Tag Archives: Saudi Arabia

Terrorism and the West’s obsession with oil

I think most people are pleased the authorities captured the suspects for the Boston Marathon bombing – and got one of them alive. There are a lot of issues raised by the Boston events over the last week, and I think this video about the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Centre is of at least tangential relevance.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and the Imam.

We won’t know for some time what the motives of these bombers were, what international links they had and if they received help. But, in other cases involving acts of terrorism in the West by young men from immigrant families, one scenario appears common:

  1. Genuine problems for immigrant communities offer a breeding ground for discontent.
  2. This can cause radicalisation of some young men in the community.
  3. In some Muslim communities there are militant and fundamentalist Imams in the mosques whose teachings help inflame discontent and feed the radicalisation of the youth.
  4. Many, if not a large majority of Muslim Mosques in western countries, have relied on financial support from Saudi Arabia – particularly for their establishment. This is certainly true for New Zealand.
  5. Sometime support is also provided by importing Imams and teachers from Saudi Arabia – often members of fundamentalist sects themselves.
  6. I suspect that more moderate members of the Mosque may tolerate fundamentalist Imams because they respect older conservative members of the community who see value in criticism of western values, etc.

So we can have a quite inflammatory situation. Genuine discontent, radicalisation of youth and militant religious leaders feeding the radicalisation. In some, yes just a few, cases this can lead to terrorist activity. With the ironic aspect that finance to feed this problem comes from the western obsession with oil which has made Saudi Arabia very rich. It has also made the country immune to criticism for the export of militant Islam.

I realise some commenters might accuse me of “Islamophobia” for the above. But isn’t that part of the problem – the denial of criticism? After all, I am not criticising all Muslims, even all disaffected Muslims. I am not criticising the religion (not in this post anyway – but the ability to do so is part of living in a democratic, pluralist society). I am only criticising a situation which has an effect in only a small number of cases – but a dramatic effect.

Yes, I am also aware we have other disaffected communities in our society. We have fundamentalist, radical, priests and ministers in other religions.  That combination can also sometimes lead to terrorist activity, such as the bombing of clinics or murder of doctors. In the past non-religious groups have also promoted terrorism. Let’s not limit our concern just to Islamic terrorism.

But also, let’s not limit our ability to confront such problems by a naive form of multiculturalism which prevents any criticism and sweeps real problems under the carpet.

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Regarding women as animals

Credit: http://www.elle.fr/

This little shocker comes from the French magazine Elle   – Arabie Saoudite : les femmes pistées lorsqu’elles quittent le pays. Yes, the original is in French but here’s some extracts from the article translated by Google.

Saudi women are denied even a bit more freedom last week as the “Europe 1″ radio reported that the Saudi authorities have implemented an electronic system that can alert families when these women leave the kingdom. Their “guardian” – in most cases their father, brother or uncle – are now notified by SMS when they go abroad.

This initiative reduces women to the status of slave was criticized on Twitter by Manal al-Sharif, an activist who fights for his country women can drive, they do not currently have the ability do. She was informed by a couple who went on a journey. The husband, who was with his wife received a text message from the immigration informing him that his wife was about to leave the international airport of Riyadh (capital of Saudi Arabia). ” backwardness “” Authorities use the technology to monitor women “, denounced the AFP novelist and columnist Badriya al-Bishr. He added: “This is the technology for a mentality backward. They want to keep prisoners. Government had better take care of those subject to domestic violence,” she concluded.

How does this system work? Are all women implanted with an electronic chip? Or does their passport information automatically initiate the warning?

Whatever the system it just shows how religious extremism (and often the not so extreme) ends up treating women like non-human animals.

Popes cunning straw mannery?

Thanks to DavidD's Blog

One would have thought Pope Bennie would be on his best behaviour during his visit to the UK. After all, it’s not exactly as if the people are keen on squandering such money on an unnecessary “state” visit. Nor is his standing very high at the moment with the role he played in covering up child abuse in his church.

But he is hardly off the plane than he makes extraordinary remarks suggesting that atheism was the key factor in Nazism. Well we all know how that tactic is used in internet discussion, don’t we. Godwin’s Law states: “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches.” Mike Godwin formulated this in his sarcastic observation that, given enough time, all discussions—regardless of topic or scope—inevitably wind up being about Hitler and the Nazis.

