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Wahabi Extremism Rules Saudi Arabia

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TEHRAN, May 6 (ICANA) – Wahhabism rejects Sunni scholars and their interpretations of Islam, and is opposed as extremist by Muslims world over, but the doctrine is upheld by the House of Saud, says an analyst.
Friday, May 06, 2011 12:23:07 PM
Wahabi Extremism Rules Saudi Arabia

Press TV talks with Hilal Khashan, a professor at the American University of Beirut, who explains the impact of Wahhabism delivered by the Saudi royal family on Saudi Arabia's people and how billions are used to promote and protect the Wahabi doctrine. Following is a transcription of his interview.

Q: Why is Saudi Arabia under some kind of immunity when it comes to criticism about the violations of human rights? - From the international community especially the US.

Khashan: It goes without saying that Saudi Arabia is a country of vital interest to the West and in particular to the US. There is a strategic treaty between The Saudis and the US that dates back to the 1940s. So the US is very keen on speaking a diplomatic language that does not deviate from that of the Saudi royals.

Q: Why is it then Saudi Arabia, a country rich in resources - Why is it so difficult to have the right of religious practice and education; Human Rights Watch says there is official discrimination against Shiites, women, and children especially in the Justice department on education and religion?

Khashan: Saudi Arabia is a traditional political system where decision making depends on consensus. Therefore there is no room for dissent or a different perspective that deviates from that of the official version presented by the regime.

Q: You're talking about consensus within the ruling family?

Khashan: Popular consensus. If there is a particular political trend that the government is pursuing then the entire population must accept. In a tribal society such as Saudi Arabia's the head of the tribe or in this case the head of the political system is the provider, therefore, the relationship between the provider and the population is uneven and depends on total loyalty.

Any dissention, any diversion of views are seen as acts of betrayal that necessitate punishment by the system, so the Saudi system has no room for protest or voicing disagreement because that would be seen as revolt against the ruling elite.

The Saudi system was coerced to implement the Wahabi doctrine, which lead to the rise of Saudi Arabia as we know it today. Since 1952 it's compelled to implement the Wahabi doctrine in which there is no room for diversions of views and it does not accept plurality including the right of individuals to express themselves.

Q: You speak about the issue of Wahhabism. Saudi troops are the main part of the GCC troops that have entered Bahrain - they say there has been a lot of destruction of mosques and Shiite religious sites - Does that also implement the Wahabi line of thinking? This is what's been happening in Saudi Arabia for decades now - no Shiite religious sites inside Saudi Arabia. Are they trying to implement the same thing in Bahrain?

Khashan: I don't think the entrance of the Saudi troops into Bahrain had much to do with the enforcement of the Wahabi doctrine. I think the Saudi royals regard Bahrain as the first defense line of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Should any developments occur in Bahrain that enhances the situation of the Shiite majority it might have repercussions on Saudi Arabia's eastern province, which would increase the movement for change over there - the demands in the eastern province are for basic human rights and enfranchisement in the political system.

The Saud royals who are apprehensive of what may happen in the eastern province are taking pre-emptive measures in order to arrest the process for change in Bahrain.

Q:The king of Saudi Arabia said that the security of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia is indivisible. Now if we say that the majority of Shiites in Saudi Arabia do get some political rights - How would that be a danger to the security of Saudi Arabia?

Khashan: For the Saudi royals the idea of political pluralism alien - Pluralism is seen as the placating of the hold of the Saudi royals on the political system and they see it as the beginning of the process of a genuine political development.

Saudi Arabia invests heavily on economic development, but as far as political development they seem to have other thoughts about it because strategically they think that the universalization of the values of political development in Saudi Arabia may eventually call for contesting political office and this is something they don't contemplate.

Q: There are reports that the king of Saudi Arabia has allocated 140 billion dollars to suppress domestic protests. Do you think that with this money the Saudi kingdom can survive and we will not reach a state like we saw in Egypt and others where you have people protesting for more democracy?

Khashan: I don't see the Saudi royals under any imminent threat thanks to a freak geological accident being the presence of huge oil resources. It appears the Saudi royals are able to bribe the population. For years they had a holiday from politics - no taxation, no representation. And they think they need to invest more these days in order to keep the population at bay.

What struck me in this comprehensive economic development was creating 70,000 jobs in the armed forces, so the security that I mentioned has become salient in the Saudi royal elite. Spending that much money will not have a long term effect - If you have the practice of bribing the population then this will become a regular activity.

This is something the Saudis cannot do indefinitely - one day they will have to face the unavoidable task of fulfilling the people's demands. As the middle class rises more demands for participation and freedom will present themselves to the authorities.

Q: Finally, what is the Saudi role when it comes to other uprisings in the Arab world especially when it comes to trying Mubarak for instance how they look at?

Khashan: The Egyptian prime minister was recently in Saudi Arabia and I understand there is tremendous pressure from Saudi Arabia on the Egyptian ruling Military Council to avoid humiliating Mubarak and putting him on trial. This is because they don't want this to become a precedent where chief executives are tried by a national court.

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