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Home Archived Newsletters Newsletter - July 28, 2008

Newsletter - July 28, 2008

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Saudi News

Commentary by Dr. Ali Alyami


CDHR Conference is a Success

The Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia held a timely Congressional sponsored conference “U.S.-Saudi Dilemma: A Challenge for the next Administration” on June 18, 2008. The conference was designed to discuss the current social, religious, political, and economic conditions in Saudi Arabia and to explore alternative polices to be considered by the next administration, especially at a time when the U.S. and global economies are unstable due to unprecedented increase in oil prices and wide spread turmoil in the Middle East. With its possession of large quantities of oil reserves and its centrality to Islam, Saudi Arabia will continue to play major economic and religious roles regionally and globally, at least for the near future. Given this scenario, the next administration will have to deal closely with the Saudi autocratic monarchy either as an ally or adversary and re-evaluate the US-Saudi relations to ensure the stability of energy supplies at tolerable prices.

Among the list of prominent speakers were U.S House Representatives Sue Myrick (R-NC), Dan Burton (R-IN), and Zach Wamp (R-TN) who commended CDHR’s ongoing efforts to promote democratic reforms in Saudi Arabia in the face of a powerful opposition to power sharing in that country. Well known Arab religious reformers and other experts speakers included Dr. Ahmed Mansour, Founder and President of Ahl-Al-Quran Center, Dr. Tawfik Hamid, a reformer and author, Dr. Wafa Sultan, a human rights activist, Dr. Paul Marshal of the Center for Religious Freedom, the Hudson Institute, Dr. Joshua Muravchik, author and research scholar, the American Enterprise Institute, Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld, President of The American Center for Democracy, and Dr. Alex Petersen of the Henry Jackson Society.

Despite the speakers’ diverse ethnic backgrounds, fields of expertise, and political orientations, they all agreed that the U.S. should re-evaluate its relations with the Saudis based on Saudi Arabia’s role on religious incitements and support for religious extremist schools and charities. One theme all speakers agreed on was unequivocal support for tangible and transparent democratic reforms through transformation of all Saudi institutions.

The conference was attended by a large number of US government officials, NGOs and other interest groups from New York, Philadelphia, and New Jersey

Defending an Alleged War Criminal

Director’s Comment: The Arab autocratic regimes held an urgent meeting in Egypt to condemn the International Criminal Court (ICC) for issuing an arrest warrant for President Hassan Bashir of Sudan for his alleged role in “genocide” (Link) in Darfur, a major region in Sudan. Arab rulers (and people, to a larger extent) have looked the other way as atrocities were committed against other Arabs and Muslims. For example, Saddam Hussein, the former tyrant of Iraq, was pursuing a policy of torture, incarceration, gassing, and starving of his people without any protestation from any Arab regime or people. However, when Saddam Hussein was tried publicly, found guilty and consequently hanged for his crimes: Arab regimes and their media condemned his fate.

By contrast, Arab regimes and people called on the international community to stop comparable atrocities in Bosnia (former Yugoslavia) and applauded the ICC for issuing arrest warranties for former Serbian officials, for their atrocities against Muslims in Bosnia. Autocratic Arab regimes, media, and people protest when other nations are the perpetrators of heinous crimes, but not when their own do it as in Darfur and Iraq under Saddam. The protestation against the arrest warrant for Bashir is not out of love for him, but because it could happen against other Arab dictators. As one of the urgent meetings attendees unmistakably alluded “The indictment sets a dangerous precedent in dealing with heads of state. It will have dangerous repercussions, not only for Sudan but also for the whole region.” Read Original Article



Global Interfaith Conference

Director’s Comment: King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia summoned selected Muslim religious (scholars) individuals in June to prepare a united Muslim front in preparation for a global interfaith conference between Muslims and non-Muslims which convened in Madrid, Spain from July 16th to the 19th, 2008. CDHR works for and promotes religious freedom and tolerance among all peoples regardless of beliefs (or lack of); consequently, we applaud anyone who works for harmony based on religious freedom and respect for other peoples regardless of religious orientations. This conference could begin constructive interfaith dialogue among Muslims and non-Muslims. But how could this happen, if Muslims are slaughtering and discriminating against each other over their different religious orientations and practices?

