Exi5tentialist – A better response on Saudi Arabia

It is not the decadent west destroying Arab culture.

That’s ridiculously dramatic. Arab culture is the culture of Arabs. It lives and is developing.

Why not in Saudi Arabia, you ask?

It is Islam.

More demonising rubbish. I’m expecting more and more of this reactionary claptrap from FTB bloggers.

You’re utterly ignored the role of capitalism in creating oppressive social structures in the middle east. You’ve also ignored the way that oppressive governments like Saudi Arabia co-opt religion as an intimidatory mechanism to impose oppressive rule in that country. You’ve ignored the fact that the way they use religion is just one of many tools they have at their disposal; others include vast military arsenals (much US-supplied) and an extremely well-resourced state.

Blaming “islam” is nice and simple and I’m sure you can quote the Quran at me with the best of them. If you want simple explanations for world politics, you stick that one. If you want truth, give it up.

And well done for your islamophobic, anti-semitic, racist culinary attack. You can stand shoulder to shoulder with people who throw the body parts of pigs at mosques or arrange strips of bacon as the star of David on the homes of jewish families in England.

And you dare to post your crap on a Freethought website? Your blog is repulsive.

This was from Exi5tentialist on a post I wrote a few days ago. And I felt a bit more explanation was required.

While I appreciate your understanding that there exists a “Saudi Culture” and that it is quite rich and varied, we must not take an anthropological stance to this. This isn’t “interesting”, This is like the rape culture of India. Harmful.

And you seem to take this anthropological view, where there is no judgement of effect. Well in that role, the African and Middle Eastern and indeed South/East Asian practice of Female Genital Cutting should not be called Mutilation and we should not protect children from it. After all? It is culture.

Neither should we oppose the gun culture of the USA or binge drinking of the UK. Because it’s anthropology damnit! *Shakes Fist*.

So let’s begin why this argument is wrong.

1. A lot of the traditional culture of the Middle East and indeed Saudi Arabia is under threat due to Fundamentalist Islam. More so than “mere acquisition of money”. Acquisition of fabulous wealth has not turned Dubai into Saudi either. What Saudi’s issue is that it is the home of Wahabbism and that satiating wahabbist demands has caused a destruction of moderate Islam within the KSA. It is kind of like Afghan Poetry, practically non existent compared to the glory days of Peshawar. Art and Progressive Values were all sacrificed on it’s altar as has education. To the point that most of the Middle East cannot function without it’s labour force. Large sections of it’s Skilled and Unskilled Labour come from abroad. The schools don’t produce the scientists and the doctors and the engineers they need in the quantities they need. Because Islamic Education comes “first”. You teach neutered science you get neutered scientists who were brought up on the party line and so cannot tell the difference between the propaganda they are steeped in and the reality they see. What the KSA does is “Applied Theology”, faulty experimentation claimed as science in order to prop up Islam. If you were claiming unislamic things, you may find yourself out in a place like this. You may only get whipped, you may  lose your life.

2. The only real difference Capitalism has made is the presence of more skyscrapers. That doesn’t change the fact that Islam has created the oppression that we currently see. Capitalism isn’t really evil. Unfettered Unregulated Capitalism is. It’s high bullshit to claim capitalism as evil and then use its fruits to tell some guy who takes home £2 a day that “capitalism is bad”. Sure it is, and the worker’s paradise will have flat screen TVs, cool TV shows, cool movies and video games for all! Nope. Capitalism is pretty okay. Responsible capitalism? Even more so. See responsible capitalism is what I like to call Socialism. Where we use the Communist idea of social control to place constraints on Capitalism to allow it to grow in the path we want without harming people. So Sweden vs. the USA sort of thing. Capitalism has given Saudi Arabia wealth. Wealth has not made Saudi Arabia powerful in the Islamic world, being the home of Islam has. All that wealth has managed to do is build skyscrapers and encourage lots of expats to work there. There is no real profit in Wahabbism, in fact it is unprofitable.

