Oh, that’s how you want to play it, Saudi Arabia? It might backfire. I certainly hope it does.
You know how Margot Wallström was going to give a talk at the Arab League, a talk that included some praise for the idea of women’s rights, and how Saudi Arabia blocked her from giving that talk and recalled its ambassador and generally threw a huge tantrum.
The feud has sparked an intense domestic debate, with Sweden’s king even stepping in. Part of this is because of the considerable economic pressure Saudi Arabia is able to put on Sweden (Sweden exported $1.3 billion to Saudi Arabia last year). But perhaps even more powerful has been the rhetorical pressure — Saudi Arabia has succeeded in making the argument not about human rights, but about Islam.
From the start of the disagreement with Sweden, Saudi officials have emphasized that the attack isn’t just on their sovereignty, but on the entire concept of sharia law, which forms the basis of the Saudi legal system. For example, the Council of Senior Scholars, Saudi Arabia’s highest religious authority, dismissed Wallstrom’s comments as criticism of the Islamic legal system. “The Kingdom is proud of its Islamic laws, which protects human rights, dignity and private property,” said Sheik Fahad bin Saad al-Majed, secretary general of the council, according to Arab News. He added that Saudi Arabia was “a beacon of light” for Muslims around the world.
You want to go that way? You’re sure? You want to tie all of Islam to what you do with it? You want to make it all or nothing like that? You want to tell the world that Islam=Sauda Arabia and Saudi Arabia=Islam?
This framing caught on internationally, as well. “The ministers have voiced their condemnation and astonishment at the issuance of such statements that are incompatible with the fact that the Constitution of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is based on sharia,” Arab League foreign ministers said in a joint statement. “Sharia has guaranteed human rights and preserved people’s lives, possessions, honor and dignity.”
But it hasn’t, especially not women’s rights and gay rights and freedom of religion and the rights of foreign workers…There’s a very long list of the rights it has trampled into the dust as opposed to “guaranteeing.” If that’s the Sharia version of guaranteeing human rights, then Islam is a vision of hell.
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation also released a statement, saying Sweden needed to “not claim moral authority to pass one-sided judgments and moral categorizations of others.”
So anything goes? Apartheid is fine, genocide is fine, Boko Haram is fine, nobody can say anything to anyone?
I say that’s bullshit. Wallström on the other hand has been back-pedaling, which is very unfortunate.