Category Archives: Salafi

Saudi Arabian Perestroika but No Glasnost: Ditching Wahhabism, the Aramco Dilemma…….

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“Saudi Arabia unveiled a $500bn plan on Tuesday to create a vast economic zone in the kingdom’s north-west, the most ambitious and expensive project in Riyadh’s efforts to diversify the oil-dependent economy. Details of the new city, called Neom, were released as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman hosted some of the world’s most powerful investors and bankers at a conference designed to showcase his vision to modernise the conservative kingdom and lure investment to the country…….”

Interesting and unprecedented things may be about to happen in Saudi Arabia, if the ruling crown prince keeps all his promises. Possibly positive things. It will have reverberations across the Arab world.

Saudi Crown Prince MBS seems to be impressed by the example of the United Arab Emirates, especially Dubai. It will be a tough sell in the Wahhabi heartland of Najd in Central Arabia. To diversify the economy also means to diversify the society, and open it not only economically, but also culturally. That is the most closed of Middle East societies.

So far there are signs that the top Wahhabi establishment is falling in line, but that may change: the prince had to incarcerate several mid-level but prominent Wahhabi clerics before he started talking of his version of Perestroika (perhaps not so much Glasnost for now).

A few independent Arab media outlets have been hinting for months that the new Saudi order is impressed with the economic experience of the UAE. At the same time, the substantial Islamist (mainly Wahhabi) opposition in exile has been warning and complaining that the ruling Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi in the UAE (an economically and culturally open Gulf state, definitely non-Wahhabi) has too much influence over the Saudi Crown Prince. There might be some truth in that, and it will create a dilemma for the Salafist movement from the Gulf to Egypt. Persian Gulf Salafis, who are practically Saudi proxies, have always been very critical of the openness of the UAE and its social and religious openness.


The domestic impact depends on success in keeping the population content, economically speaking. But times are hard, with oil revenues declining, and the weapons-selling pressures of Donald Trump are strong. Add to that the expensive and stalemated war in Yemen, and the new financial commitments to select remaining “friends” in Syria and Iraq.
So it may require disengagement in Yemen and reducing commitments in the Levant, as well as reducing the huge weapons deals with the Western powers. But then there is a catch in all that too: it might mean ceding the Northern Tier of the Arab world, the Levant/Fertile Crescent, to long-term Iranian influence. The Saudis already seem to have given up on Lebanon, where a Hezbollah-Christian coalition seems to have strengthened its hold on power.

Stopping the bleeding from Yemen will be a tough one: that country is the soft underbelly of the Arabian Peninsula, and a reasonable cause for worry. But war will not solve the Yemen problem, only some kind of political deal that is agreed upon by the Sanaa coalition and the Saudis. That still leaves the problem of Aden in secessionist-oriented Southern Arabia, now largely dominated by the UAE. And I haven’t even mentioned the expansion of AQAP and ISIS in Southern Yemen.

It would be quite interesting to see how the Wahhabi kingdom is transformed into a truly modern state (without the political opportunities of Glasnost).

(P.S: As for selling off the huge state oil company, ARAMCO, we can forget about that for now. My educated fatwa about ARAMCO? It will take much longer than two or three years or even five years to get it ready for privatization. IF it ever happens: I have seen similar films before in our Gulf region.)

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Post-Aleppo Reset: Syria’s Jihadis to Undergo Yet Another Desperate Iteration…….

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There are now some reports of yet another “RESET” for the Jihadi groups in Syria, post-Aleppo. There are reports on social media of consolidation and reorganization and, more likely, renaming.
These guys keep trying to find a formula that works, so far nothing seems to work for them:

  • Renaming Al Qaeda to Al Nusra did not work.
  • Renaming Al Nusra to Jaish Al Fath (Army of Islamic Conquest) has not worked.
  • A Saudi-sponsored Jaish Al Islam (with reliance on some Western support and training) failed miserably.
  • Earlier the Free Syrian Army (who I saw correctly as the Free Syrian Salafi Army) had several iterations, before it faded somewhere into Turkey.
  • The Syrian National Council, dominated by Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists and some Tribal types changed its name a few time, to no avail. Eventually it petered out.

