Tuesday, May 1, 2012

My Saudi Identity

During the past several years, Saudi Rights Activists have been propagating the idea of a Saudi Identity shared amongst the people of Saudi Arabia.  Such an identity has been sponsored by King Abdullah since he has consumed kinghood.  This was displayed in the national dialogue and has also been re-emphasized in both the Janadriya festival and the Saudi National Day.   These events have celebrated the diversity of the Saudi Kingdom, which gives us a notion that a Saudi Identity emphasizes on the diversity of Saudi culture, tradition and even faith.  But if that is the case, why is diversity attacked in the kingdom? And why is it that the system does not prosecute against prejudices of all its forms?

When the king sponsored and organized a national dialogue, he tried to emphasize on the aspect of the diversity of the religious faiths within the kingdom.  Yet when it comes to practice, it seems that such a diversity has yet to be recognized.  When a new law is to be studied and implemented, it is considered only within the scope of the Wahhabi School.  Also, the Supreme Court in Saudi Arabia only rules according to interpretation of the Wahhabi school.  In addition, religious education in the kingdom does not tolerate any other faith but the Wahhabi interpretation of Islam.  All other faiths have been deemed as insignificant and, according to some, heretic.  With this in mind, how can my Saudi Identity represent the diversity in Islamic faiths in accordance with the national dialogue?

Another national celebration in Saudi Arabia is the Janadriya festival, a festival that celebrates the cultural diversity of Saudi Arabia and is organized annually by the government.  When visiting the Janadriya festival, the diverse cultures within Saudi Arabia is quite astonishing.  Not only that, but each culture has its own set of convictions, traditions and even local folklore.  Yet, these traditions in Saudi Arabia are only remembered for the ten days of the festival.  As soon as it is over, their history is forgotten and their traditions are ridiculed.  In fact, if it is not a tradition of the Royal Family, it will be considered as valueless and alien.  Therefore, when I start to consider my Saudi Identity within this context, I fail to realize how it can represent my cultural values.

Another potential element of a Saudi identity is the notion of unity which is celebrated during the Saudi National Day, which is held on the 23rd of September.  A “celebration” that has been sponsored by the King used to enforce a sensation of an identity that is unique to the Saudi people.   However, I still cannot identify what I am celebrating.  It cannot be the unity of the Kingdom as my government has not shown a sign of respect towards the different communities that are bound by the borders of this nation.  In fact, it has not tackled those that are seeking to separate the community.  Other than the Saudi National Day, to me, it seems that there is no real attempt to encourage the development of a sense of unity in Saudi Arabia.

With the failure to identify faith, culture and unity as symbols of my Saudi identity, I thought I would seek a sense of equality in how I am viewed by the representatives of the law.  This means that I should be treated as an equal in the land of Saudi Arabia (according to the law).  This also means that the ruling system should also automatically prosecute those that discriminate against me due to tribe, region or faith.  If my Saudi Identity represents my geographical belonging and, in turn, a legal representation of my identity, it means that this system should protect my right as a partial owner of this Saudi land.  Sadly, while considering this particular notion, I feel as if I am journeying through a wonderful pipe dream waiting to wake up.   When considering this aspect of my Saudi identity, whether it is a lack of laws or un-implemented laws, it does not seem that the law is protecting me as a Saudi individual living within the Saudi borders.

What does my Saudi identity mean to me? It has not respected my choice of faith because I am not a Wahhabi (the official faith of the Kingdom).  It has not respected my culture as it has slandered it in any possible way it can.  It has disrespected my right to think freely and has attempted to set an example to me by imprisoning free thinkers from my community and other communities.  It has tried to convince me of the luxurious life a Saudi lives and attempted to hide away the poverty of most Saudis.  It has disrespected my intelligence by propagating its version of Islamic faith as the only true faith and attacking all other faiths including mine.

