Category Archives: Arabian Peninsula

Saudi Anti-Terror Law subject to Revision? About U.S. Bible Belt Worries………..

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      BFF
Saudi Arabia has revised an anti-terrorism law and made it less severe than a leaked version that was heavily criticized by human rights groups, a Shura Council spokesman said on Saturday. “The draft that was published is not the final one,” said Mohammed Almohanna, spokesman for the advisory parliament. “It was discussed in a Shura Council session. It was a draft and some changes were made to it to ensure that the law is compatible with Sharia (Islamic law) and does not violate citizens’ rights or the country’s existing laws,” he said. He said the Shura would amend the draft further when its summer recess ends in mid-September before sending it to the king for approval. Amnesty International, which published a draft of the Penal Law for Terrorism Crimes and Financing Terrorism on its website, said on July 22 that the authorities could use the law to stifle dissent…………

This spokesman for the Shura Council talks as if it has any power. The Shura is an appointed advisory council, just like the cabinet, and takes its orders from the ruling family. They basically rubber-stamp whatever is sent over by the princes, which usually is not much. It doesn’t matter what they have on the law books, provided there are any: they do what it takes not just to stifle dissent, but to crush it.
On the bright side, they don’t chop the heads of dissidents anymore. They arrest them and throw them in prison for long periods of time, some without charges or trial.
(Also these guys should not mention the Shari’a Law to the Western press. The folks in places like Oklahoma and Tennessee and Texas get panicky and start voting to ban “Sharia Law”, wtf that be in their own Bible Belt context).
Cheers
mhg




m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Saudi Torquemada: Media Obsession with Jewish Roots……………

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You’d think Torquemada leads the royal Saudi media. Come to think of it the equivalents of Torquemada do run the media over there, and they run more than that. Thos obsession of the media, especially the semi-official Alarabiya TV which is almost official because it is managed by a royal prince although it is located offshore. Alarabiya is obsessed with the “Jewish” roots of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. They report something on it every few months, sometimes every couple of weeks (I posted the last time they did it). They just did one today on their Arabic website (too clever to do it on the English version). I doubt that most people in Iran care either way what his “roots” are. I know the Al-Saud and their Anti-Semetic Wahhabi clergy care, as do their Anti-Semetic Salafi followers around the Gulf. Here they are allegedly quoting a website of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) repeating allegations about these roots and that for the first time the IRGC is paying attention and giving some credence to them. You’d think Alarabiya would be busy, along with its sister semi-official Asharq Alawsat (also royal-owned), disseminating counter-revolutionary messages against the Arab uprisings (which also threaten the theocracy in Iran as much as they threaten the theocratic oligarchy in the Arabian Peninsula). Maybe they are trying to rouse the Salafi faithful during this holy month of Ramadan, but there is no need: the Salafi of the Gulf region are a fully-owned and paid up subsidiary of Riyadh.
It would be interesting if all Arab leaders including the Saudi royals, as well as Iranian leaders, submit samples of their DNA to one of these laboratories that tell what ethnic/racial background they are from (and let’s throw in Mr. Netanyahu and Shaikh Al Al-Shaikh). Now that should be fun, even though it would be as meaningless as the stuff the crazy American “birthers” spread these days. In fact Alarabiya sometimes sounds like an offshoot of the birthers.
Cheers
mhg




m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Chopping Season Premiere: Saudi Arabia Chops Three Heads Publicly……..

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Three Saudis were beheaded on Saturday in the western city of Taif after being convicted of killing fellow citizens in two separate incidents, state news agency SPA reported. Mahfoudh bin Ali Al Kenani was beheaded by the sword for stabbing to death Ali Saeed al-Khazmari because of a feud between them, SPA said. Meanwhile, two brothers, Mohammed and Saud al-Jaeed were also executed for shooting dead fellow citizen Hilal bin Sayel al-Harthi, SPA said in another statement…….

It looks like the beheading season has started again in Saudi Arabia, just in time for the holy month of Ramadan. That “event” in Taif was the premier gala, sort of like the opening gala of the San Francisco Opera season. More to follow.
Cheers
mhg



m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

The Real Battle for Iran and Arabia: Tribe and Nation and Islam……….

