19th December 2015, 11:53 AM
Hold the applause for Saudi Arabia
By Farzana Hassan, Toronto Sun
Saudi Arabia’s new 34-nation military alliance to fight terrorism is winning accolades in some circles as a necessary response to the perception that terror is linked to Islam.
However, some of the countries forming this new alliance are among the greatest exporters of the ideology that promotes terrorism, including Saudi Arabia itself.
Fifteen of the 19 9/11 hijackers were Saudi.
Tashfeen Malik, one of the San Bernardino shooters, was born and raised in Pakistan — a member of the Saudi coalition — and also lived in Saudi Arabia before emigrating to the U.S.
The Saudi alliance also includes NATO member Turkey, and countries like Chad, Yemen, Somalia, Nigeria and Egypt.
Nigeria is home to the terrorist group Boko Haram, Somalia to al-Shabaab.
Egypt is the birthplace of the Muslim Brotherhood that has spread its puritanical, militaristic brand of Islam across the Muslim world.
The Saudi alliance also includes Palestinians, many of whom have carried out terrorist attacks against Israel.
However, several influential Mideast countries are excluded, among them Shia Iran, Shia-majority Iraq, and the Shia-backed Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria.
The irony is evident.
The Saudi alliance is a way of appearing to show Sunni involvement in fighting the Sunni jihadists of ISIS, with Sunni boots on the ground.
But even as foreign ministers of other countries laud this initiative, the Saudis continue to fund centres for sharia research in Western institutions.
Indeed, some of the best known universities in the U.S. have been given millions of dollars by the Saudis to set up Islamic and sharia law research centres.
That may seem harmless enough.
After all, a Western liberal education demands students acquire an inclusive understanding of religious beliefs from around the world.
But the tenets of Wahhabism — the philosophy that Saudi petrodollars have exported across the world — are the antithesis of such openness.
Wahhabism, which many terrorists purport to follow, holds that opposition to Sunni Islam is apostasy, punishable by death.
It demands the strict segregation of women.
Capital punishment is administered by public beheadings.
Does this remind us of ISIS?
Apart from apostasy, crimes which Saudi law has deemed punishable by execution include adultery, fornication, armed robbery, homosexuality, sodomy, sexual misconduct, car jacking, witchcraft, sorcery, “waging war on God” idolatry and treason.
Saudi Arabia recently banned from school libraries and mosques some books that have been linked to terrorist ideology.
These include the Quranic commentaries of Sayyid Qutb and books by Hasan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, and Maulana Maududi, founder of Jamaat-e-Islami.
It also recently allowed women to vote and run in municipal elections.
This seems enlightened, but how do we reconcile that with the continuing Saudi political, legal and social structures that embody the most puritanical, punitive and obscurantist view of Islam?
As Islam’s standard bearer, the Saudi establishment has exported more than just a militaristic ideology.
Banning some inflammatory books and tentative reforms on women’s issues may be small steps in the right direction.
But how much more is Saudi Arabia willing to do to align itself with modernity?
Its exclusion of Shia nations from its military alliance attests to its deep-rooted sectarianism and dogmatism, as evidenced by its vicious military campaign against Shia rebels in Yemen.
Indeed, Saudi Arabia’s new military alliance may at best help combat only one symptom of the disease of terrorism which it has helped to proliferate.