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Home Current Saudi News & Analysis Prince Mohammed: A Giant in an Oasis of Pygmies?

Prince Mohammed: A Giant in an Oasis of Pygmies?

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Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, CDHR, Washington DC

December 26, 2017

Crown Prince Mohammed, Terrorism, Islam’s Compatibility With Secular Democracy

And Arab Men’

CDHR’s Analysis And Commentaries

Prince Mohammed: A Giant in an Oasis of Pygmies?

CDHR Commentary: The next Saudi-designated king, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has been copiously extoled by pliable media narrators, like Thomas Friedman and by a horde of others, including the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (TWI), and  recipients of Saudi largess, like the Arabia Foundation and Saudi American Public Relations Committee, as a giant in an oasis of pygmies. One of the phrases his exalters have used excessively is that he is a reformer, when in fact he is anything but.

What these image and policy glorifiers and favoritism seekers fail to tell their audiences is that Prince Mohammed was not chosen to “reform” the Saudi autocratic system, but to insure the country remains the property of his family, a conviction held by his father King Salman and the King’s late full-brothers Defense and Interior Ministers, Sultan and Naif. Known as the Sudairi brothers, they have vehemently opposed political reforms and embraced extremist Salafi ideology which have contributed to the country’s stagnation, isolation, intolerance and fanaticism (نحن دولة «سنية» «سلفية» دستورنا القرآن)

One of Prince Mohammed’s recent exalted actions was his bold decision to arrest a fraction of corrupt princes, ministers, military personnel and businessmen for pillaging public revenues, an action for which he deserves credit.

However, Prince Mohammed’s enthusiastic promoters are discrediting themselves by not mentioning that he is not applying the same rule to himself, as documented here. He is siphoning public revenues for royals’ lifestyle like that of Prince Al-Waleed, whom he arrested for corrupt practices.

By all accounts, Prince Mohammed is not stupid. He is realising that he was misled into believing he could embark on massive economic reform (Vision 2030) without the concomitant political restructuring necessary to prevent his projects’ failure, which could lead to the downfall of the monarchy. Prince Mohammed is slowly recognizing that without public participation and support of the marginalized royal old guard his fate and the success of his economic reform will be a desert mirage.

Judging by Prince Mohammed’s profligate spending on luxurious items, one wonders if he is preparing a golden parachute for himself.  He knows that the current support for arresting princes and allowing women to drive will fade faster than predicted if tangible benefits of his touted economic reforms do not materialize in time to save him from the multitude of internal and external enemies he has managed to cultivate.

Impact of Prince Mohammed’s Strategy on Saudi Society

CDHR Commentary: While commentators and analysts are intensely focusing on the motives behind Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s November 4, 2017, actions and predicting their outcome, very little has been said about their impact on Saudi society.

Citing eradication of corruption in his decision to round up and detain powerful members of his ruling family, ministers and businessmen, Prince Mohammed employed a well-calculated strategy to emasculate his critics, rally public support for himself, neutralize his potential royal rivals and assure investors of his determination to protect them against Saudi officials’ and businessmen’s devious business practices. Furthermore, accusing the arrested individuals of racketeering practices justified the seizure of a reported $800 billion of their assets, money he desperately needs to pay for his reform projects upon which his credibility and political survival depend.

As an unknown, untested and inexperienced prince, Mohammed’s meteoric elevation to powerful positions marginalized more influential and experienced senior members of his ruling family and their circumvented religious establishment.

Faced with daunting economic and political challenges at home, hesitant foreign and domestic investors, family discordance and regional conflicts, Prince Mohammed needs the support of the Saudi people, which may have factored into his recent bold actions.

One of the most significant consequences of Prince Mohammed’s actions on November 4th, was the public’s approval of his application of the state’s draconian punishments to wrong doers irrespective of status or rank, especially royals. For the first time, the population felt that the ruling family and its business partners, which have thus far been shielded from harsh state laws regardless of their misconduct, are being held accountable. Prince Mohammed’s arrest and detention of some princes seem to be misleading some Saudis into believing that this move presage a movement toward popular political participation. They will be disappointed. ``

Prince Mohammed was not selected to reform the political system to incorporate public participation in the decision-making processes. He was carefully chosen to implement King Salman’s long held conviction that the country has been and will remain the private property of the Saudi ruling family, which King Salman believes can only be preserved under his Sudairi wing of the family.

Despite the assumption that Prince Mohammed is the architect of the Saudi domestic and foreign policies, he is only implementing what his father and his predecessors have contemplated and tried to implement for years. Reforming the economy, the invasion of Yemen, occupation of Bahrain, hostility toward Iran and the Saudi design to incorporate the Gulf states into a confederation under Saudi control have been in the making for decades.

