Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti doesn’t like Islamic State and al Qaeda. He thinks they’re just big ol’ heretic factional cultist splitter types.
But Saudi Arabia isn’t exactly a paradise of liberal tolerance itself, as you may have noticed.
The arch conservatives Abdulrahman al-Barrak and Nasser al-Omar, who has more than a million followers on Twitter, have accused Shi’ites of sowing “strife, corruption and destruction among Muslims”.
Sheikh Saleh al-Luhaidan was sacked as judiciary head in 2008 for saying owners of media that broadcast depravity have forsaken their faith, a crime punishable in Sharia law by death, but he remains a member of the kingdom’s top Muslim council.
Abdulaziz al-Fawzan, a professor of Islamic law and frequent guest on the popular al-Majd religious television channel, has accused the West of being behind the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, saying “these criminals want to take control over the world”.
Such opinions, which echo the views of militants in Iraq, are not unusual in Saudi Arabia, which applies Sharia Muslim law, has beheaded 20 people in the past month, and where clerics oversee a lavish state-funded religious infrastructure.
The problem with IS isn’t so much all the killing and enslaving; it’s the attempting to move in on the territory.
Saudi authorities point to the influence of the radical wing of the Muslim Brotherhood in developing modern jihadi thinking, but play down Riyadh’s decades of support for Islamists around the world as a counterweight to anti-royal leftist ideology.
The government’s inability or reluctance to crack down on expressions of intolerance towards non-Sunnis has led some Saudi liberals and foreign analysts to ask if the kingdom is committed to tackling radicalism’s roots, or only its symptoms.
“It’s their definition of extremism we may not agree with. It is still very mainstream to call Shi’ites infidels. That’s not seen as extremist,” said Stephane Lacroix, author of Awakening Islam, a book about Islamism in Saudi Arabia.
Whereas in secular democracies, “infidel” isn’t even a category.
I like our way better.