by Hugh Fitzgerald
The State Department has just issued its annual report on religious freedom around the world.
Saudi Arabia, to judge by the language of the report, vied with North Korea as the worst offender. The Saudis, Rex Tillerson said, ought to “embrace greater degrees of religious freedom for all of its citizens.” He cited criminal penalties — but did not explain that for some of those “crimes” the penalty is death — for apostasy, atheism, blasphemy, and insulting the Saudi state’s interpretation of Islam, as well as discrimination against, and attacks targeting, Shi’ite Muslims.
He did not mention the ferocious warfare now being conducted against pockets of Shi’a resistance to the Saudi Wahhabis, that receives so little attention, though he might have produced videos of the complete flattening, in recent weeks, of the Musawara district, with its 400-year old buildings, in the Shi’a town of Awamiya, which can be seen here.
And while limits on the religious freedom of foreigners was mentioned, the report did not go into the details of how, in Saudi Arabia, the observation of Christian worship, no matter if held behind closed doors, is strictly forbidden and severely punished. A few years ago, four Korean women were singing Christmas carols softly in their rooms, far from any Muslims. The matawain, or religious police, who are always on the prowl, overheard them, hauled them away, and they were promptly deported for their caroling sins. They may have been lucky; the usual punishment for singing carols is 1000 lashes, which can prove fatal for some. And before there were the Korean women, there were British nurses, also caught celebrating Christmas behind doors. And that 1000 lashes is also the punishment prescribed for wishing anyone Merry Christmas in the thoroughly Islamic state of Saudi Arabia.
Nor did the State Department report take up the perennial problem of Saudi textbooks which preach hatred of Christians and Jews, about which discussion has been going on for more than a decade, with the Saudis constantly reassuring the Americans that they are making all the necessary changes. In fact, those textbooks continue to include lessons describing the Jews “as the sons of apes and pigs,” and of Infidels as the “most vile” of creatures (which is just a quote from Qur’an 98:6, though the State Department may not realize it). It has always been State Department policy to work quietly with the Saudis on this textbook matter. But more than a decade of unhappy experience with suave Saudi assurances of changes that are always just about to be made, but somehow never are, or where the changes made are so slight as to be only cosmetic, make clear that only a public discussion of these textbooks, holding their contents up to widespread public view, and shaming the Saudis in Western (though not of course Muslim) eyes, might have some effect.
Meanwhile, in official Washington, Saudi Arabia is still considered a “friend and ally.” Even though it persecutes millions of Christians among its foreign workforce, prevents them from the observance of their faith, seizes Bibles and crucifixes (though a single Bible for personal use, not proselytizing, may be allowed), teaches hatred of Jews and Christians in its schools, and continues to spread Salafi Islam, with billions spent — sums hardly to be missed by the Saudi petrocrats — on mosques, madrasas, and imams all over the Muslim world.
It is true that the Saudis now oppose the Muslim Brotherhood, and its financial supporter Qatar. But that should not be misinterpreted as a sign of Saudi “moderation.” The Saudis are opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood because its program of a “pan-Islamic state” would mean that the Saudis would be enfolded into a much larger political structure. The vast sums the Saudis now receive, and that the royal family battens on, would then be shared by all the Muslims in this pan-Islamic state. And that notion horrifies the Saudis. They were shaken by how rapidly the Muslim Brotherhood took over Egypt and put Mohamed Morsi in power, and did the same in Tunisia during the “Arab Spring.” Though the MB was beaten back in both cases, its members remain a threat. And that is why the Saudis are so adamant in their demands that Qatar cease all support for the Brotherhood, and that it shut down Al Jazeera, which expresses the Muslim Brotherhood point of view.