You live for a few years, make out like a bandit and leave if trouble starts. That’s fine in your brick layers and your housekeepers, but your nurses and doctors and engineers? It will rack up costs quickly. You cannot construct a system where you have to keep hiring experienced service sector workers because you keep burning through them. They are expensive, cost money and take time to train up to local specification. Saudi has a particularly high turnover of this because Saudi’s Wahabbist policies make life miserable. It is okay for guys but women?

3. Capitalism Likes Tourism. Wahabbism thinks even historical monuments are idolatory. Many of the traditional buildings, mosques and historical architecture were destroyed for the same reason the late Moors smashed their own statues. Because it was declared Haraam.  For this you must know some History.

Saudi Arabia’s current set up is due to Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud who became King due in 1932. The unification of many Bedouin Tribes made him the Kamehameha of the Peninsula. They had a civil war and ousted the Hashemites. These new Najdi now had a problem. They were in charge of a highly sophisticated urban society that was developing into a modern one. It was no New York, but it certainly would be one given time. It was Rome being run by the Goths.

As administrative authority of the passed into the hands of Najdi sunni Muslims from the interior, the sunni Wahabi] ‘ulema viewed local religious practices as unfounded superstition superseding codified religious sanction that was considered a total corruption of religion and the spreading of heresy. The old Hashemite practices were banned. And the buildings that they kept as monuments were declared as heretical and destroyed.

These buildings were the History of Islam. It would be like setting fire to the Vatican or to the Cave Temples of Ajanta.

The first time this was seen was when the Wahaabi armies occupied Saudi in  1800s (I am not sure of the date) and levelled the Maqbaratul Baqi (A graveyard). To you it’s not significant. To anyone aware of Islamic history it would be the Graveyard of Mohammed, the Prophet of Islam. In their declaration against Idolatory even the Prophet’s history is not safe. Incidentally? It was also a Jewish Graveyard. Imagine how different the dialogue of Islam would be with it’s existence today. This was the graveyard of some of the most famous companions of Mohammed and their tombs.

This prompted war. The Ottoman Empire invaded to defend “Islam” and the backlash against Wahaabism was felt as far away as India. Bedouin tribesmen weren’t capable of opposing the modernised army of the Ottoman’s and their battle hardened (in Europe remember) forces. The Ottoman Empire promptly tried rebuilding the monuments but they were not the originals.

After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the Wahabbists took control again in 1925. This time they were more thorough. In an act that would make the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddha look slap dash, the Wahabbists destroyed and ploughed up the graveyard so that no one may know where it is. They then destroyed all grave markers and finally? They destroyed Mohammed’s tomb and painted over it’s artwork so that even if discovered? No one would know. Unless of course they were technologically minded like us and could reveal things under layers of paint.

You see the Prophet’s Tomb is inscribed with poetry from the 13th century poet Al-Busiri. It’s called the Qasida al-Burda. And we know of it mainly due to it’s use as a hymn among the Sufi.

Other sites destroyed? The Grave of the Martyrs of Uhud, The Mosque of Fatimah, The Mosque of the Two Lighthouses and the Qubbat al-Thannaya.

Other sites? The Mosque of Al Jafr Al Sadiq, the Mosques at the Battle of the Trench and the Mosque of Rasheed. Mohammed’s House, Arqam… The loss of such sites would cause the loss of history and the control of Mecca and Medina allowed Wahabbists to rewrite a lot of the History of Islam. Flush with the wealth of Oil while the remainder of Muslims remained poor they created extraordinary control over the history of Islam.

