Sunday, October 29, 2017

Back to the Good Old Days in Saudi Arabia

Well, I'll be...

"... Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced on Tuesday that he wanted the kingdom to return to 'moderate Islam'... [His] remarks... indicated he is committed to combating extreme interpretations of Islam and to focusing on economic reforms...  'We are simply reverting to what we followed - a moderate Islam open to the world and all religions'.

"In a subsequent interview with The Guardian, the prince unexpectedly blamed Saudi Arabia's arch enemy, Shiite Iran, for the kingdom's turn towards Wahhabism, an ultra-conservative branch of Islam that is promoted by Riyadh both domestically and abroad. 'What happened in the past 30 years is not Saudi Arabia. What happened in the region in the past 30 years is not the Middle East. After the Iranian revolution in 1979, people wanted to copy this model in different countries - one of them is Saudi Arabia. We didn't know how to deal with it. And the problem spread all over the world. Now is the time to get rid of it,' he said." (Moderate Islam push seen as marketing ploy, Rick Noack, Washington Post/ Sydney Morning Herald, 27/10/17)

So, up until the Iranian revolution of 1979, the Saudis were practising "a moderate Islam open to... all religions," including, one presumes, the Shi'a branch of Islam?

Well, let's test this proposition by turning the clock back to 1927, a full 52 years before the Iranian revolution of 1979, to the good old days of the founder of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Ibn Saud (1875-1953), and see just how "open" the KSA was to the religious practices of the Shiites in the east of the Arabian peninsula.

In 1927, Ibn Saud was having a spot of bother with those legendary Saudi moderates, the Ikhwan (brethren), so he convened a Congress in Riyadh which issued a fatwa. On the subject of the Arabian Shi'a, it had this to say:

"As to the Shi'a, we have told the Imam that our ruling is that they must be asked to surrender to true Moslems, and should not be allowed to perform their misguided religious rites in public. We ask that the Imam should order his Viceroy in Hasa to summon the Shi'a to Sheikh Ibn Bishr, before whom they should undertake to follow the religion of God and His Prophet, to cease all prayers to the saintly members of the Prophet's house or others, to cease their heretical innovations such as the commemoration rites performed on the anniversaries of the deaths of members of the House of the Prophet and all other such rites performed in error, and that they should cease to visit the so-called sacred cities such as Karbala and Najaf. They must also attend compulsorily at the Five Prayers in the mosques, along with the rest of the congregation, and Sunni Imams and muezzins, each with an assistant, should be appointed to instruct them. Shi'as must also be forced to study Sheikh Ibn Abdul Wahhab's Three Principles.

"Any places specially erected for the practice of their rites must be destroyed, and these practices forbidden in mosques or anywhere else.

"Any Shi'as who refuse to keep to these rules must be exiled from Moslem territory." (Arabian Days, Sheikh Hafiz Wahba, 1964, pp 135-36)

Back to the drawing board, Crown Prince...

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