No matter how hard some Gulf (Saudi and Qatari) media and the gullible Western media tried to paint these groups as representing the will of the Syrian people, it did not work. Even though the Jihadis and their Arab and Western media allies won the war of disinformation, they have lost the battle on the ground. Because that foreign view did not reflect the reality in Syria. Even in foreign exile, most Syrians oddly voted for Assad a couple of years ago. Not necessarily because they liked Assad and his regime. But most likely because they knew first-hand what the rebel Jihadis represented, what kid of Wahhabi future they had in mind for Syria.

Maybe, nay very likely, it was a preference among repressions: they preferred Assad’s secular political repression to the Islamists all-encompassing theocratic political-social-religious-sectarian repression. Very likely that is why.

 Some Earlier posts:

Free Syrian Army, National Syrian Army, Syrian MilitaryCouncil, WTF Army……

Final Iteration of the Free Syrian Army: End of a Wahhabi Shill in Syria………

Free Syrian Salafi Army: Under New Management Again?……

The Sectarian Free Syrian Salafi Army….
Cheers

 

M Haider Ghuloum

 

The Enemy Within? the Extremist Salafi Islamist Opposition Returns to Kuwait Politics……..

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Kuwait has the most free and open elections in all the Gulf GCC states. The others don’t really have any. She will have new parliamentary (National Assembly) elections in the last week of November. Much of the ultra-reactionary Islamic-Tribal alliance that boycotted the last election has given up and decided to run for office. That should be good news, but in this case it is truly bad news for the country, its social cohesion, and sectarian tranquility.

The Kuwaiti political opposition are a mix that is dominated by Salafis, Muslim Brothers, and reactionary tribal seekers of office. These have cleverly dominated the smaller Wahhabi-Liberal and pseudo-academic types who are nominally secular.

Last time the so-called Kuwaiti political opposition mustered a majority in parliament, their first act was to vote to convert the country into a Wahhabi-Salafi theocracy by instituting the Shari’a literally. Apparently their ideal of a democratic civil society. The proposal got a majority of votes: every member of that opposition group voted for it. Only the few urban members and the Shi’a members refused to support it. Luckily, the Emir thought correctly that it was a bad idea and refused to sign it. He vetoed it and saved the country from the ritual of beheading, crucifixion, public flogging, chopping hands, and other such Wahhabi-Salafi pleasures and pastimes that exist in a neighboring country.

Most of the opposition members had claimed they would not run again until the election laws were changed away from the new one-man-one-vote system, and until one of their leaders is released from prison. They made a lot of noise about ‘principles’ and about a ‘democracy’ that most of them never believed. Apparently four years on the outside have cured them. Basically they have surrendered and, in true Salafist fashion, betrayed their imprisoned ally Musallam Al Barrak.

The years of absence of any political influence and tribal pressures have caused most of them to announce they are running for the November 27 elections. That means that they will again apply pressures to move in the Wahhabi-Salafi direction. To interfere in the private social lives of people, and to start another book-burning episode. Some of them are already announcing their intention to try again to make the Shari’a the law of the land.

And to fan the flames of sectarian tensions that they introduced to the country. They will also start hounding the Shi’as and maybe the few Christians. Last time they were in parliament this Salafi-MB-Tribal alliance asked the government to start “monitoring” the Shi’a religious services. Meaning to spy and intimidate the minorities. Some, possibly many, of these members no doubt will get elected, and they will start making the country and society even duller that it is now.

We shall see soon enough how the post-Thanksgiving turkeys turn out. Certainly no better than the same turkeys looked last time around…..
Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

 

Kingdom of Delights: ‘Pokemon Go’ Declared a Heretic, Banned by Fatwa…….