Saudi Arabia is severely divided along religious lines, among others. The austere state religion, Wahhabism, represents a small number of the Saudi population, yet all citizens are physically forced into accepting it as the only legitimate brand in the country. Representatives of the Saudi non-Wahhabi adherents, such as the Sufis and Ismaelis, were not represented in the Muslim conference in June, nor were they invited to attend the interfaith conference in Spain. Saudi clerics denounce other religions, claiming they are fake and illegitimate, with Islam being the only supreme faith. Based on these facts, many Muslims and well-informed non-Muslims doubt that any tangible and lasting positive impact would come out of the Madrid interfaith conference. They feel that this is the Saudi royal family’s tricky stunt to improve their tarnished image after 9/11, and to convince Muslims and others that they represent Islam and Muslims. In reality, the Saudi-Wahhabi ideology and its application are loathed by most Muslims, and have recently been abandoned and criticized by former prominent Wahhabist clerics. Read Original Article



Defending the Homeland

Director’s Comment: “The finding of weapons and dangerous explosives to carry out subversive acts and destroy economic installations… should not be taken lightly… You should be aware that these militants, who claim to work for the cause of Islam and defend Muslims, actually hide their vested interests and vicious objectives,” according to the Saudi Mufti, Shaikh Abdul Aziz Al-Ashaikh, the highest religious authority in Saudi Arabia. CDHR would like to ask the Mufti to tell the Saudi and the world: Who are these men and women who seem to be determined to overthrow the Saudi-Wahhabi autocratic system? Are they religious extremists or opponents of the system, but use religion to attain their objectives? If they are the latter, then what’s the difference between them and the present regime that is using religion to oppress women and religious minorities, and advocate harm to non-Muslims? If “these militants” are religious extremists, then there is no one in a better position to eliminate the root causes of their destructive inclination than the Mufti and his ministry. CDHR proposes a formation of a global Muslim council to revisit the interpretation and applications of the Qurán, the Shariah, and the Hadith to see if extremists have hijacked Islam or if Islam is a religion of intolerance, hate and oppression, as many Muslims and non-Muslims accuse. Members for the Council CDHR is proposing should consist of representatives of all Muslim sects, communities, and genders. They should be trained in religious and non-religious rule of law and other disciplines. The Saudis could save themselves and other Muslims by criminalizing all forms of religious incitements, Fatawa, and all forms of discriminations in the name of Islam. Read Original Article



Abuse of Public Opinion

Director’s Comment: A recent public opinion survey by the University of Michigan claimed the Saudis are the happiest people in the Arab World. For money, American Universities, public relations agencies, beneficiary think tanks, highly compensated individuals, politicians, and businesses will travel any distance to make the Saudi monarchs look good even when it harms the US, its people, and democratic values. Sadly, these entities and people know that the Saudis are among the most voiceless, deprived, and oppressed people in the world. The image polishers and promoters of Saudi policies know that all forms of expressions and assemblages in Saudi Arabia are barred. They know that all forms of entertainment including movies, musical stages, acting, orchestra, night clubs, bars, consumption of alcohol, mingling between opposite sexes, birthday celebrations, and any activity that brings joy to people are forbidden and considered, Bedah (novelty) or the creation of infidels to corrupt Islam. Saudis have to go somewhere to look for what is denied to them at home. This is evidenced by the Saudi citizens’ exodus during weekends and holiday seasons to neighboring countries to enjoy the things others countries offer that are denied to them at home. In a regular holiday weekend, between 250 to 400k cross King Fahd’s bridge to go to Bahrain (500k population) to watch public movies, drink alcohol, visit highly priced brothels, and spend between 62 to 500 million Saudi riyals (SR: 3.75=$1.00).

Half of the Saudi population, women, are denied the right to work, drive, or have any input in any decision-making including the extremist education their children are fed due to the Saudi government’s institutionalized polices regarding women’s rights. 40% of all suicide bombers in Iraq are young Saudis according to US generals and other officials who served and still serve in Iraq. This is attributed partially to boredom and deprivation Saudis suffer from. Religious rituals are compulsory for Saudis; and non-Muslims are punished for practicing their faiths even in the basement of their homes if they are caught by the Saudi religious police.

