Consequences of Religious Extremism and the Lack of Democratic Principles

By Dr. Ali Alyami   في الثلاثاء 11 مارس 2008

The Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, located in Washington D.C.
January 31, 2008
Consequences of Religious Extremism and the Lack of Democratic Principles
By Dr. Ali Alyami

Extremists Back in the Streets
Director’s Comment: When the Saudi authorities capture potential suicide bombers, they place them in lush residential villas and re-indoctrinate them to focus their attention on the enemies of Islam. Contrary to the Saudi educational officials and senior members of the royal family, who control what is being taught in schools, mosques, and on the street, these young men learn their violent religious values in Saudi institutions. When these extremists are captured by Americans in Afghanistan and sent to Guantanamo Bay for interrogation, then released to Saudi authorities, or when they are caught by Saudi police before or after they commit heinous crimes, they go to Saudi prison for interrogation by the notorious Ministry of Interior officials. The extremists are then placed in comfortable living accommodations to be re-programmed by the same religious men who trained them to be extremists in the first place. The training program consists of heavy doses of prayers, re-memorization of the Quran, Sh ariah and Hadith, as well as intense lessons on how to be subservient to the Wali Almer, the King, and his family. The end goal is to convince young Saudi religious extremists not to commit crimes against the royal family and its infrastructure, but against the enemies of Islam, a phrase frequently used by the king, his senior brothers, and the religious establishment in their speeches, greetings, and meetings with their voiceless subjects. If the Saudi government is serious about eradicating religious hatred, incitements, and exportation of its Wahhabi deadly ideology, it should start a process of reinterpreting the Quran, the Hadith, and the Shariah law which most Muslims, especially women, seculars, and religious minorities, would like to see happen, especially if they could participate in the process. The alternative is a worldwide work program under a non-religious trainer who would inculcate human values, as well as sanctity of life regardless of race, gender, religion or nationality. The following article does not shed light on the whole story. Read More

One Wife Won’t Do
Director’s Comment: A Saudi delegation was recently questioned by a U.N. watchdog group in Geneva, concerning the lack of progress in women’s equality in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi delegation attributed the failure to implement International Women’s Rights Declarations to a variety of factors, including tradition, religion, and the sexual needs of men. When questioned about polygamy in Saudi Arabia, the delegation explained, “…men are permitted by law to have up to four wives. Sometimes the sexual appetite of a man is not satisfied by his wife and he must take another wife to satisfy this, otherwise he would be obliged to satisfy it in an illegal manner, outside of marriage…” It’s unfortunate the U.N. group did not ask the Saudi delegation if it were appropriate for a Saudi woman to have four husbands at the same, if her sexual needs could not be satisfied by one husband. Read More

Arbitrary Judicial System
Director’s Comment: The saga of Fatima and her husband Mansour started approximately two years ago. The couple was married legally and with the consent of Fatima’s father, who died at a later stage. Some relatives, including a half brother, protested against the marriage because they claimed Mansour was not good enough for Fatima because he was not pure blood Arabian. Fatima’s relatives went to one of the Saudi anti-women religious courts and obtained an annulment order to dissolve the marriage. This is where the wrenching story of Fatima, Mansour, and their two young children began. The state police came to the family sanctuary to serve them a court order, which subsequently fragmented the happy family. The state and its arbitrary judicial system turned a cheerful married couple and their young children’s peaceful lives into a living nightmare. The lives of this innocent family were shattered by the very same system that is supposed to protect from harm. Instead of mediating disputes and solvi ng problems, the Saudi judicial system creates and prolongs painful situations, as in the case of this innocent and law-abiding family. Read More

They Ran out of Ammunition - Women Do Exist and Can Rent Hotel Rooms
Director’s Comment: Finally, the Saudi ruling religious, political and traditionalist elites, along with their religious devotees, realize that they are running out of the centuries-old fictitious excuses which they have used to deny women their basic human, divine and natural rights. They have decided now that women actually exist and are competent and able to rent a hotel room where they can sleep instead of spending the night in a rented taxi in a dark and dangerous ally because they could not rent a hotel room without a male relative present. For centuries, the ruling Saudi-Wahhabi elites have insisted that women are incapable of doing anything for themselves, therefore must depend on men, from birth to death, for all of their needs. The ruling elites have been able to convince a vast majority of their disenfranchised people, as well as their allies in Western societies, that their desolate kingdom and its people are religious and traditional and that the marginalization of women is a natura l outcome under these conditions.