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“The decree was issued by General Secretariat of the Council of Senior Scholars on the website of the General Presidency for Scholarly Research and Ifta, Arab News reported Wednesday. The edict actually updates an existing ban on the Pokemon card and video games before they morphed into the mobile phone virtual reality game that has swept the world. The clerics issued the old fatwa, (No. 21,758), 16 years ago, declaring the original Japanese game a form of gambling, which is forbidden in Islam, Sheikh Saleh Al-Fozan, a member of the Council of Senior Scholars, said the virtual reality version of the game is the same as the old one. The game has not been officially released regionally………….”

MuftiSaudi The Mufti vs. Pokemon Go

A Fatwa is a religious edict often issued by Muslim clerics, whether they are authorized or not, that aims at one of several things: (1) keeping the faithful, and the unfaithful, away from sin and abominations (not always the same); (2) making life a bit harder, making sure not everybody is having more fun than they should be decently having (excluding the princes and their minions); (3) making the faithful and the unfaithful aware that the particular cleric exists (not exactly: I Fatwa, ergo I am).

The Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Shaikh Al Al Shaikh finally had his group issue a fatwa asserting the ban on Pokemon Go in the Kingdom of Fun and Delights. No news about the fate of Pokemon Go in Iran yet: the mullahs have not opined yet. On the other hand, why would they need Pokemon in Saudi Arabia when everybody is having so much fun already?

Meanwhile, in the ultimate Salafi Wahhabi realm, in the Caliphate of Islamic State, I hear they are looking for Pokemons to behead in public in Raqqa and Mosul. You see, Pokey is suspected of being a Shi’a, hence a heretic who is behead-able, whose throat is slit-able by Salafi standards.

FYI: Gambling, gaming, and other types of sin, are banned in Islam, except for princes who can travel to Europe and Las Vegas. Having a palace with walls also qualifies one for exemptions, without reducing their chances at deferred heavenly delights.

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Political Psychology: This Irrational Urge to Punch Erdogan, Slap Salafis…….

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Strange. These days, whenever I see Turkish leader Caliph Recip Erdogan, I get this unreasonable but overwhelming desire to punch him in the face. Actually in the mouth and nose area specifically.
Why do you suppose I feel like punching him in the face? Odd: I am a cheerful and peaceful and un-punching-in-face type of person. With one exception. I have always been that way, until now. Could it be because he reminds me of someone who did not get punched in the face until it was too late, some 75 years ago in Germany?


(That is mostly the case: although actually there are a few people, all male and mostly from my Persian Gulf region, whom I sometimes get the strong urge to slap in the face. But they tend to be Gulf Salafis and a slap to the face is not the same as a punch, is it? Besides, I imagine many rational people feel like slapping a Salafi as soon as he opens his mouth)

All a new phenomenon of recent time, so unlike me: I always get along with others, except for rude people. Maybe it has to do with all the “stuff” back in the Middle East. But I’ll sort it out. One way or another, probably without having to go to Turkey.

Cheers (if possible)

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Turkish Coup: of Erdogan the Enabler of Jihadis and his Arab Salafi Tribal Admirers……..

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So, what is happening in Turkey now?