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The people of the ancient Persian Empire, which in 500 BC stretched from the Indus as far as Libya and the Black Sea, are believed to have celebrated the Persian New Year festival at Persepolis with their ruler. In recent years, modern Iranian families have also started to gather here to celebrate Nowruz, the festival that marks the start of spring, camping on the roadside for miles around. Some 100,000 people visit Persepolis every year. Twenty years ago it was around 8,000…….. “My son,” Darius wrote in his testament, “pray always to God, but never force anyone to follow your faith. Always bear in mind that all people should be free and may follow their own faith and conviction.”……. However, what is more significant than the bad economic situation is the lack of exciting new ideas, the inability of the clerical nomenklatura to propose new objectives, ones for which people would be prepared to be patient and make sacrifices. Instead, the orthodoxy is fighting a paralysing battle to maintain its hard-won position. One man has realised how dangerous this intellectual wasteland could be for the regime, and he has now become one of the figures most hated and feared by the conservatives: Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, President Ahmadinejad’s friend and chief of staff. Should a theocracy, of all forms of government, be permitted to rely solely on practical power – in this case, armed troops and the secret service – and do without spirituality and visions for the future? At present, the Green Movement is seen as representing people’s dreams of a better future, and the Sufis, who are also combated by the orthodoxy, as the locus of spirituality. Mashaei is feeling his way towards filling the ideological gap with a mixture of rationality and re-ideologisation. He has declared political Islam to be obsolete and its most important symbol, the hijab or veiling of the female body, to be a woman’s free decision. Statements like these are taboo……….

This is not just an Iranian issue, this dichotomy between ethnicity/nationalism and Islam. Islamists across the Middle East have been pushing the idea that “national” identity does not matter, that Islam rules supreme. It is almost a throwback to the European pre-nationalism days a few centuries ago. Yet in reality people identify themselves by other things first: nation, ethnicity, even tribe (as in Africa and Saudi Arabia). In some ‘special’ places like Lebanon people are identified by their faith and sect: Shi’a, Sunni, Maronite, Orthodox, Armenian, etc. Yet there are so many sects that people always identify themselves as Lebanese in the end, especially vis-à-vis the outside world. The ongoing Arab uprisings, from North Africa to the Gulf have tended to strengthen this “national” identity: be it Tunisian, Egyptian, Syrian, Bahraini, etc or just “Arab”. The revolutions of 2011 are called “Arab” revolutions all across the region, never the “Islamic” revolutions. The Iranian mullahs and Arab Salafis (of the Saudi school of thought) have tried to push an Islamic “identity” on the uprisings, each for their own purposes, but it is not working.
Iranians will always be Iranians first and Muslims (or Zaroastrians or Christians) afterwards. Egyptians will always be Egyptians first and Muslims or Copts afterwards. Saudis, somewhat like the Lebanese, are different: they still identify themselves with their individual tribes first, before being “Saudi” or even “Arab” or Muslim. Even the Taliban consider themselves Pushtun first, then Afghans, (or Pakistani?), then Muslims. Most, nay all, Salafis of the Gulf and Arabian Peninsula identify themselves with their tribes first, even as they outwardly push an “Islamist” agenda.
The issue may look somewhat different in Europe, with the growing racism and the difficulties of assimilation and the mosque becoming a spiritual and social refuge in “exile”. Besides, to use a cliche, all Muslims may look the same to many Europeans.
Cheers
mhg




m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Saudi (Arabian Peninsula): Reform or Rebellion……..

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Government apologists and hired opinion-ators claim that the al-Saud rulers want to reform, that most people don’t want it. In Saudi Arabia the regime has managed to again do what it is good at doing, what all Arab despots are good at: change the subject again, divide the country again. They started by stressing last spring that public protests are the domain of disgruntled Shi’a in the Eastern Province: hinting that no good Wahhabi should protest at the same time as the Shi’as. At least have the decency to wait until the Shi’as are calm, which means never or until hell freezes over, whichever comes first. Besides, didn’t the good palace muftis and pliable Salafi shaikhs say that protests in the kingdom are un-Islamic? Then there is the more crucial issue of women drivers, or non-drivers, much more important than other freedoms. Women still can’t drive, but they did change the subject for a week or two.
Cheers
mhg




m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Political Nirvana: Hillary Clinton Writes to the Saudi People about Freedom for Syrians…….

