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The West's reliance on Saudi Arabia is ill-judged

By Valerie Yule - posted Friday, 18 March 2016


Saudi money builds mosques and schools throughout the Western world.

My home town of Melbourne has beautiful mosques and flourishing Islamic schools financed with Saudi money. I visited one school. The girls are dressed beautifully in clothes and headscarves that prevent them exercising like the boys, but otherwise, it seemed a good school, with progressive teachers. But the two religious teachers told me I was doomed as a non-Muslim, and that the Wahhabi version was the only valid version of Islam. Possibly most Saudi-financed schools in the West are similar.

Saudi encouragement and financing of a fundamentalist form of Islam is a threat to stability everywhere.

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Saudi Arabia can be compared with the lslamic State, with its extreme religious ideology and cruel sharia-based justice but its influence in the West is hardly questioned. Yet the perpetrators of many acts of terror, from the Twin Towers events of September 11 to many other episodes of extremist carnage, as well as nearly all members of extremist groups like Al Qaeda and the Nusra Front, have been either Saudi nationals or brainwashed by petrodollar-financed demagogues.

For many years, USA and UK have sold armaments to ruling dictatorship. The arms have been used for evil purposes. US and UK supported Saudi Arabia, because the Sauds would give them oil in return for Western armaments, a double benefit economically for the Western powers. They have relied on it for stability in the Middle East. Today there is a joint arming and training program between the C.I.A. and Saudi Arabia. The Obama administration silently supports the Saudi-led war in Yemen,

The history of the ruling Saud family has been one of the worst in the Middle East.. Its version of Islam is extreme Salafist Wahhabism which has also inspired the Islamic State and other jihadis.

In 2015, Saudi Arabia has sought the presidency of the United Nations Human Rights Council (a move that was blocked through diplomatic means) but its judiciary is controlled by conservative clerics applying Shariah law, and is getting worse.

UN independent experts criticize its torture and ill-treatment, racism and xenophobia, arbitrary detention, and freedoms of belief and of expression. Inhumane punishments for exercising basic rights and death sentences based on dubious evidence still continue. More than 150 people were executed in 2014, some whose only crime was protesting against the government. Saudi Arabia's medieval criminal justice system also executes "witches," and flogs and imprisons gay people.

Saudi Arabia inflames the Sunni-Shiite divide and sets an example of intolerance by banning churches and other religions.

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Saudi Arabia is a global threat with its active sponsorship of violent extremism. Abroad, Saudi Arabia's human rights abuses are many. At home, torture, mal-treatment, the death penalty and rough corporal punishment are routine. Access to justice, fair trials and due process are denied, with many convictions based on confessions extracted under duress. There is lack of a penal code defining specific crimes and punishments, so that judges have complete discretion.

Discrimination against minorities is common. Migrant workers face serious abuse. Human rights defenders are harassed and prevented from undertaking their work. Freedoms of expression, assembly and belief are regularly violated by law enforcement agencies and by government agents.

Saudi Arabia is keen to wield its influence on the world, especially in the wake of the Iranian nuclear deal, which is a serious security threat. But there is little international criticism, although using lucrative international contracts as a tool could effect significant change.

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About the Author

Valerie Yule is a writer and researcher on imagination, literacy and social issues.

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