It is not a secret that there are passages in the Quran that discriminate against women. One such example is the allocation of inheritance among males and females. Not only have the Saudi ruling elites used religion and tradition to discriminate against women, but to exonerate themselves from dealing with their home-grown problems and meeting the needs of all of their citizens, men and women. The rulers have used the same excuses to justify rejection of political participation and empowerment of the individual. Using religion and tradition to reject democracy is a feeble argument that has been proven wrong time and again. For example, India, with a population of one billion people, hundreds of different traditions, languages, ethnicities, regions and religions, including 150 million Muslims (6 times more than the native Saudi population) is a thriving democracy. Incidentally, India is the biggest exporter of doctors and nurses to heal the Saudis, as well as male drivers to d rive Saudi women who are denied the right to drive their children to schools, emergency rooms, or to take rides to escape the suffocating living conditions imposed upon them by their male relatives and reinforced by the denigrating policies of self-appointed rulers and angry fanatics.

Allowing women to rent hotel rooms is a microscopic step on an immensely long road. Even this miniscule event is severely and insultingly conditioned. Once women check into a hotel, its employees are instructed to alert the regular and religious police and give them the names along with all the information they have about these women. This, in itself, is contradictory to the common argument that women should not show their faces or be known to anyone other than their immediate family members. Now, their names, addresses and phone numbers can be made public and used by anyone in the agencies that receive them to blackmail these women for all kinds of reasons.

One may ask why reporting women to regular and religious police is necessary. Saudi Arabia is a religious and political police state. Its ruling elites are very insecure and fearful, for good reason, of retributions from their oppressed people. They fear that the mingling of genders and different ethnic and religious groups might lead to a united people against the ruling elites. This is the primary reason for severe gender segregation, regional and religious divisions, and prohibition of all forms of freedom of expression and assemblage, labor and other unions. The Saudis, for instance, are forcefully herded by the religious police to pray five times a day. Forcing people to worship is against the principals of Islam, but the Saudis do it to ensure that the system knows where people are at all times, and to intercept any possible activities that could be considered threats to the royal family and its infrastructure. The Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia w elcomes any step that can lead to total freedom for and empowerment of Saudi women. Their empowerment is the only hope to move the country forward and eradicate religious extremism. Read More, Arabic

Time to Surpass Stone Age Mentality
Director’s Comment: The Saudi royal family’s policies and practices of rejecting modern economic and democratic developments have been under relentless global and domestic attack in recent years, especially since September 11, 2001. The most recent assault came from a humble but genius leader, Singaporean Minister, Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, who changed the outlook of his small country’s diverse population, comprised of four ethnic nationalities, nine distinct languages and eight different religions (including Islam), from a lifestyle in which people relied on fishing to survive, into one of the world’s most modern and participatory economies. In a speech delivered by Mr. Yew during a conference known as the “Global Competitiveness Forum” in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, on January 22, Mr. Yew indirectly attacked the blatant corruption in Saudi Arabia, along with the Saudi socialization process, educational system and global responsibilities. Mr. Yew told his attentive audience, addressing the Saudis sp ecifically, “You have to move from a Bedouin culture into the modern world…you have to move to a knowledge society… It all starts through the inquiring mind ‘why?’” he pointed out. “When your child asks you why, you should not tell him ‘because I said so’. But try to explain to him. And then he’ll ask the next question: ‘Why is that?’ That is human progress,” he said to the applause of the crowd.

Mr. Yew succeeded in transforming his country and the mindset of his diverse people because he maintained accountability, while keeping religion for the individuals and groups to decide for themselves. Mr. Yew’s ideology is a perfect example of an instance in which a country’s leadership strives to empower its people, instead of squashing their hopes, dampening their spirits, and turning them against other peoples, while denying them the right to explore their natural and divine potentials and use them to build a peaceful, prosperous, and tolerant society. Read More

Release the Blogger
The Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, located in Washington D.C.