  • Since 2011, President Erdogan of Turkey managed to gather the support of Salafi Wahhabi Jihadists across the Arab lands. He was the most popular Muslim leader among them, after the Caliph of Raqqa and the Saudi king.
  • He also managed to gather the support of self-styled liberals across the Arab world (what I would call Wahhabo-Liberals, unabashed fans of the absolute kings and princes). They supported him because of his involvement in Syria in support of the Saudi-inspired Salafi Jihadists. Some of the more diehard looked at him as a substitute to the long-awaited Caliph of Islam, perhaps doubting the the ISIS substitute in Raqqa can survive.
  • Arab Salafi, pro-Jihdist, pro-Daesh, pro-Saudi social media accounts were among the loudest supporters of Erdogan before the coup attempt in Turkey. They were praying all over the media during the coup attempt for Erdogan to prevail. Some of them even claimed that they were doing it for “a democracy they don’t believe in”, most did not even bother with that fig-leaf.
  • Most of these Arab Salafis, Muslim Brothers, and Persian Gulf Wahhabi-liberals, came up (only in Arabic-language posts) with convoluted theory about an American/Western-Zionist-Persian plot to subvert Turkey away from the true Islamic path toward the Caliphate (WTF that be). Many of them still carry the silly new flag that is supposed to represent some mythical moderate Syrian”rebels”, even as in their hearts they owe allegiance to the black ISIS version of the green Saudi flag.
  • They all know, of course, that without Erdogan’s support, the Jihadist terrorists of ISIS and Al Nusra and Ahrar Al Sham and Army of Islam and others would not have been able to receive their weapons and volunteers and Persian Gulf tribal money to enable the mass murders in Syria and Iraq and across the world.
  • The same tribal Salafis who openly called for donations to support Jihad in Syria and Iraq and across the world also yesterday slaughtered sheep across my Gulf in celebration of the failure of the military coup against their best enabler, Erdogan.
  • Turkish officials, their Arab Salafist supporters, started talking loudly of a plot hatched in America against Erdogan. Such loud charges and threats by Erdogan surrogates worked against European governments, especially Germany. It is unlikely they will work against Washington.
  • Interestingly, Erdogan had started before the coup attempt to bury the hatchet with Syria. His ministers had started to change tack and show less hostility to Assad. Just days before the coup attempt. That was a wise decision.
  • Other countries: Israel, Iran, Europe, whose governments and peoples have little liking or respect for Mr. Erdogan, made the correct noises after the coup failed. Washington, as usual, was caught in a bind: damned if it did, damned if it did not. That is the fate of the only superpower.
  • Mr. Erdogan now feels free to make a grab for absolute power, to make sure his regime, his Islamist party, remains in power. Thousands are already rounded up and in prison. That should sound familiar to Germans who survived from the 1930s, if there are any.
  • Expect more fireworks in Turkey soon…..

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

 

ISIS Travel Agency: Almost Fourth of July, How Safe Are Your Airports?……..

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The terrorist attack at Istanbul airport yesterday underlines a new dynamic in the wars in Iraq and Syria against the Salafi menace that is DAESH (or ISIS or ISIL).
For years the Turkish government of Erdogan was an accomplice in the creation and growth of ISIS. It allowed the free flow of money, weapons, and Jihadis from the Persian Gulf states and other Arab countries and Western Europe into Syria. Turkey was the main path, the cooperative chief conduit, what I called the Erdogan Trail, into Syria. There have also been credible reports of cooperation in facilitating the flow of ISIS petroleum and weapons across Turkey. Other reports stressed the close ties between ISIS and elements of Turkish intelligence.

As the war in Syria turned against the Jihadis in 2013-2014, Mr. Erdogan seemed to have doubled down on his support for the Jihadis. Airport cameras regularly filmed and showed on TV Jihadis and their Arab and European comfort women (concubines) flowing through Istanbul airport on their way to the killing fields of Syria. Persian Gulf media, tightly controlled by Saudi and Qatari money and ownership, downplayed the ISIS ties with Turkey, focusing instead on a disintegrating and virtually non-existent Free Syrian Army. Allegedly a secular army of liberation that was under control of both Arab Salafis and Arab princes and potentates.

Now Turkey has been subjected to several terrorist attacks (unfortunately I once called it Erdogan’s chickens coming home to roost). Mr. Erdogan has now reportedly succumbed to American pressure to distance his country from the terrorists. Given that they are not winning anymore. Now his country is paying the price that others have been paying: from London to Paris and Brussels to Baghdad and Kuwait and the Shi’a towns of Eastern Saudi Arabia. But I suspect he would rather have ISIS than the newly empowered Kurds as neighbors.

