesday, the ministry said it would act against anyone who attempts to “disturb public peace” by congregating or marching “under the pretext of an alleged day of female driving”.

The next day ministry spokesman General Mansour Al Turki told AFP: “It is known that women in Saudi are banned from driving and laws will be applied against violators and those who demonstrate in support” of this cause.

Activists say Saturday was chosen as a “symbolic” date as part of efforts first launched more than a decade ago to press for the right to drive.

The absolute monarchy is the only country in the world where women are barred from driving. Public gatherings are officially banned.

……and the beat goes on.

Eid al adha-2013


While the world waits for its major super power to default and throw international economies into a tailspin, Muslims the world over are celebrating the festival for the annual pilgrimage, or Hajj. hajj Over two million Muslims participated this year, 2013 and to them and Muslims the world over, congratulations on the occasion of eid al-adha.

eid