Based on discussions on social media, interviews on news channels and in print, many Saudis have expressed mixed reactions to Price Mohammed recent actions, but the majority support his initiatives thus far. However, the current positive (euphoric) public reactions to Prince Mohammed’s reform declarations could quickly disappear if he fails to deliver in a timely manner. If this occurs,   disgruntled royals, businessmen and external foes will likely capitalize on his failures and seek revenge.

“Is Islam Compatible With Secular Democracy?”

CDHR Commentary: Whether in Washington, London, Paris, The Hague or Barcelona, promoting democracy and rule of law in Saudi Arabia incurs hostile sarcasm. This is what this and many other pro-democracy and rule of law advocates encounter in public and private debates about terrorism, extremism, women’s and minorities’ rights and religious bigotry. The discussions focus on Islam’s incompatibility with democracy and rule of law; therefore, the interrogators insist, Islam is the source of violence, inequality, extremism and terrorism that is plaguing Muslims and posing “…a threat to Western liberal democracy.”

Many free thinking, secular and well-informed Muslims and ex-Muslims, like Ibn Warraq, are the first to agree that Islam in its current interpretation and application is a major source of extremism and terrorism, thus it must be reformed and Muslim texts need to be re-interpreted, especially the Shariah (Islamic law.) To their credit, non-Muslim inquisitors have spent incredible amounts of time reading Muslim texts (the Quran, Shariah and Hadith.) Some of them even have hired Muslim scholars to reinforce their unflinching insistence that Islam and its adherents are not only incompatible with democracy, but cannot coexist peacefully with non-Muslims, especially in a democratic setting where secular rule of law supersedes sectarian laws, as is the case in Saudi Arabia and many Muslim lands.

When asked about solutions, most critics of Islam and Muslims have no answer other than suggesting the creation of a new Islam, rejection of the Prophet Mohammed, conversion of 1.6 billion Muslims or waging a global war against them. While a major civilizational conflict (“The Clash of Civilizations”) cannot be ruled out, there is one approach that can and must be pursued by western critics, media and institutions: challenge their governments, businesses and universities to persuade their autocratic sectarian partner Muslim regimes to separate mosque from state and to allow their citizens to debate Islam, its texts and the benefits of freedom of choice.

Saudis and other Arab and Muslim regimes and their institutions interpret and use religion to indoctrinate and control their voiceless populations, seek revenge against each other and spread their lethal doctrines worldwide.

The Scourge of Muslim Terrorism Continues

CDHR Commentary: The butchery of Sufi Muslims in Sinai, Egypt, public widespread protests against blasphemy in Pakistan, ISIS’s and Al-Qaeda’s unprecedented gains in Yemen (as a result of the Saudi invasion) are taking place at the same time as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was addressing representatives of forty-one autocratically ruled Sunni Muslim countries (Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC)) in the Saudi capital Riyadh on November 26, 2017. Prince Mohammed declared that the Alliance will eradicate extremists and terrorists from the surface of the earth.

While the stated purpose of the Saudi brainchild (and most likely paid for) Alliance is to fight extremism and terrorism, many pro-democracy Muslims are cynical, believing that the primary objective is to protect the ruling elites from their own home conceived and nurtured extremists and terrorists. Other Muslims and non-Muslims suspect that the exclusion of Iran, one of the most populated and powerful Muslim countries, is a deliberate ploy by the Saudis to use the Alliance to neutralize the influence of Shi’a Iran, with whom the Saudis are competing for geopolitical, strategic and ideological dominance of the Muslim World.

At the Riyadh conference, there was no direct discussion of addressing the root causes of extremism and terrorism, such as reforming Islam, enfranchisement of populations or overhauling of hate-ridden educational institutions. By intentionally ignoring the sources of extremism and terrorism, the Alliance is demonstrating that their primary objective is not to “eradicate” terrorism and terrorism, thus inflictions of death and destruction will continue to ravage Muslims and non-Muslims worldwide.

Arab Men Attitude Toward Women

CDHR Commentary: Do Saudi, Jordanian and Egyptian and other Arab men share the same views of and attitude toward women? The interviews in this video demonstrate that Jordan is not what many think and say it is. This tiny country is considered an advanced Arab country due to its exposure to Western values and a high number of educated people. The ruling Hashemite family of Jordan, which also ruled the Hejaz region before the Saudi/Wahhabi clans kicked them out (with the help of the British in the 1920s), is also considered more modern and less religious than their counterparts in Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries. While this is true in some areas, women are still considered men’s property that can be used and eliminated if tradition and dark-age clerics' interpretations of Islam's redlines are crossed.

Solution? Separation of mosque and state, secular constitutions, rule of law, freedom of expression and the right to choose. Can this be done in the Arab World? Yes. How?  Equality under secular rule of law; investment in human development, especially in the fields of sciences and technologies; secular educational systems; free and safe public debates of all issues, including religion, its interpretation, application and its use by ruling autocratic and theocratic elites to justify their ignoble policies of exploitation, discrimination, exclusion and oppression. Simply put, transformation of Arab societies from top to bottom.


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