ISIS is on the ropes in the Levant. It lost Fallujah last week to the Iraqis, and the mourning screams of Salafis could be heard all across the social media. It had lost Tikrit and Ramadi before that to the Iraqis and their allies. Even some Western media fell last week for the Jihadi propaganda about ‘massive ethnic abuse’ by militias. That being a highly sectarian-divided Iraq, a recent phenomenon, there probably were some isolated cases of ethnic abuse. But the Salafi cries of mourning were not about the victims: they were/are about the defeat of ISIS. For believers and opportunists alike the true Wahhabi paradise on Earth.

Mosul will probably be next. The “capital” of Raqqa is also close to being threatened by a combination of Syrian and allied forces and Kurdish forces. I predicted two weeks ago here that by the end of 2017 ISIS will lose Mosul and Raqqa. Almost a fatwa, I claimed: My Fatwa (humble but almost certainly accurate) on the violent gruesome brief reign of the Wahhabis of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria“.

ISIS is being squeezed in both Iraq and Syria, and strong pressure on U.S. allies to cooperate has helped. ISIS/DAESH oil revenues have been reduced significantly, and pressure is being seriously applied to cut off the flow of Persian Gulf Salafi money. That is why they are hitting at any soft target they can, not just their usual favorite targets: the Shi’as and Westerners. That is also why they are expanding into Egypt, Yemen, and North Africa.

Remember the old American TV message: it is eleven o’clock, do you know where your children are?
America needs a new message this week and next: It is almost Fourth of July, do you know how safe your airports are?


Cheers


Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Beards and Zeitgeist: Leftist Beards, Zayed Beards, Islamist Fuzz, Lice and Orangutan……….

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It seems that the fate of the facial hair we call the “beard” is often tied to the political atmosphere of the period. Part of the Zeitgeist.
Decades ago, a young man with a beard in the Americas or in Europe was considered a radical, a suspected follower or admirer of Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, (or even Dobie Gillis and Bob Denver). In fascist-ruled places like Chile, Argentina, and Greece they were thrown into prison or just disappeared on suspicion of radicalism or impiety or non-conformity. In some West European airports, bearded youth were often questioned more carefully. That was then, long before the world ever heard of Radical Islam.
At the same time, in Saudi Arabia any man who was ambitious grew a goatee beard (like the one Bob Denver and Dobie Gillis sported). From the king on down, they all flaunted the goatee (some Arabs called it saksooka). But that beard was not a radical political statement: just a show of solidarity with the eternal Saudi conformity rules.

FYI: I suspect that “goatee” drives from “goat“, which means these guys admired something about their goats. Maybe just the looks.

Then two events happened in 1979 that altered the history and shape of the beard for a generation to come:
First: the Afghan war erupted, with the Western secular governments and Arab Wahhabis aligned with the reactionary Afghan tribes against the God-less Communists. That war created a whole new generation of Islamic guerrillas. Al Qaeda started in Afghanistan, with Saudi money and Arab volunteers and American (Reagan) weapons. We can also say that it was the genesis of the Taliban and ISIS and Al Nusra and other cutthroat groups. The first Afghan war gave us the shaggy unruly lice-infested Wahhabi beard so loved by our Persian Gulf Salafists. One more complication: many Salafi elders, to show that they are among the top elite, tend to die their beards, often a bright red (Orangutan) color, as rusty as their brains. Maybe it is to appeal to their wives. A few let them let it go gray.
Second: the Iranian Revolution succeeded in February 1979. Mullahs with shaggy beards and heir followers with trimmed beards took over in Tehran, replacing the clean shaven men of the Shah, King of Kings, Light of the Aryans, etc, etc. An Iranian form of conformity has spread since then: all men of importance in the regime sport a short beard. Not the shaggy lice-inviting type the Salafis have, but a more trimmed grizzly beard. Long enough to be noticeable but too short to invite the lice or particles of food.