Many Saudis do not have electricity and running water, and those who do have chronic shortages and interruptions especially during the hot season, nine months of the year. Many if not most Saudis cannot make ends meet these days due to skyrocketing prices of food and clothing even with government subsidy. Unemployment is very high, up to 30% among males and 80% among females according to some statistics. The government (the royal family) controls the national revenues, national treasury, and natural resources and decides without any public input how much money should be spent and on what. If anything, the Saudis have to be among the least happy people in the world, but are fearful of telling or expressing anything that does not please the royals. Read Original Article



Empowering Saudi Women Transcends National Borders

Director’s Comment: Saudi society suffers from many man-made political, economic, religious, educational, ethnic, and social ills which impede basic human development in the country and set it apart from the rest of the international community in the most negative way. Prominent among these social impairments is the institutionalized discrimination against Saudi women. Practices such as denying women the right to work, drive, travel, buy property, marry whom they want, have any input in decisions that affect their daily life and survival, or even vote in cosmetic municipal elections, are cagily blamed by the ruling elites on nomadic tradition and religion. The question is: who interprets religion and whose ultimate interests and control does this ignominious use of religion serve. Simply put, the beneficiaries of marginalizing Saudi women are the men in power; the Saudi royal family and its co-ruling “religious” extremists.

Denying the Saudi women the rights to full citizenship and participation in decision-making perpetuates a system of institutionalized discrimination, alienation, chauvinism and the domination of obsessed men with women’s sexuality. Excluding Saudi women from participating in decision and policymaking has a far-reaching impact that transcends Saudi domestic politics and socio-economics. Women cannot debate their country’s policies including religious intolerance, indoctrination of their children in schools, and relations with other peoples. This unnatural and destructive exclusion of women has a fundamentally harmful impact on Saudi Arabia and its relations with other peoples and nations.

For example, having no input in or impact on the institutional processes that govern all aspects of Saudi lives, especially religion and education, deny the Saudi mothers the right to protest and question the improper religious indoctrination of their children. Women are denied the rights and civil obligations to influence the way their society functions. Even though there are female teachers in Saudi schools, they (men too) have no influence over the content of textbooks, the teacher-training programs, or the curriculum imposed on students through out the Saudi educational system. Societies where women have achieved full citizenship and are treated equally under the rule of law are progressive, productive, advanced, tolerant, more humane, and less violent.

For Saudi society to throw off the shackles of institutionalized repression, intolerance of domestic and global differences, and to begin to conduct harmonious coexistence at home and constructive international relations, women must be enfranchised as full citizens and decision makers. This will benefit Saudi Arabia first and foremost, then subsequently the international community at large. Empowering Saudi women will weaken the power grip over every aspect of the Saudi people by intolerant, chauvinistic, and power hungry men who seem to be willing to sacrifice the interest and safety of the country in order to maintain in total control over people’s lives and wealth.

The Saudi government allowed for exclusionary municipal elections where women were barred from voting in 2005. The next elections are supposed to take place in 2009 and there are no signs of allowing women to participate, if elections are to take place at all. The Center for Democracy and Human rights in Saudi Arabia, located in Washington D.C., calls on all human rights groups to support inclusion of women in the pending municipal elections in 2009. Read Original Article



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The Center for Democracy & Human Rights in Saudi Arabia (CDHR) is a non-profit 501(c) (3) organization based in Washington DC. CDHR provides timely, accurate information and analysis from and about Saudi Arabia for the benefit of the public, businesses, media, and policy makers. CDHR’s promotes peaceful democratic transition from a single family autocratic rule to a participatory political system where all Saudi citizens’ rights are protected under the rules of non-sectarian laws.

The Center could not undertake this important task without the active support of visionary individuals and foundations. In order for CDHR to continue its important work at these crucial times, it needs your continued donation. Please visit our website (www.cdhr.info) to learn about our work and contribute to our work. Your financial investment in democracy building in Saudi Arabia is in the interest of all people. Your contribution will make a difference and is greatly appreciated.

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