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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has penned a column for the Saudi daily Asharq Alawsat (owned by Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz al-Saud). Her topic is the Syrian uprising against the Assad regime and is titled “No return to the Status Quo Ante in Syria”.
She assures the Saudi people, and any other Arabs who might read that daily, that the Bahraini Saudi Syrian people deserve freedom and the right to choose their own government, that they deserve dignity and freedom from fear. She also said that Bahrain Syria deserves a government that respects the people and seeks a unified and democratic nation…..
Like Mr. Obama in his last speech, she neglected to mention Saudi Arabia and the people of the Arabian Peninsula. They both believe in the principle of selective non-interference in the internal affairs of other nations, and hence she did not mention Occupied Bahrain or Saudi Arabia or the UAE where many people are languishing in prison for expressing their opinion. Or maybe they believe that the peoples in these absolute tribal monarchies have already attained political Nirvana or, worse, they don’t believe these people deserve what the peoples of other Arab countries (and Iran) deserve.
It is true, not as many people have been killed in most the Gulf states than in Syria or Libya or Egypt. Except for Bahrain where proportionally as much if not more have been killed than in some of the others, given the small population of native Bahrainis and the 33 killed and dozens still “missing”.
Cheers
mhg




m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

A Country of Princes on Wheelchairs, Corrupt Men in Suvs, Scurrying Faceless Women……

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But not Saudi Arabia, or so it seems. And not Riyadh. As ever, Saudi men sit in their large SUVs, stuck in traffic between the steel-blue facades of office buildings, and the wives of these men are still having their drivers drop them off in front of the shopping malls in downtown Riyadh, where they scurry from Prada to Ralph Lauren and then disappear into Starbucks for a latte — in the “family department,” a room on the side kept separate from the world of men. The boulevards and promenades of the Saudi capital look as though they had been swept clean, as if some mysterious force had extinguished all public life. Riyadh has nothing like Avenue Bourguiba in Tunis or Tahrir Square in Cairo. In fact, there is no sign in Saudi Arabia of a public political discourse that could be compared with the debates, held in secret at first and then more and more in the open, with which the unrest began in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen and Syria. Almost every political discussion seems to end with the same words: Long live the king! Saudi Arabia feels like a realm that has come to a standstill in a rapidly changing world. Its leaders, most notably the 86-year-old King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, are pinning their hopes on the old principle of stability………….

They call it stability, others call it stagnation. That same argument was used in the swamp that was Egypt under Mubarak for thirty years: they said it was ‘stability’, I called it a swamp. There is not much virtue in stable misery and repression and powerlessness and corruption. Once the fear is gone, the ‘stability’ card is not compelling.
(And then there was/is Khaled al-Jehany, a brave young man, the only one in the city, who stood in a Riyadh street and said that the whole country is a big prison, He was whisked away and his fate is still unknown).
Cheers
mhg




m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Is the Saudi Women Drive-in Protest DOA?……….

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On Facebook and Twitter, activists had launched a campaign calling on women in Saudi Arabia who hold international drivers’ licenses to get behind the wheel on Friday, June 17, and drive their cars to protest the country’s ban on women driving. Their call is a daring initiative. Women who have defied the ban in the past have lost their jobs, been banned from travel and denounced by members of the country’s powerful extremist religious establishment. The women say their planned move is not a protest nor an attempt to break the law, but rather a bid to claim basic rights as human beings……….

That is where these women are wrong, when they say they are not trying to protest (or even break an arbitrary rule). Protest is a God-given right. Every one of us, man or woman, was born protesting, along with the proverbial slap on the behind. They are protesting, they are asserting their right to protest, as they should. Rather than pull back and try to water down their demands, they should expand them. Arab despots, like all despots, only understand the language of firmness. They can smell fear and hesitation. Think of Egypt, think of Tunisia.
(Nevertheless, I now suspect that this Saudi drive-in may fizzle, as much as the men’s protest in Riyadh last March did. Opponents are gaining voices on twitter. That expected drive-in may be DOA: dead on arrival).
Cheers
mhg




m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Saudi Women, Saudi men: the Drive-in…..

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One woman’s effort to end the ban on her gender being able to drive in Saudi Arabia is catching attention around the world. And on Morning Edition today, the editor of Jeddah’s Saudi News said that Manal al-Sharif’s campaign is gaining some traction in Saudi Arabia…….” NPR News

A Saudi woman was arrested yesterday, for the second time, for driving a vehicle. Saudi Arabia is the only country that bans females, that is ‘human’ females, from driving cars (I suspect women in Qandahar can’t drive either: so you get the picture). That is not the news. The real Saudi news is that Saudi women are organizing a drive-in, and it has a chance of success. If many women join.
Success is always a matter of how many come out to defy authority. Last March there was a campaign for protests in Saudi cities to call for freedom and reform. Only one man reportedly showed up in the capital Riyadh to publicly protest and he has not been since his arrest that day. Khaled al-Jehany is unlikely to be in a mood to protest again, if he is released. Defying authority has always been a taboo in Saudi Arabia: religious fatwas and the usual instruments of a police state have been effective in keeping people from defying the authority of the princes and their Wahhabi ulema (clergy) allies under Shaikh Al Al Shaikh.

