It is said that "honest criticism is
hard to take, particularly from a relative, a friend, an acquaintance, or a
stranger." I recently wrote an article "Iran vs Saudi
Arabia" in which I criticised some religious elements in
Of course the article was not
published in any Arab or Saudi newspapers or online journals. It was however
widely read by Muslims who have access to internet and can read English. It
generated a debate about
The response was written by Mr.
Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed. Mr. Al
Rashed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al- Awsat and currently the
general manager of the Saudi Financed Al-Arabiya television. Al-Arabiya was
launched in 2003 with an investment of $300m by the Saudi-controlled pan-Arab
satellite TV pioneer MBC,
Considering the content of my
article, I had expected that if anyone was going to disagree with me, they would
come-up with some kind of rational and valid counter arguments. To my surprise,
Mr. Al-Rashed did not dispute any of the facts presented; instead he tried to
marginalise important issues that lead to extremism. He did not dispute the fact
So what was his main argument: it is
Arab TV stations such as Al-Arabiya love to examine and criticise others but NEVER any Arab country. I take this opportunity to ask Mr. Al-Rashed these questions: how many programs has your TV station made or broadcasted about Wahhabi extremism, or corruption in the House of Saud, or mistreatment of foreign workers in Saudi Arabia, discrimination of non-Wahhabi Muslims, discrimination of non-Muslims, status of women, funding of terrorism, or even suggesting that non-Muslims be allowed to build a temple or a Church in the Kingdom?
There are ca 7 to 8.8 million foreign workers in the kingdom, some of whom are Christians (close to 1 million) [], so far not a single Church has been built for them, nor have they been allowed to build one for themselves. Yet Muslims enjoy all kinds of religious freedoms abroad. Large Mosques are built in London, Paris and elsewhere, yet a Christian taking a wrong turn in the kingdom risks imprisonment and by some accounts even death for treading on a "Muslims only" street or road. The same goes for other religions as well.
The following is only one of many
horrible and shameful events taking place in
"Local sources gave AsiaNews details about the fate of these victims of Saudi repression in what some human rights activists have called the worst crackdown on religious minorities in the country in the last decades.
John Thomas, 37, an Indian national from the state of Kerala, is among the Christians arrested by the Muttawa, the Saudi religious police. He joins another Indian, Vijay Kumar, 45, from Tamil Nadu about whose case AsiaNews has already reported.John Thomas is accused of proselytising. But his relatives explain that for the past eight years all he did was hold private prayer meetings in his flat with fellow Indian Christians of all denominations. Relatives also say that this is the first time that he was targeted and that he has been "tortured in inhumane ways".
Working this time in conjunction with the regular police in an act of methodical persecution, on May 28 the Muttawa picked up John Thomas from his place of work and drove him home. Here, he was beaten in front of his five year old son and the babysitter, who was also struck. After his Bibles and other religious objects were collected, he was taken to prison."[]
But the persecution does not stop
with Christians. Ahmadis, a small group that consider themselves Muslims are
another group that are persecuted.
The Saudi government has so far
arrested 56 non-Saudi followers of the Ahmadi faith, including infants and young
children, and deported at least eight to
"The Saudi government's persecution
of Ahmadis on the basis of their faith is turning
And then we have the largest Saudi
religious minority group the Shi'ites who are Muslims and represent 15% of the
Kingdom's population. The following is the religious edict issued by the top
"Abdul Rahman al-Barak, one of the
top several Wahhabi clerics in
"By and large, rejectionists (Shiites) are the most evil sect of the nation and they have all the ingredients of the infidels," Abdul Rahman wrote in a fatwa, or religious edict, that was posted on his web site Friday.
"The general ruling is that they are infidels, apostates and hypocrites," he wrote. "They are more dangerous than Jews and Christians," he wrote in the edict, which Abdul Rahman said was in response to a question from a follower.