4. Saudi Arabia co-opted even more fundie religion to stem a civil war post Grand Mosque Seizure. The brutality we see stems from that. In addition greater control over Islamicist belief and adoption to stave off the predations of the worst. The  already fell to the fundies, this way they kept their wealth and power in exchange for being left alone by the fundies. The Saud family basically put up their system of governance in the Wahaab council which effectively ruled leaving the Royal Family in peace to drive around in flash cars. A lot of the rules were made between 1920 and 1960 when the final rules were used to recreate a world the fundamentalist Wahabbis saw fit. It took time because they had to go through the existing Ottoman laws and decide what to keep and what to change. Among the last but not least of these “reforms” was the legal Purdah against women. The Secret and Religious police are a product of Bedouin Wahabbism, their Councils? The product of Wahabbism. This was native Culture to the KSA. This would be like the Amish taking over the USA and whipping women who dared show ankle.

5. Should the KSA fall it will not be a place that promotes modern values. Let us be clear on this. The only difference is that there would be no new sky scrapers and the oppression machine of fundie Islam can function just fine without jet fighters. The entire damn point of the problem is that the religious leaders of Wahabbism think the Bedouin lifestyle of Nomadic herdsmen and the life of Mohammed was human achievement at its zenith. Imagine if you  will a Christian declaring the Middle Eastern Shepherd as the zenith of achievement next to the Large Hadron Collider and you will realise how ridiculous an idea this is. You cannot have those billion or so Muslims across the world thinking and striving to regress progress but that is the “ideal” being flogged by Fundie Islam. Should the KSA’s relatively moderate government fall, it will be replaced by the Bedouin tribal councils which will cause the country to fragment into local factions on whatever lines they see fit and go to war. When the infrastructure of state falls, people just form their most sustainable forms of government. It is the reason why Americans rioted post Katrina and the Japanese did not post Tsunami. Because the Americans had no emergency system drills for natural disasters. The Japanese have Earthquake drills and a system of multiple redundancies so that people simply got together and survived according to a state developed policy. Japan didn’t cease to exist, for that weekend in New Orleans? The USA may as well have vanished.

It’s the same in Afghanistan. With the Taliban holding power there was no centralised government. Merely a bunch of allied tribes. The old feuds continued and tribalism took root because that was the biggest human social group that could be maintained with the conditions available. Technology keeps our countries together, eschewing it will not create a Saudi Arabia but a series of bedouin tribes. And with if Saudi Arabia’s relatively responsible government falls and those Wahabbi councils take over? There is a fair chance that the foreign worker influx would dry up. Eventually the oil will go too. Maybe Muslims will still visit for Mecca but with worsening safety due to the tribalism even that may cease. People are pragmatists and tribal warfare does not endear oneself to being a tourist spot. But this is merely conjecture and rather fantastic. Let us suffice to say that the KSA is not exactly  a feasible model for stability hinging it’s survival on fear of fundie Islam and brutal usage of the Wahabbi interpretation.

Now here is the thing.

I have been to Saudi. I have been to all the sights including that one square in Riyadh. The only difference between Riyadh and pre-NATO Kabul is that the executioner drives a Merc instead of a Toyota pick up and his watch is made out of real gold. You want to blame capitalism? The only thing Capitalism has done is given them Skyscrapers and maids from Asia. The cage they live in is gilt and the cage is Wahabbi Islam.

Now to deal with the other part of the argument.

See, I am an ex-Hindu and I lived in the Middle East. I am aware of the dangers of food restriction. Islam’s fasting has a negative effect on women’s health. Hindu’s food restriction of “note” is Beef but most people are unaware of the complex system of fast days many Hindus follow. A lot of them Hindu women. In India? Anaemia is very common. Vegetarian diets mixed in with fasting and dietary restrictions such as “no garlic” result in Indian women not being able to fight off anaemia and this makes other diseases a lot worse.

To me it manifests as “no beef”. I wish to eat some because I abide with Hinduism’s rules while I am in India. I don’t eat bacon here either (That sound readers is the sound of Ed Brayton fainting). I wish to eat these things. I also recognise that there are ex-Muslims and ex-Jews who feel the same way. These people have discovered that their religious bans on shellfish and pork are nonsensical and that these things are delicious and part of the benefits of apostasy is that we can all get together and share a bacon cheese burger.