But Bennie must be so desperate he actually started by invoking Goodwin’s law!

Of course he is well known for attempting to get a campaign going against the “evil secularism” he sees in Europe. He was helped in this by the Islamic leader King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia (see Interfaith dialogue to fight against human rights).

However, perhaps Paul Kirby has a point when she suggests this silly statement is an attempt at a tactical diversion (see Calling all Pope Protestors). After all, Bennie is no fool and he has presumable worked hard, together with the UK government, to limit the embarrassment this visit will cause. Paula says:

“My conclusion is that the Nazi remarks were a deliberate attempt to deflect the anticipated protests about the scandal of the child sex abuse cover-ups in the RCC.

We know from comments made before the visit that both the Vatican and the UK govt were deeply concerned that the visit might be overshadowed by the sex abuse issue; so what could be more natural than that they would have put their heads together to try to find a way to prevent that happening? And what better method could they possibly find than to launch an attack on the likely protestors – an attack of such grotesque obscenity that we would be immediately deflected into protesting about that rather than the real issue?

It is inconceivable to me that the UK government didn’t know exactly what was going to be in the pope’s speech at Holyroodhouse this morning. Not only that, but had that Nazi comparison been made about ANY other group in British society, government officials would have been falling over one another in their rush to distance themselves from it. The fact this hasn’t happened suggests very strongly to me that this was a put-up job, an indicator of their determination to prevent the visit turning into an embarrassment to the pope (and therefore the government), as well as of the depth of their fear that it might.”

Paula is appealing to demonstrators not to be distracted. She warns “If the protests during the rest of his tour focus on his comments about Nazis and valueless secularists, rather than the issue he fears most, then he will be chortling all the way back to the Vatican on Sunday.”

And that issue is child abuse.

Image credit Pope Godwin

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Universal Declaration of Human Rights

60yrsudhrlogoDecember 10 marks the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). This is an historic and foundational document. It is secular but receives extremely wide support from different political, religious and non-religious trends. It arose in part as a reaction to the horrors and violence of the Second World war –  particularly the Holocaust. But it has also been an inspiration for moral and social progress throughout the world – intermittent and unreliable as that has been.

AC Grayling is currently blogging in the Guardian on the UDHR – one article a day until December 10 (see AC Graylings articles on the UDHR). As always, his comments are worth reading.

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Secularism is good for religion

I mean “good” in two ways:

  • It helps reduce the tendency of religions to become cults with teachings and ideology more and more divorced from reality;
  • It helps reduce the tendency to define “outsiders” as dangerous, maybe even deserving of death for their “sins.”

Sam Fleischaker makes these points in an article Religion v. Secularism? Let’s Skip This Fight recently posted on the South Jerusalem blog. As a religious Jew, Sam is in favour of religious people of different “faiths” uniting on common issues. However, he deplores the current calls for unity emanating from the Madrid Interfaith Conference and Saudi King Abdullah. “Religious people should unite with one another, but will only continue to wreak havoc if they take secular people as their enemy. They will also harm themselves: the secular world is good for religion.”

[I question the very basis of "interfaith" activity as it is exclusive, limited to only religious people, and therefore has the danger of ignoring basic human rights. But clearly "interfaith" unity aimed at opposing or eliminating atheism (as in King Abdullah's appeal) is downright dangerous. But that's an aside].

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Interfaith dialogue and human rights

Abdullah opening Madrid Interfaith Conference

Abdullah opening Madrid Interfaith Conference

Well, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia got his – a Global Interfaith Dailogue. It helped that he financed the meeting. The meeting was held last week in Madrid, Spain.  After all such a dialogue would have been impossible in Saudi Arabia – which does make me wonder: If Abdullah is so interested in dialogue and understanding why isn’t he doing something about the situation in his own country? It’s not as if he has no influence there!

In his recent appeal for such dialogue Abdullah rather gave the game away (see Interfaith dialogue to fight against human rights). He revealed the purpose would be safeguarding humanity from “the disintegration of the family and the rise of atheism in the world – a frightening phenomenon that all religions must confront and vanquish.”

Some commentators were naturally sceptical about this meeting, although it was welcomed by at least one New Zealand blog.

So what has this rather stage-managed Madrid Conference achieved?

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