It is the numbers, stupid. The more who heed the call for protest, the more chance of success. At some point there is enough of the people out (men, women, or otherwise) that the authority has to give in: that was the lesson of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya (almost), and Bahrain (almost). The numbers defy age-old fears. On their coming drive-in day, Saudi women may come out in huge numbers and drive. They may be able to achieve what the men have failed to do: defy authority and win. That is what authority fears: that it will be forced to relent through public protests, that is why they sent tanks into Bahrain. They want any “reform” to be bestowed by the ruler, not a right taken, wrested, by the people as it should be.
I am always for anyone or group that defies any authority anywhere in the Middle East (except the Salafis who always side with repressive and corrupt authority): from Rabat through Riyadh and onto Tehran.
 
(Go for it ladies: you may be the ones who finally break that wall of fear).
Cheers
mhg




m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Of Genomes, Iranians, Arabs, Jews, Gomorans, and Neanderthals…….

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Now that Stanford University’s Iranian Genome Project has been partly funded by a diaspora philanthropic organization, speculation is running wild in certain Iranian circles. The project’s expected medical benefits notwithstanding, Facebook is abuzz with comments about the potential unintended consequences of the racial revelations it may yield. A common Iranian lamentation is that virtually every major civilization has invaded us at least once: Greek, Roman, Arab, Mongol, Turkic, and European armies have all set up camp here. The odds are that the project will deliver a healthy shock to the racial purists among us. A similar project revealed that most Palestinians are not descended from Arab interlopers, as some Israeli ideologues argued, but from the ancient Jews who converted to Christianity and Islam. The idea of racial purity came to the Middle East in the 19th century as an extreme manifestation of nationalism. Soon, storms of Pan-Turkic, Pan-Iranist, and Pan-Arab agitation were brewing in tiny social teacups around the Middle East. Suddenly everybody was congenitally better than everybody else. Grandiose maps imagining new, ethnically correct national boundaries were drawn up and plans were made to recover national innocence by exorcising foreign words. I still remember the Pan-Iranists’ slogan of my youth: “Ahead to our own borders……. The chimera of racial purity led the to fabrication of new national myths and the systematic distortion of old ones. Some Iranians (like their Turkic and Arab counterparts) sought to escape their present inglorious existence in dreams of a golden past. In this spirit, much praise was showered in Iran on the national epic of Iran, Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh or Book of Kings………

Okay, they have discovered that most ‘Palestinians” were descendants of ancient Jews rather than Arabian tribes. What else is new, and what difference does it make? I never thought Palestinians were “Arabs” in the sense that their ancestors came from Arabia, anymore than that the ancestors of most Egyptian came from Arabia (they did not). Anymore than expecting the ancestors of blue-eyed blond Syrians to have been from Hejaz or Nejd. That is not how an “Arab” is defined by sane rational people.
But it is an interesting historical exercise: one day I shall undergo it to confirm if I am truly a descendant of the ancient Gods, or if that information was just a cruel hoax. I personally suspect that it is true.
Which makes me wonder: what if all our leaders are exposed (not a pun) to such Genome tests. Suppose the al-Saud, for example, discover that they were descended from, let us say, the Jews of Khyber. What would the Mufti Shaikh A Al Al Shaikh say (if he were rational, he would just shut up about it)? Suppose the al-Khalifa rulers of Bahrain discover that they are the descendants of some Sodomite tribe (meaning from that famous Biblical city of Sodom). That may explain their predilection for sexual assaults and rapes of male and female captive protesters. Sodomites (the people of Sodom) were notorious as sexual aggressors: that is just one version of the story. As for Qaddafi, I suspect he will end up being the descendant of the fraternization of some Roman legionnaire with a female sheep herder from the old Roman Province of Africa, Nothing Arab there, is there? There has already been speculation, mostly in Saudi media like Alarabiya (and Asharq Alawsat) that Iran’s Ahmadinejad is really Jewish and that he used to go by another name. I say: who cares? The only thing that changes is that he becomes entitled to do the Aliyah (עלייה)by the “right of return”: he could some day run for the Knesset. As for the al-Nahayan clan of Abu Dhabi (and the UAE)……..oy vey.
Cheers
mhg




m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com