After discussing the issue of my Saudi identity with colleagues and friends, they usually fail to give me an answer to what this identity means to them.  Given their backgrounds, their identity is usually defined by their family, tribe or city/region.  It is never defined by a united nation that maintains their rights.  It is not the religious values that govern them and it is not a common set of traditional values that are, assumingly, shared between the communities.  One even dared to describe it as a “shameful origin”.  Through my discussions, I did hope to arrive at a justifiable reason to why I should fight for this identity and therefore be proud of.  Sadly, the only conclusion I arrived at is that a Saudi identity, to me, represents the disrespected diversity exemplified by living a lie.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Firing the First Rocket

“That night, I had some friends over.  While we were chatting, we had the TV on and our show was disturbed for a breaking news bulletin.  The reporter was indicating that a rocket just shot out of northern Saudi and is heading towards Iran.  All of us were quite and all we could think of was that it has finally happened.  The rockets were built in Israel, and it seems that the Saudi regime decided that Iran was a bigger threat to its stability and survival than Israel.  At the point of firing the rockets, the Islamic world was no longer split between Shia and Sunni, but pro-Saudi and anti-Saudi.

The Rocket was not a surprise to many Shia.  For over a year now, there was a continuous attack against their sect in the Saudi owned public media and in governmentally managed mosques without no retaliation nor any clear position from the government.  It was all triggered with one official statement published by the Saudi Ministry of Interior (MoI) targeting its local Shia community in doubting their loyalties.  In the same statement the MoI referred to a Foreign power (at the time thought to be Iran) seeking to tackle the stability in Saudi Arabia.”

What a future to envision.  When imagining the above, some may think to themselves: This seems like a ridiculous thought.  But the question here is how far away from the truth is the above story?  The Loyalty of Saudi Shia has already been questioned by the government and its affiliates.  The official statement of the government had already labeled its Shia public as traitors to their flag and to their land.  You will hear the way the governmentally appointed clerics speak about the Shia during their prayers, labeling them as Rafidhies (deniers of the truth), praying that “may God unleash his full punishment against them”.  To understand this mentality further and what is being propagated, all you have to do is browse through the social media (e.g. facebook and twitter) and you will witness the heavy attack against the Shia public in the form of blessing the Saudi army placed in Qatif wishing that it wipes those “Iranian intruders” who have invaded the eastern province of Saudi Arabia.

Certain Saudi royals have already been quoted in a statement to the United States saying “Cut of head of snake” in a reference to Iran.  The official position of the Wahhabi school (the official Islamic sect of the Saudi state) is that the Shiite’s danger is one that is greater than that of the Jews.  As a portrayal of this belief a conference was held on the 16th of February, 2012 entitled “The truth about the Rafidhi Faith and its Danger Against Sunni Societies” in Riyadh detailing the “Shia threat” on the Sunni community.  In fact, and surprisingly due to this conviction, many conservative Saudis will apparently support an Israeli strike against the dominant Shia state of Iran.  During the past week, according to Peter S. Cohan in his article “What would a Saudi-Supported Israeli Attack on Iran mean for you?”, an anonymous arms dealer has already visited Israel and Saudi  to meet officials on both sides to discuss a potential Israeli attack on Iran from within the Saudi borders.  If this is true, can we place the assumption that the Saudi regime, through its relaxed monitoring against the attacks aimed at the Shia population,  is preparing for the whiplash it may get from the Islamic community under such circumstances? I leave that for you to decide.  

Friday, February 24, 2012

Between the Hypocrite and Ayoon wa Azan

Almost two weeks ago, number six and seven of the Qatifi martyrs has fallen at the hands of the Saudi army placed in Qatif, an army whose only goal is to crush those requesting their freedoms through peaceful (unarmed) demonstrations.  During the same weekend, our beloved King, King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz, expressed his Discontent towards the UNs security council to act on the issue of Syria.   To this, the Washington Post posted their article “The Saudi King’s Hypocrisy”.  In response, Dar Alhayat’s Jihad el-Khazen posted his attack on the Washington Post as a whole and their position taken during the war on Iraq and their continued support for Israel in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, without actually defending the King’s position.  This was presented under the title Ayoon wa Azan (“The Washington Post’s Hypocrisy”).