Reiterates its call for the immediate and unconditional release of the innocent Saudi blogger,

Fouad Al-Farhan

Saudi Arabia is considered one of the most censored societies on earth. All forms of free expression are banned, independent civil society is prohibited, and men and women are severely segregated and deprived of many of the same rights, benefits and social norms that are accepted and valued worldwide. The press is government controlled and all editors of print and visual media are appointed by the government. The oppressive conditions present in Saudi Arabia, including the lack of freedom of speech, assemblage, and public debate, have forced Saudis to be creative and seek other means of communicating with each other, including sign language between men and women who know very little about each other due to their life long segregation. However, nothing can compare to the use of the internet by Saudis to express their feelings and views, particularly the blog. Most Saudis, especially young men and women, who are denied their divine and natural rights to meet face to face in sc hools, public places, or entertainment houses, spend more time on their computers and Blueberries exchanging romantic messages than they do studying, working or doing household chores.

As Saudis became aware that blogging had the potential to work wonders in a stifling society such as their own, the new internet medium gained widespread popularity. The use of the internet became an empowering tool for oppressed Saudis because they can use it at anytime, anywhere they happen to be. They can use it at home, abroad, via mobile phones, Blueberries, and Bluetooth. More importantly, they can use it without the omnipresence of the Saudi government’s layers of ruthless spying agents. This empowerment gave the Saudi internet users, especially the bloggers, a profound sense of freedom to talk about politics, corruption, oppression, religion, sex, and individual liberty.

One such blogger is the courageous Fouad Al-Farhan of Jeddah, a major liberal and cosmopolitan city in the Hijaz region. Al-Farhan was one of the first Saudis ever to blog under his real name. He broke free from the self-regulated pattern, which most Saudi journalists and citizens are forced to embrace if they want to avoid imprisonment, the loss of their jobs, and stigmatization. Al-Farhan began to write about liberty, codified civil laws, accountability and transparency. Such topics are depicted by the Saudi government, its educational and judicial systems, as well as its extremist religious agents as morally corrupting and un-Islamic infidel creations designed to destroy Islam and its adherents. These topics are deemed to be security risks and against God’s will, as well as an insult to the good judgment of the Wali Elimr, the king.

Fouad Al-Farhan put his life at risk through his actions and opinions. It is for this reason that he is known as the godfather of Saudi blogging. On December 11th, 2007, Al-Farhan was snatched by the dreaded agents of Prince Naif’s Ministry of Interior, ostensibly for reasons other than his demands for better governance. Saudis are convinced that his arrest was the immediate result of his refusal to retract some of his blogposts criticizing Saudi officials. In order to avoid domestic and international condemnation, such as that which occurred in the case of the gang-raped bint Al-Qatief in December, the loathed Minister of Interior, Prince Naïf, did not close Al-Farhan’s blogging activities. However, Al-Farhan has been languishing in the notorious Saudi Dahban penitentiary since Dec. 11, 2007, and apparently has yet to be informed of the charges pressing against him.

The question is, why was Fouad Al-Farhan really arrested? If his arrest was due to his writings, which most Saudis seem to suspect, then this is a direct proof that the reform King Abdullah and his hired propagandists in the West brag about is a farce. Why is it a crime for the new generation of young citizens to discuss issues that shape and affect every aspect of their daily lives, as well as the future of their society and fragile country?

On January 5th, 2007, Al-Farhan’s father-in-law was allowed to meet with him for one hour inside Jeddah’s Dahban Prison. The next day, blogs across the Middle East and around the world observed a “Day of Blog Silence” in protest of Al-Farhan’s detention. The New York Times also weighed in with a staff editorial condemning the arrest and calling for Al-Farhan’s release. Fouad Al-Farhan was once a minor celebrity within the limited scene of Saudi Arabian bloggers. Now, he is an internationally-known dissident with leading newspapers, organizations, and diplomats calling for his release. Over 1,000 people have already sent letters to Saudi and American officials calling for Fouad Al-Farhan’s immediate release.

CDHR urges you to do the same because without global exposure and condemnation of the harsh Saudi policies, infringement on individual basic liberties and gross violations of human rights will continue under the autocratic political and religious policies of the Saudi-Wahhabi system. Read More

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