Iran-Syria relations in the spotlight amid UAE diplomatic contacts
Former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki Al-Faisal Al Saud must have confused his times when he said in a recently released brief that no one should underestimate the political importance of Muslims’ commitment to helping the people. other Muslims.
Prince Turki’s memoirs focus on Afghanistan, a major concern during his tenure as the head of the General Intelligence Department (GID), the kingdom’s foreign intelligence service from 1977 to August 2001, a month before the terrorist attacks. September 11 against New York and Washington.
“No reader of this book should underestimate the moral and emotional commitment of Muslims to helping other Muslims; it is a very powerful element of modern politics, ”Prince Turki wrote.
Prince Turki, a longtime supporter of reform within the kingdom’s ruling family, was undoubtedly right to write about the strong support of Saudis and Muslims in the 1980s for Pakistan and the Afghan mujahedin in their jihad against the Soviet forces which had invaded the Central Asian state. .
Jihad gave birth to the equivalent in the Muslim world of the International Communist Brigades during the Spanish Civil War, but with much deeper and lasting consequences.
It seems difficult to argue that Muslims still maintain their commitment to helping their brothers in need four decades later, as Muslims experience one of the worst, if not the worst, period of Islamophobia after WWII. Anti-Muslim sentiment ranges from the integration of prejudices and prejudices to what critics call cultural genocide.
Yet much of the Muslim world, either intimidated by China’s coercive economic and diplomatic tactics, or by intent to collect points for a perceived common cause, has avoided criticizing the People’s Republic’s brutal crackdown on human rights. Turkish Muslims in the northwestern province of Xinjiang. . Some countries, including Saudi Arabia, have gone so far as to justify what amounts to a frontal attack on a Muslim and Uighur religious and ethnic identity.
To be fair, Saudi Arabia demanded movement on the Palestinian issue before following the UAE and three other Arab countries in establishing diplomatic relations with Israel. Palestinians wonder if the kingdom will maintain its position once King Salman surrenders or passes and his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman most likely succeeds him.
Muslims’ moral and emotional commitments may not be at the forefront of Prince Mohammed’s calculations. The Crown Prince is expected to place greater importance on the potential boost that recognition of Israel would give to Saudi Arabia and its troubled personal relations with the United States than on the Palestinian question. In Prince Mohammed’s mind, relations with Israel could be a way to compensate for a less engaged American defense position in the Middle East.
Relations with the United States have been strained by the Saudi conduct of its 6.5-year war in Yemen, the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and the crackdown on dissent in his country. As a result, the Biden administration has, with few exceptions, boycotted Prince Mohammed in its dealings with the kingdom.
Saudi Arabia’s tarnished human rights record has not only complicated the kingdom’s relations with the United States and Europe, but has also impacted its efforts to bring its religious past to life. ultraconservative persisting behind him and projecting himself as a beacon of a moderate and pluralist interpretation of Islam.
In doing so, Saudi Arabia is competing with the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Turkey, Iran and Indonesian Nahdlatul Ulama to define 21st century faith in what amounts to a battle for the soul of Islam as well as a competition for leadership from the Muslim world, a long-standing goal of Saudi foreign policy.
The Saudi Arabia-funded King Abdullah International Center for Interfaith and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID) has struggled since its opening in 2012 in Vienna with association with a kingdom that denied women their rights and violated human rights .
The era of Prince Mohammed, despite the significant improvement in women’s rights, social liberalization and a certain degree of religious awareness, did little to improve the image of the center. The murder of Mr. Khashoggi and the brutal crackdown on dissent forced the center earlier this year to move its operations from Vienna to Geneva.
“The irony is … that as Gulf governments promote their ‘tolerance’ – which is a popular commodity in the Gulf today – they do so consistently despite the extreme intolerance of political and social pluralism and freedom. opinion and expression, ”noted Khalid al-Jaber, former editor of a Qatari newspaper who heads a research group in Washington. “It is not surprising that almost all dissidents against the Gulf monarchies, regardless of their political stripe, have been imprisoned or sent into exile.”
Mr Jaber accused interfaith dialogue, when sponsored by autocrats, “of becoming a chapter in the public relations ploy to whitewash foreign and domestic wrongdoing.”
Saudi Arabia’s proposal for a more tolerant “moderate” Islam is further questioned by its failure to legalize non-Muslim worship and the opening of non-Muslim places of worship in the kingdom as well as its assimilation. from atheism to terrorism.
The Houthi-controlled Yemeni News Agency reported that a Yemeni journalist was sentenced in late October to 15 years in prison for promoting atheism. Washington-based dissident Gulf Institute said Ali Abu Lahoom was also convicted of spreading heretical ideas. He said his case had been handled by justice at an unusual speed since Mr. Abu Lahoom’s arrest in August.
Ironically, the exploitation of Islamophobic sentiments by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to counter political Islam and the Muslim Brotherhood, seen as the greatest challenge to the religious legitimization of the autocratic rulers of the two Gulf States, was most successful in Austria, despite the expulsion from the King Abdullah Center, as well as France.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have shown little concern about the impact their support for campaigns against political Islam mixed with Islamophobia would have on the status of the Muslim minority in the two European countries.
Anwar Gargash, the then UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, last December defended French President Emmanuel Macron’s new security law presented to parliament, which critics accused of undermining freedoms democratic by implicitly targeting Muslims, to impose a broader ban on home schooling and control of religions, sports and cultural associations, and increased degrees of surveillance and limits on freedom of expression.
Mr. Macron “does not want to see ghettoized Muslims in the West and he is right. They should be better integrated into society. The French state has the right to explore the means to achieve this, ”said Mr. Gargash.