Islamophobic? Anti-Semitic? How interesting. Was Hinduism and Buddhism and Jainism not good enough to include on the list?

I know how much food restrictions hurt. Sometimes I like to eat the things I was “not allowed to eat” in order to assuage the wrath of imaginary deities.

There are ex-Muslim and ex-Jewish people out there who absolutely adore the things that they were not allowed to eat when they believed. Things that they may still have to pretend not to eat like myself. To compare it to throwing pork at Muslims and Jews is idiotic. I am not forcing anyone to come. At no point will a Rabbi be forced to eat clam chowder. At no point will a Mullah have to chow down on a BLT. At no point will a Pandit be force fed a steak. I just wanted to see if there are people who read this blog around Manchester who wish to come out and maybe set up a BBQ event where we can all hang out and I can socialise and eat a damn cow.

It’s not because I wish to insult Hindus, but because cow is delicious.

If you cannot understand the difference between an event where everyone is welcome and where atheists can eat the food that they were not permitted to eat and the hate crimes forcing people who have a problem with “x” to confront them, then you are the one who has the problem. Not me. No one is going to throw a pork pie at a rabbi or a clam at a mullah.

I repeat this because you seem to not have grasped the notion that just because I eat beef doesn’t mean I am forcing Hindus to eat it. I am offering ex-Hindus a chance to eat beef with other ex-Hindus and the same for ex-Muslims and ex-Jews and the chance of other atheists who have supported me to come hang out and be social.

The only way you can be insulted is by complaining that I am leading apostates away from the true path. But that’s your problem. But they aren’t leaving because of delicious spare ribs, they are leaving because at it’s core? Religion requires you to believe in something. If you don’t believe in it then you aren’t religious.

A good wife fasts….

Your post is repulsive. How dare you tell me that I should respect a system of dietary control that is used to oppress women? That exacerbates anaemia and leads to the deaths of thousands via complications and the robbing of futures via stupid diets that stymie growth and development? Will you educate me on my own religion’s diet’s? Let’s get this straight. The “No Beef “is a very small part of Hindu dietary restrictions. It’s fast days affect millions. Particularly women who suffer the most from it.

And you wished to post here? What knowledge of Islamic history have you demonstrated? Did you know anything about the Wahabbi destruction of culture? Of course not. Islamophobia is just a nice word to yell at any criticism of Islam no matter how legitimate it is. Not all culture is good nor tolerated. Islam could do a lot better by actually listening to criticism and looking at it’s problems rather than simply ignoring them.

To put it in terms you would understand? It would be like the Amish burning down our Art Museums. It would be a puritan culture that doesn’t really exist outside of a few places forcing the rest of us to adopt their ways. In that case it is in our interest to tell those men and women who don’t wish to live a wholesome life of butter churning (Look, I know about the Amish from TV. Butter Churning features heavily) that they can do other things and not have to live in an Amish Paradise.

So I am afraid I will still be offering to hang out and eat bacon cheeseburgers (the most blasphemous of all foods voiding the dietary laws of at least four religions if we make it Halal beef. If you can name the fourth religion there will be internet cookies for you).

I will be in the UK in July or August (to be confirmed). I will hopefully be celebrating my full qualification as a doctor. If you wish to come and be social (As I have so few IRL friends) then let me know.

To standard readers? I bet you didn’t know Mohammed’s Tomb was next to some Jewish guy’s. And I am serious about the BBQ or even just a trip to a McDonalds or a Burger King.


  1. lsamaknight says

    If you can name the fourth religion there will be internet cookies for you

    I’m going to guess Jainism on the ground that it contains meat.

  2. says

    Sikhism is right, no ritually prepared meat… but yes Jainism and Buddhists also tend to be vegetarians (as do a lot of Hindus).


