Friday, January 23, 2015

Is Consistency the Hobgoblin of Little Minds? On the Death of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia

The hobgoblin reference is to Ralph Waldo Emerson.  It's also a reference to Western attitudes, both political and journalistic, to the extreme Wahhabi sect of Islam.  When the Saudi government pushes it on the rest of the world (by funding mosques and by sending preachers to those mosques) there's not much loud criticism.  But when the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (ISIS) decides to use it as a blueprint to create its own nightmare world there's much loud criticism.

The difference is in oil, my sweetings.  Sadly, this suggests to me that if ISIS ever gets hold of enough oil resources, whatever president the US has then will hold hands with their leaders.

It's true that the late king Abdullah did push for certain minor improvements in the position of women.  But women in Saudi Arabia are still unable to drive themselves, are still subject to the custodianship and rule of their male relatives, and as far as my research has been able to prove anything, the only creative addition* ISIS has introduced to their version of the Wahhabi teachings is the idea of taking slaves (as long as they don't have one of the three Abrahamic religions), selling them to the highest bidder in legal slave auctions and justifying rape of female slaves as just appropriate use of war booty.

The rules about chopping off the hands of thieves, the rules about killing those suspected of homosexual activity and the rules about stoning adulterers**, those are all practiced not only in the Islamic State but also in Saudi Arabia (and a few other countries).

I'm welcoming any reforms that Saudi Arabia can carry out towards greater human rights, of course, just as I feel great urgency about getting rid of the "values" that ISIS is touting.  Any reform is better than none, and I also understand that resistance to reform inside Saudi Arabia is a powerful force and hard to fight.  Still, we cannot remember that half the population there (women) have far fewer rights and much less freedom than the other half.  Neither should we forget that the rulers in the country are not democratically.
*Crucifixion as punishment (or as a way to display a corpse after death) may be another innovation by ISIS
**Women appear to be the victims of stoning more frequently than men, by the way.