“What is interesting is that many (Gulf) clerics and shaikhs played the sectarian game, and did not try to distinguish the political issue from the sectarian issue. I was surprised at this huge amount of hatred among some of these people, and these hatreds were reflected in their positions and their statements and their relations with ‘others’. It is sad to say that the Arab Spring has deteriorated to civil war and strife in places like Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, and Syria……… Unfortunately the ‘intellectual’ in the Gulf region could not break away from what has been ordained for him, just as he can’t break away from his sector or tribe or personal interest. In Saudi Arabia, I have not seen any brave position from the Islamist or ‘liberal’ intellectuals regarding the events in Bahrain, these Islamist and ‘liberal’ intellectuals were open and shameful reflections of the mouthpieces of the regimes…………..”
Professor al-Rasheed is well-acquainted with the history and ‘cultural’ life, such as it is, of Saudi Arabia (especially) and the Gulf region. She is right about most of the GCC so-called ”intellectuals”:
Most Gulf Islamists, especially the Salafis, essentially nurse from the Saudi teats. Most of the time I suspect they are basically a ‘fifth column’ for the Wahhabi state, wittingly or unwittingly. (I do have moments when I feel more gracious toward them).
Many Gulf ‘intellectuals’, but not all, be they Islamist or otherwise, are palace ‘intellectuals’, sycophants of one faction or another of the palace. Often, they are sycophants of the Saudi palace, either directly or through the tribe or through other affiliations. I once called them “tribal liberals” last spring.
I suspect some Gulf intellectuals think they are “liberals” if they carry a laptop around, sprinkle their speech with a few English terms (they/we especially love the term “hashtag”, it is so edifying) and believe women should ‘eventually’ have the right to drive but in due time. All in due time. Let the princes decide: they know best.
All Gulf ‘intellectuals’, shy away from criticizing public beheadings in the streets of Riyadh, maybe because those who are beheaded are mostly poor foreign migrant workers (men and women), but most likely because they shy from upsetting the potentates.
Most, but not all, Gulf ‘intellectuals’ also believe that people in places like Syria and Libya should revolt against their oppressors but not people in Bahrain or Saudi Arabia or Yemen. They take their cue from their regimes, or from the Saudi regime.
Most Gulf ‘intellectuals’ were cool and tepid toward the uprisings in Tunisia and especially in Egypt, until the palace accepted the change. Then they were suddenly all for the people’s uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, after the fact.
Most Gulf ‘intellectuals’ were quiet about Syria, until the “palace” and princes started opining, and they all fell in line.
Most Gulf ‘intellectuals’ were always for the regime and against the people in Bahrain, because the “palace” was clearly on the side of the despots: it put troops on the ground to prove it. In this case, they are unfortunately divided by sector.
- Most ‘intellectuals’ on my Gulf fiercely support the right of people to self determination and free elections in places like Iran, Syria, Libya, Gaza (but not the West Bank), but they don’t think any other peoples in the Middle East need to vote in free elections or talk freely against their rulers.
There are real free-thinking ‘intellectuals’ on my Gulf: I have known some of them and I read for some of them. And no, it is not an oxymoron to say ‘Gulf intellectual’, anymore than it is to say ‘Egyptian intellectual’ or ‘Jordanian intellectual’ or ‘Iranian intellectual’ or ‘French intellectual’. It is not even nearly as oxymoronic as saying “Jordanian humor”. More on this last point in another post.