  3. Wrath Panda says

    Missed the original post the other day (damn you work for getting in the way of my slacking!), however your idea of sacrilegious burger comestible consumption appeals to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter. I’ll bring the burger relish!

  4. Hello There says

    Well put and very informative. From a human history stantpoint, it is tragic the damage fundamentalist Islam has done in Saudi Arabia and Africa. Don’t let reactionary and ignorant SJW douchebags like Exi5tentialist get you down. His type prefer to emote rather than think, just brush off their mania with the laughter and pity they deserve.

  5. smrnda says

    I could almost recognize that the response was going to be an ‘it’s all really about capitalism’ deal. Economic concerns do drive much of history, and deregulated capitalism is a nightmare, but it’s a bit simplistic to believe that it’s always the only villain.

    I really appreciate your comments on dietary rules and their health effects. I’ve always thought one of the more ridiculous religious practices were ones where people compromise their health and well-being to show off to some god, but I don’t have the expertise you do to link the specific practices with health effects.

  6. exi5tentialist says

    @smrnda ‘it’s all really about capitalism’ is a simplistic reduction of my response and to say that I’m saying “capitalism is always the only villain” doesn’t do justice to how I’ve answered Avicenna’s original and subsequent posts.

    I do not think this discussion has been served well by being split into two separate comment streams.

  7. says

    *slow clap*

    One thing I’d like to note is the irony of calling an ex-Hindu protesting Saudi culinary practices racist when Saudi Arabia participates in one of the most egregious systems of modern racial discrimination and slavery in the form of importing workforce, with South Asians being among the main sufferers. In the Arab Middle Eastern countries, institutionalized racism places Arabs in a position of marked privilege over the South Asians, Southeast Asians, and Africans. Arabs have also a damning history of imperialism of their own, and their export of their religion and culture to South Asia is one factor that contributes to the region’s continuing problems. Knowing this, condemning an ex-Hindu for decrying Arab practices is similar to condemning people of color in the US for decrying white supremacy. It’s ridiculous and insulting.

    Also, re: the racism of reducing all of our (speaking as an Arab and person from a Muslim culture) problems and abilities and responsibilities to globalization and imperialism:


    Re: critiquing Islam without reducing people from Muslim cultures to racist stereotypes:


  8. exi5tentialist says

    @10 if you’ve stopped clapping, could I talk to you for a moment?

    I like Manchester. When I go to Manchester I like to go to gay pubs. Sometimes I get talking to people, sometimes I just sit and read. Maybe one day I’ll meet a muslim guy in a gay pub in Manchester. Maybe we’ll want to be friends. Perhaps that won’t be easy for him. But if I’m ever in that situation I’ll do what I can to be supportive of him.

    If I tell him that I primarily blame his religion for all the oppression in Saudi Arabia and as a result I’m going off to a pork barbecue just to mock his muslim diet, then frankly I think he’d be within his rights to tell me to piss off as would his Sikh, Jewish, Jain and Hindu friends (gay pubs in Manchester have Avicenna-compliant diversity policies so they all get a mention) when I recite each of their forbidden foods.

    But I wouldn’t blame his religion for those things, not because it isn’t friendly which it isn’t, but because firstly I think mocking people’s food traditions is deeply threatening, and secondly I don’t actually believe that islam is primarily responsible for all the oppression in Saudi Arabia.

    I think as in every other country on the planet, a ruling elite has invented and continues to re-invent an oppressive system of beliefs because it helps them to keep wealth, power and status. The origins of every act of oppression may not always be western, but I do not believe they are always religious either. A quickfire summary Saudi history two or three or four generations back doesn’t alter the fact that the people responsible for this oppression exist in the here and now, not the past.

    If you want to not answer those specific points and instead just carry on linking to irrelevant articles feel free. I am all for letting people judge each post on its own merits.


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