10 Feb

The Saudi Enigma

Nothing is easier than to denounce the evil-doer. Nothing is more difficult than to understand him (Fyodor Dostoevsky – The Possessed)

Robert Lacey chose this famous Dostoevsky phrase to open his new book ‘Inside the Kingdom’ for the reason that he wanted to have an understanding of the traumatic events of 9/11 and the country that provided the majority (15) of the in total nineteen hijackers on the airplanes that were involved in this tragedy.

The kingdom of Saudi Arabia never really was the place to be a favorite in the western hemisphere, and to be honest, how could you appreciate a nation that charges $70 or even more for something that is costing them below $10 to produce – and next brings you terrorists at the same time?

But Lacey wished to go further than. He wanted to figure out how the tradition and religious beliefs of a civilization could turn so completely wrong as to generate this kind of toxic extreme intolerance and hate.

Theoretically, the nation of Saudi Arabia might not be in existence, the country’s success contradicts the rules of common sense and the historical past. Check out the country’s royal governors, dressed up in surprising clothing, having faith in God instead of man, and managing the nation’s administration on standards that almost all of the world has left behind with alleviation.

Shops shut down for prayer no less than five times each day, executions are common in the country’s streets, and than we didn’t even mention the position of women. For many people, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia continues to be among our planet’s everlasting, and for some people quite unpleasant, enigmas.

But within these infamous discrepancies you can discover an answer that Robert Lacey urges you to take into account. When you look into the matter a little deeper, you will see that the discrepancies are really not as remarkable as they appear to be.

It has not been so long ago that in our western society, and undoubtedly in the remembrance of the generations before us, women were treated as second class individuals who were not allowed to vote, and the majority of decent people were earnest and quite intolerant christians, frightened and worried about people of different races, colors or religions.

Capital punishment was viewed as absolutely essential, and public lynchings of colored people in the south are still in our memories. It has not been so long since books and theatre plays were censored, and in fact our movies still are to this day. People were wearing stiff and traditional clothing, like a kind of uniform.

It was the days that father knew everything best, and decent girls continued to be virgins until they got married. For many centuries life in the western world existed inside the consolation of these complexes and limitations, and it has actually only been in the last century of our modern lifetime that the people in the west began to search for new principles.

In this perspective it is strange that we at times try to explain these new principles by demeaning those people who are unwilling to give up on the stability of the past.

When you are in Saudi Arabia you will be faced with a profoundly traditional civilization which is not at all ready yet to give up on their traditions to opt for bikini-wearing, breast-enlarged ladies that are shaking their rear end on one of those blind date reality TV shows. The people of Saudi Arabia would like the best of the western world, yet they want to keep control of what they think about as being the most undesirable. Recently a Jeddah radio host was boasting of his wild pre-marital sexual escapades over the air, the regional prosecutor summoned him to the courtroom. The radio host was found guilty and sentenced to 400 lashes and no less than four years imprisonment, and nearly all common Saudi citizens completely agreed with that sentence.

After the tragic events of 9/11, the governing administration of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has launched a significant reform program and made an effort to remove intolerance from all Saudi textbooks and preaching, and to open up the minds of the Saudi people. The ruling royal family has recognized that things really needed to change.

The country is now facing the real proof of the battle as only a few months back one of Al-Qaeda’s suicide bombers blew himself up close to Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, one of the country’s leading persons and responsible for the nation’s counter-terrorism program. Thankfully the prince was rescued, and the campaign against extremism carries on. Recently, Robert Lacey was present at King Abdullah’s spectacular grand opening of a brand new science and research institute on the coast of the Red Sea called KAUST. This venture is an attempt to establish a sort of Arab MIT, and is intended to re-create the character of enquiry and logical truth-searching that identified the renowned Bayt Al-Hekma ( House of Knowledge in the earliest golden age of Islam).

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has around 28 million inhabitants and most of them hate Al-Qaeda’s extremism and violence. Lacey knows the country pretty well and in all his years there, he has never encountered a Saudi who lauded Bin Laden. Saudi’s who are more introspective have admitted that in the past there have been deep and significant fault lines within the Saudi culture that may have been partly responsible for Al-Qaeda’s viciousness, and Al-Qaeda expressed as well that they were fighting a Saudi battle on American soil. Bin Laden explained later that he assaulted America (the far enemy as he preferred to say) in order to cut down the near enemy. The terifficly rich and successful princes of the House of Saud that the USA protected were his real enemies.

The personal load of rage of Bin Laden took his refusal of modern beliefs to extreme dimensions, and he really was an evil-doer, in reality, there can absolutely be no question about that. But in case we would like to follow

Dostoevsky’s recommendations, can we likewise accept that this devilish person initially was determined to attain what he considered to be right, the conservation of moral beliefs that he regarded the greatest traditions and heritage of his civilization?  We can only start to figure out where and how a lot of things went completely wrong as soon as we have implemented an open mindset to match denunciation with awareness