Saudi Arabia is neither a friend nor ally of the United States, notwithstanding a long history of Americans being convinced that it has been both, from the moment when FDR met with Ibn Saud on the navy cruiser Quincy, to Saudi Arabia supposedly doing us economic favors — it never did — in OPEC pricing, and from that moment all the way up to Obama and his awkward bow of seeming obeisance to the Saudi king and Trump’s bouncing up and down as he participated in a “Sword Dance” with Saudi royals, many Americans still think of Saudi Arabia as a friend and ally. At the moment, there is one point of agreement: Saudi fear and hatred of Shi’a Iran accords nicely with our own hostility to the Islamic Republic of Iran. But that is merely a coincidence of interests, not a true friendship. We can do nothing to stop the Saudis from bombing civilians indiscriminately in Yemen, nor to keep them from helping to suppress the Shi’a subjects of the Sunni ruler in Bahrain, nor should we even try. The more aggressive the Saudi behavior against the Shi’a in Yemen or Bahrain, the more deeply angry Iran — which has just approved an additional $800 billion to its defense budget — will become. And aside from sending aid to the Houthis in Yemen, as they apparently have done, why wouldn’t the Iranians want to stir up trouble for the Saudis among their Shia coreligionists in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia? That’s the province where almost all of the Shi’a in Saudi Arabia– some 2-3 million — live; it is also the province where all the Saudi oil comes from. And because of that oil, the Saudis will do everything they can to hold onto that province. It’s entirely possible that the Iranians will provide the Shi’a in that province with arms, and trainers, and “volunteers.” But this is not a province the Saudis can afford to lose — it contains all of their wealth. If they deem it necessary, the Saudis could certainly transfer the local Shi’a population, moving it either deeper into Saudi Arabia, entirely away from the oil-bearing region in the east that the Iranians could reach by sea, or could even, if they acted quickly and forcefully, could push the Shi’a out of Saudi Arabia altogether, transporting them over the border into Iraq on the grounds that they constitute a Shi’a “fifth column” that is being whipped up by Iran. Could Saudi Arabia behave that ruthlessly with its own citizen-subjects? Why, of course it could. In a New York minute.
But before the Saudis could complete this massive transfer of the Shi’a population, isn’t it likely that Iran would step in, as a Defender of the World’s Shia, and go at it with the Saudi military, who are greatly outnumbered by Iran’s forces, and likely to be bested unless, of course, Sunnis from elsewhere — Egyptians, Jordanians, Pakistanis — rented by the Saudis, enter the fray? Should the West worry about any of this? Not at all. It would be like the eight-year Iran-Iraq War, which from the West’s point of view ought to have gone on forever. That war used up men, materiel, money, and fully preoccupied two aggressive Muslim states that otherwise might have turned their aggression against the West. It is the same situation now. The more Sunnis and Shi’a go at it, the more each side expends in men, materiel, money, and morale, in fighting with each other in many different theaters — Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Bahrain, possibly the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan (where Sunni terrorists of Sipah-e-Sahaba target for murder the Shia whom they regard as Infidels), Afghanistan (where the Taliban and ISIS both carry out attacks on the Shia Hazara, also seen as Infidels) — the less trouble they can make for us, the Infidels. The “proxy war” between Iran and Saudi Arabia that is now going on will be even more useful to the West if it becomes a direct and ferocious conflict, and one which, given the balance of forces in the area, is likely to go on for at least as long as did the Iran-Iraq war. Perhaps there is some downside to such an outcome, but I just can’t figure out what that might be.
The Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia can never “take Christians or Jews” as their friends, nor for that matter can the Shi’a of Iran — see, with a vengeance, Qur’an 5:51 — so let’s hope that the dwindling band of those still in the Trump administration who understand the meaning and menace of Islam can hold fast, and not let themselves be railroaded, or further mcmastered, out of office, and hope that they remember too, that a House of Islam divided against itself — like some other houses we’ve heard of in history — cannot stand.
That sectarian war between Sunni and Shi’a goes back to the first century of Islam. It has waxed and waned over 1400 years, but now, when an aggressive Islam, with tens of millions of its adherents having been negligently allowed into our Infidel midst, presents a greater threat to the West than at any time since Charles Martel threw back the Muslim invaders at Poitiers in 732. That Sunni-Shi’a war is now, fortunately, everywhere waxing. Ideally, other Sunni states — Egypt, Jordan, Pakistani — will send “volunteers” with weapons, from tanks to planes, to help the Saudis, while Hezbollah may offer its Shi’a bezonians to help Iran. Such a conflict, ever widening, offers the best hope for the West to divide and, if not exactly conquer, to buy itself time, so as to better withstand its external Muslim enemies, including that country which has done so much to spread propaganda world-wide for a fanatical version of the faith of Islam, the johnny-appleseed of Salafism, our putative “friend and ally” Saudi Arabia.
First published in Jihad Watch.