Before starting, I do not believe that any Saudi doubts the nobility of our King.  I believe that the Saudi King has shown his loyalty towards the Saudi Public and that he really seeks a change for the better within the Saudi Borders.  However, he has failed to acknowledge and recognize that the Qatifi people have been demonstrating for the past year expressing their discomfort with the way his government has been treating them.  His administration has failed to abolish the discrimination this group is receiving at the hands of officials it has either assigned or acknowledged their assignment.  Worst of all, it has failed to ensure that these people feel secure, a security that he, the king, has claimed to have provided for all Saudi people.  In my Response to Jihad, I have failed to recognize the scope of your response to the Washington Post as I have also failed to define why the king, or his administration, has been disregarding the people of Qatif and has not to retaliated against those who have contributed in the killing of unarmed and untrained youngsters. 

Given the current situation, for any outside viewer, the King’s position on the matter is contradictory.  All we want, the people of Qatif, is to be respected and acknowledged and the King and his administration have yet to do both.  They have to listen to what the people want and not what those appointed by them pass unto them.  They have to understand why the people of Qatif are revolting and not turn a blind-eye to the situation and question their allegiance.  As mentioned in a previous article, these people have been on this land for over 5500 years they were some of the first to embrace Islam.  Their loyalty has always been and will always be to the land that has guaranteed their survival and the religion that has secured them.  It will never be for a foreign power as the Saudi state poorly claims in its official report.

I would like to conclude by saying: What a Shame? What a shame when our leadership exposes us to an “anti-Muslim” (as Jihad would like to put it) newspaper? What a shame when they fail to understand the conflicts in their policy of the foreign versus the domestic? What a shame when they call for the condemning of a tyrant, yet rule their people under the same laws of those tyrants?  Here I support the King in his position in supporting the Syrian people, but await the day he takes a similar position towards the people of Qatif.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

My Gullible Citizen

“God bless us everyone, we were broken people living on a loaded gun”.  Some verses from Catalyst as sung by Linkin Park, although not targeted at Saudi, provides a vivid description of the hell we live in Saudi.  Why should this wonderful country be a haven when we, in Saudi, are divided due to extremely trivial matters.  Why is it in Saudi the different minorities cannot come together and understand the “divide and conquer” strategy placed on them?  Why is it in Saudi do we look for the flaws of our neighbor to justify the prosecution he is facing from the ruling class?  Why is it in Saudi do the public raise their guns against members of their own neighborhood before their government?

Sadly, the events of the past year have shown us exactly how divided we are.  The Arab Spring has exposed the hypocritical lives we live.  When we in Saudi label revolutionists in Egypt and Syria as people fighting for their freedoms and the same revolutionists in Saudi as trouble makers and anarchists, it shows that the Saudi public is fully trusting the lies passed unto them by those who have a high profit in the lies delivered to the public being believed.  During the past year, the ruling class was successful in continuing their propaganda to keep their grasp strong on the throne.  This class of people have attacked those fighting for their freedoms with a full artillery.

Another class of the public are those that choose to be neutral and have failed to see developments of the events in their own country.  What puzzles me in this aspect is that this class of people, like their predecessors,  are extremely interested in those requesting their liberation from tyranny on foreign soil (outside Saudi Arabia) but when the same happens on local soil, they are the first to admit that all is fine in this land, none is being prosecuted against and everyone is comfortable in the land of Saudi with all their needs being met.

It is in the rulings class’s best interest to keep us ignorant of each other.  How else can they ensure their control over our rich country? They have kept us ignorant of our history.  How else can they ensure their grasp over our minds? They have wiped our faith.  How else can they govern with a deformed religion? They have destroyed our education and knowledge.  How else can they ensure that no uprising with a sound justification is raised causing the upraise of obstacles in their route to power? They have ensured that they control a class of people that is ignorant to their surrounding, illiterate of their rights and gullible to the lies handed to them, which in turn has truly lead us to becoming a “broken people living on a loaded gun”.

Friday, January 27, 2012

To Live in Saudi

To live in Saudi has to be the greatest honor a person can consume.  To know you live in a country that ensures your safety and that all is ruled justly and under an all “wise” leadership.  How else can you interpret the fact that around a third of the Saudi population are expatriates? What attracts the non-Saudi (elite and the low-class) to work and reside in Saudi given that it houses none of the luxuries provided by the modern world?  And if all is perfect in Saudi, why is there some Saudis’ that have a problem with all that peace and safety (that is not provided in the rest of the world according to our elite)?

