Reaping the whirlwind

Poor Saudi Arabia. The BBC reports it doesn’t want Daesh luring away its people or bursting in to attack the Saud family itself. But how is it to go about resisting it when they have so much in common?

According to the Ministry of Interior, some 2,600 Saudis have joined extremist groups in Syria since 2011, around 600 of whom have returned. Last year alone, 400 were arrested in relation to IS activities inside the Kingdom.

“Extremist groups” – but the government of Saudi Arabia is an extremist group. There’s nothing mild or average about Saudi Arabia.

It is a relatively low number, says Interior Ministry spokesman General Mansour Sultan al-Turki, but still a matter of deep concern.

“Whoever made [IS] made it for purposes and one of those purposes is really to attack Saudi Arabia,” he says.

“They know that our borders are very well-protected so their idea is to do their best through propaganda, like inspire young Saudis to carry out any terrorist act on their behalf.”

But Saudi Arabia carries out terrorist attacks on its own citizens. It beheads some of them, it whips some of them.

Last year Riyadh made it a crime to join IS. And it mobilised Saudi clerics, who now condemn the group as un-Islamic.

But that has not included any soul-searching of their own ultraconservative creed, one that advocates harsh Islamic punishments which have been taken to extremes by IS.

Precisely. If even the BBC admits it, it’s not much of a secret any more.

The recent sentencing of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi to 1,000 lashes for insulting Islam prompted Western comparisons between the ideologies of Saudi Arabia and Islamic State.

“This is the basic problem we have with media like yourselves in mixing apples and oranges,” countered the former intelligence chief Prince Turki al Faisal.

“Fahash is a terrorist group, it has no legal system,” he said, using an Arabic word for obscene that rhymes with Daesh.

“The kingdom is a state, it has a judicial system that traces its history even longer than English common law.”

Yes. Saudi Arabia is a state, and it has a judicial system. But it’s an absolutist totalitarian theocratic state, with a theocratic judicial system. It has the formal trappings, but the laws and practices are fascistic. And Daesh of course calls itself a state, indeed a meta-state, a caliphate. If you asked it it would no doubt assure you it has a judicial system. The outcomes are much the same.

Saudi Arabia’s puritanical version of Islam does share a strain of religious intolerance that IS has used to justify its killings of Shia and non-Muslims, says Jane Kinninmont, a London-based Middle East analyst.

“The tendency to declare other Muslims as ‘kafir’ or non-Muslim, that’s something you see advocated by some officially sanctioned and tolerated Muslim clerics in Saudi Arabia,” she says.

Damn right. And all those Saudi-funded madrassas? You think none of their graduates have joined Daesh? It is to laugh. Saudi Arabia has spent billions in oil money to spread Islamist fanaticism around the globe, and now it’s quaking in its boots because Daesh is on its border. This is the world you built, you fucks.

The Kingdom’s frontline with IS, its northern border with Iraq, is demarcated with a double fence that undulates across a vast windswept desert, monitored by high-tech surveillance cameras.

Members of Islamic State did clash with a border patrol early this year, killing three guards. But the threat is more internal than external.

And the Saudis are not questioning whether their ideology is in any way to blame.

It’s good to see the BBC finally notice.


  1. says

    Saudi Arabia is a monarchy. By definition it is not a legitimate government, since it does not govern with the consent of the people. Neither, of course, is IS. A plague on both their houses!!

  2. quixote says

    All over the world powers-that-be have been whipping up the fundies to give them even more power. Xtian fundies in the US, Islamists all over the world, Hindu fundie-equivalents in India, even some Buddhists in Burma. And almost everywhere they’re strong enough now to let themselves off the chain. The powers-that-be find out it’s a dragon they’re riding, and all the rest of us get to be dragged along for the ride. Reaping the whirlwind, indeed.

    (I do have one minor quibble though. The Saudi problem is partly that they have a very bad relationship to fucking. Calling them “fucks” just doesn’t seem to fit. “You anti-fucks,” maybe?)

  3. lorn says

    IMHO it is just a matter of time before ISIS pushes for accommodations, possible even co-ownership, within the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

    If you are going to have a Caliphate you need easy access to the holy sites and the Haj so ISIS followers can easily get their holy cards punched. Having a stranglehold on the cites would be even more advantageous. Not much more clearly says ‘blessed by Allah’ than control of the holy cities. And nothing would highlight and leverage the asserted apostasy of those with different interpretations of Islam than having to negotiate with ISIS, possibly even convert , to fulfill the religious requirements as a Muslim.

  4. k_machine says

    It’s simple: allied with the US = moderate. Enemy of the US = extremist. But nothing bad can happen from showering Saudi Arabia with billions in arms sales and allowing them to have nuclear reactors (stalking horse for nuclear weapons).

  5. Trebuchet says

    @6: I’d probably say “Customer of the US Military-Industrial Complex” = Moderate.

  6. quixote says

    I don’t know, Ophelia. Did you know that some phenomenal proportion of Saudi men seem to need Viagra? 70% is the number I remember from somewhere, and unusually, the prescriptions are not focused on the above-40s. Also, obsession is a bad relationship. But, yeah, I guess they do have a lot of access to trapped women, even if they need pharmaceuticals to get it up.

  7. Pierce R. Butler says

    Saudi-funded madrassas also played a key role in birthing Al Qaeda (eventually also banned in The Kingdom™). Not to mention the pious education of that Osama son-of-Laden guy, up until his persona became so non grata.

    Meanwhile, the “caliphate” still seems to be getting bags of money from somewhere, though probably not tossed directly over that double fence in the desert. Maybe those sly Saudi spies should look into that a bit further.

    Not very quick learners, the Saudi royals. Perhaps they spend too much time hanging out with US State Dept people…

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