Like most hardline Sunnis, Abdul Rahman employed the word "rejectionists," used as a derogatory term to describe Shiites because they opted out of the Sunni school of Islamic theology. He also said the sect was the work of a Jewish conspiracy."[]
Imagine for example that
"Several court decisions raised concern over a lack of standardized canon law to rein in biased judges. In February a judge barred a Saudi Shia from bearing legal witness to the marriage of his Sunni boss's son. Another judge annulled a marriage, finding the husband "inadequate" because he followed the Ismaili (Shia) creed and not the prevailing Wahhabi (Sunni) creed like his wife. A third judge annulled a marriage, finding in favor of a man who claimed the inferior tribal lineage of his sister's husband made the latter ineligible to marry into their family, although Saudi sharia law places no conditions of heritage on couples who intend to marry."[]
The treatment of religious
Abuse of Foreign
The abuse of foreign workers in
Only in 2002, 2800 Sri Lankan housemaids ran away from their Saudi sponsors, claiming they had been overworked, sexually abused or physically mistreated by jealous wives. They are among the countless foreign "guest workers" in Saudi Arabia who live and work under conditions that are sometimes compared to modern-day slavery.[] By 2004, despite criticism from various international institutions, the situation had not improved.
"The 135-page report by the New-York based group catalogues abuses it says are suffered by a predominantly Asian labour force that makes up more than one third of the kingdom's population.
"Migrant workers in the purportedly modern society that the kingdom has become continue to suffer extreme forms of labour exploitation that sometimes rise to slavery-like conditions," it says.
It describes the case of 300 women
They worked 12-hour shifts, six days a week, and at night were locked in crowded dormitory-style accommodation where 14 women shared one small room.
Human Rights Watch says abuses on women are particularly disturbing.
"Some women workers that we interviewed were still traumatised from rape and sexual abuse at the hands of Saudi male employers," the report says.
The watchdog also recorded executions of foreign workers whose families only learned of the death sentence after it had been carried out."[]
No amount of criticism seems to make
any impression on the Saudi rulers. Once again the Human Rights Watch, in its 2007
report draws a grim picture of conditions under which millions of migrant
workers live in
"Many of the estimated 8.8 million foreign workers face exploitative working conditions, including 16-hour workdays, no breaks or food and drink, and being locked in dormitories during their time off. The government promised to publish in November 2006 a special annex to the new labour law that regulates domestic migrant workers' rights. Women domestic workers, whom the labour law currently does not protect, are often at risk of serious abuse in private homes."[]
One must not forget that most of
these migrant workers are Muslim. When I mentioned in my previous article
We have to face the fact that as
long as House of Saud is able to buy friends and influence in the West and East
no-one is going to really pay any attention to what is really going on in the
kingdom. No one cares if migrant workers are abused, if women are treated as
third class citizens or if minorities are discriminated, tortured, and
imprisoned. As long as the arms contracts are signed and oil flows, then it is
OK. As long as
But this doesn't mean that we have to keep silent. Sooner or later, the American people will see this regime for what it is and will demand that their government leave this unholy alliance. It is then that we will see how long this House of horror will stay in power.
The people of
The House of Saud has tried very hard to buy itself respectability and legitimacy; but we all know that it is morally bankrupt. No amount of money can buy respectability or legitimacy. House of Saud can employ intelligent people such as Mr Al-Rashed to present a better picture of itself to the world. But no matter how hard these clever people try, they can not present this rubbish as a piece of art.
I will send this article to Aljazeera.net, Al-arabiya TV, Asharq Alawsa and other Arab news media, knowing in advance that none of them will publish it, for there is no free press. Mr. Al-Rashed can write to me in Asharq Alawsa but he can not provide a link to my article nor name the article. Saudi backed Asharq Alawsa can publish a rebuttal but can not publish the original article nor name the article. Al-Arabiya and Aljazeera Televison stations can criticise the Americans and others, but can never utter a slightest criticism of the House of Saud. This is freedom the Saudi Style.
I challenge all of the Saudi backed
press to publish the original article and this article with any kind of rebuttal
that they think will refute my claims. I challenge Aljazeera and Al Arabiya TV
stations to broadcast the poor state of women and minorities in
Finally I would like to leave this message for the leaders of the House of Saud: "Pity the leader caught between unloving critics and uncritical lovers." (John Gardner)
About the author: Dr. Abbas Bakhtiar lives in
 Asharg Alawsat, "Empty
 Asia News, "Families of Christians arrested in
 Reuters, "
 International Herald
Tribune, "Top Saudi cleric issues religious edict declaring Shiites to be
 Human Rights Watch, "Country
 St.Petersburg Times, "The
world must know about this",
 BBC, "Saudi system 'abuses
 Human Rights Watch, "Country
... Payvand News - 2/20/07 ... --