Since the discovery of oil in Saudi, it has become the target of the strong and weak.  As a result of the amount of wealth existing within the borders of the kingdom, and the lack of clear legislations (or failure to punish against breaches of the legislations), Saudi has become the pit of corruption from the smallest individual to the most powerful, Saudi or non-Saudi.   A spread of corruption that has ensured that those who are in true need are kept away from the wealth that Saudi has to provide as much as possible.  To make matters worse, in Saudi, racism and coalitions are very good friends.  To describe this in clearer terms, in Saudi Arabia the spread of wealth and opportunities is limited to individuals with the same background.  An insurance policy, ironically, that is protected by the immoral “public servants”.

Another positive attribute in my wonderful and all-just kingdom is the loyalty it has from 100% of its pubic.  That loyalty comes in the form of accepting our wise leadership with all its glory and denying its failure points.  Where else do you find a system that religiously incriminates all criticism against it and a system that ensures all that is said against it is filtered out from the media reaching its public, therefore the image that the same public has of it is left pure and sacred.  Of course, to ensure a rate of 100% loyalty, between now and then such a system needs to neutralize a few of the disloyal and, if imprisoned, hold them until the recant their blasphemy. 
One more aspect that exists in Saudi, and most likely does not exist anywhere else, is the fact that our “wise” leadership seems to be aware of exactly what we need.  How can our problems be far away from our all “wise” leadership when it ensures that our most basic problem (traffic) does not exist when they are driving through our cities?  How can they not feel our suffering in their big castles securing all their needs?

We in Saudi have to come to grasp with realty.  We need to affirm ourselves that in Saudi, we have it better than elsewhere.  However, do not look outside your borders, as our leadership has confirmed to us many times that Saudi has its special conditions, therefore it needs to be managed under that  unique situation it has.  

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Dangerous 23

On the 2nd of January, the Saudi Ministry of Interior has issued an arrest warrant to imprison twenty three individuals from Qatif under the accusation of causing riots and disorder.  For those that have been following the events of Qatif during the past several weeks will notice that these so-called riots were demonstrations that call for the release of the forgotten prisoners and the compensation towards the families of those killed by the anti-riot police’s bullets.  This prosecution has been conducted by a body that fears any gathering as an attempt to announce that the Saudi public are actually not alright.  Therefore, instead of trying to resolve the problem and acknowledge its flaws, it attempts to hide this fact by relying on the Islamic faith to prohibit such demonstrations.

Since the inception of the Saudi government and the establishment of its Wahhabi law, Qatif has always been a wild card in the eyes of the state.  It never aimed to understand this culture it is ruling.  However, it steadily increased its prosecution towards this community.  Before the above mentioned warrant, the Ministry targeted the loyalty of the Qatifi People and started a plot to place doubts towards the faithfulness they have for the land that maintained their lives for around 5500 years.  The same people that have witnessed the rise and fall of nations throughout the same period.  The same people that were some of the first to convert to Islam and maintain their allegiance to Ali bin Abi Talib (Shia by origins and not influence).

I may by repeating myself, but our dear ministry needs to stoop down to the level of this group of people and, although it may damage its pride, admit its mistake in their mistreatment.  It must start respecting their beliefs and sponsor their traditions.  It needs to abolish those teachings that labels them as infidels and grave worshippers (such as the intermediate syllabus of history for the intermediate students).  It may even build them a mosque and see how this reflects on their allegiance.  The body that resembles the Ministry of Interior must start considering how it can utilize the Shia of Qatif and use them as an element of power rather than continue their battle with them for superiority. 

If the Ministry continues to charge the hatred of the Saudi people against Qatif, if it continues its prosecution against the same people and, worst of all, if it continues to treat these people as guilty culprits,  this region will never witness any form of stability.  It is currently threatening their second necessity, “Security”, according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.  According to the same hierarchy, Loyalty can only come once people feel secure, and the ministry has placed itself in a drastic position  where it must sacrifice so much to ensure that the people of Qatif feel secure.