Other Muslim countries have their own variation of these two extremes of beards. In the United Arab Emirates (UAE) many influential officials now sport the trimmed neat Zayed-Brothers beard. So named after the seven or dozen (or more) brothers who own Abu Dhabi and rule the UAE. In Egypt a beard is okay if it is the shaggy lice-inviting type, for it indicates the man is an ordinary Salafist who can be bought and not a Muslim Brother. In Syria, well, no matter what kind of beard you have in Syria, it can get you killed, or worse, by any group of armed Jihadis, liberators, invited foreign guests, un-invited foreign guests, cutthroats, or just plain regime forces. You can also get bombed by Syrians, Russians, Americans, British, or Israelis.
Who was it who said: “Hands Off Syria“?

So, in any struggle in our Middle East region today, even in my native Gulf region, you need to scrutinize the beard carefully. You also need to understand the nuances and differences between the various kinds of beards and if they are dyed and what color. Your career, fortune, and life could depend on it.

Cheers
M Haider Ghuloum

Freedom of Speech on the Gulf, Salafi Style……..

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قَالَتِ الْأَعْرَابُ آمَنَّا قُل لَّمْ تُؤْمِنُوا وَلَكِن قُولُوا أَسْلَمْنَا وَلَمَّا يَدْخُلِ الْإِيمَانُ فِي قُلُوبِكُمْ “
سورة الحجرات
(ديمقراطية)

Remember when I penned a post here in February on Internal Exile used by Arab regimes to punish those who displease them? I called it an Arabian Gulag here.
Yesterday I read a tweet from back home. Two Salafi leaders of the so-called political opposition were tweeting. They have been making noisy allegations for a couple of years about their “lack of freedom” of speech. Even as they insist that others should be denied the freedom of expression. Even as their goal is to establish a Wahhabi type of government: they almost did it in 2012 but it was vetoed by the Emir. Even as they praise serious violent repression in neighboring states.
What these two Salafist former parliamentarians were demanding in their tweets was that the government should ban another parliamentarian, one who is from another sect, from travel abroad. They said he might feel free to ‘speak freely’ outside the country, which they clearly think is a bad idea: he might criticize the dismal human rights situation in neighboring Gulf states.
@Altabtabie

What this Salafi former parliamentarian is saying in Arabic is that: “This D—- should be immediately banned from foreign travel so he will not use his being a member of the Assembly to besmirch the brothers in Saudi and Bahrain abroad….”
The other one, his comrade in Wahhabi Salafism, absolutely agrees with him. They are both asking the government (which they claim to oppose for allegedly restricting their freedom) to restrict someone else’s freedom of travel and speech. A kind of repression they always support when applied by regimes in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, but not at home.

Now I don’t know this man they are targeting, and I most likely disagree on at least some things he espouses (FYI: I disagree with almost everybody back home on the Gulf on most political, social and economic and any other subject or matter). But this falls within the usual pattern reflecting the fact that loud talk of freedom of speech by most Islamists, especially Salafis, is for media consumption, especially for foreign media. They do not believe in freedom of anything: speech, religion, expression, and even thought.

Long live freedom of speech, Wahhabi style, with a dash of Salafi hypocrisy.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

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Caliph in the Wind: Norma Jeane Baker Al Baghdadi………….

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I noticed the birthday of Caliph Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi is approaching in early August. The Salafis pretend they don’t cotton up much to birthdays for ordinary mortals. But the Caliph is not deemed a mortal. He is more like a celebrity, a hairy Norma Jeane Baker. A real inner and outer beast compared to a real inner and outer beauty. Not exactly a candle in the wind, but one air raid away from wherever it is he will go for good. He won’t expect a tribute by Elton John, but here goes anyway:——>  Candle in the Wind………..

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter
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