Some Saudi puzzlements: 6-21-12
June 21, 2012
I am beginning to get a bit of a complex. I wrote about Rodney King and two days later he died. I wrote about Saudi Arabia's effort to stop terrorism, and not long after that the prince who has mostly led that effort died.
Maybe you should pray I won't write about you.
But let's go back to the death the other day of Prince Nayef (sometimes Naif) of Saudi Arabia, who was Crown Prince, meaning next in line to become king on the death of the current king, Abdullah.
This development -- and the subsequent choice of Prince Salman (pictured here) to be Crown Prince -- gives us another chance to think through several matters, including the Saudi relationship to terrorism, the rigid sort of Islam officially practiced in the kingdom and whether there ever will be anything close to religious freedom in Saudi Arabia.
We all know that most of the 9/11 terrorists came from Saudi Arabia, as did the late Osama bin Laden, whose al-Qaida network recruited and trained them. But the House of Saud through the Saudi government it controls has worked with some diligence to knee-cap terrorism, partly (maybe mostly) because one of the main target of the violent extremists who claim to be living out Islam is the House of Saud itself.
If Prince Salman indeed becomes king (and the frail Abdullah is either 88 or 89, depending on which news account you read), he is likely to continue the reforms (painfully slow, but reforms nonetheless) instituted by Abdullah. This likely would not have happened under Nayef, who was no great fan of political, social or religious reform.
Will the puritanical Wahhabi form of Islam lose its grip on Saudi Arabia as the old generation of princes (all sons of Saudi Arabia's founding King Abdul Aziz) goes the way of all flesh? Unlikely. Wahhabism is deeply embedded in the House of Saud. It would take a political revolution, I think, to create a religious revolution, though neither is outside the realm of possibility.
And what about religious freedom in Saudi Arabia. It simply doesn't exist now. As the 2012 annual report of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom reported: "During the reporting period, systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom continued in Saudi Arabia despite improvements. More than 10 years since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, the Saudi government has failed to implement a number of promised reforms related to promoting freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief."
(This despite the fact that within Saudi culture King Abdullah is viewed as a reformer.)
So the sands of time continue to fall through the Saudi hourglass, but before we imagine that this slow parade will yield much change, we need to remember how much sand there is in the kingdom.
(The photo of Prince Salman here today accompanied this Agence France Press online story.)
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CAN WE JUST LOG INTO .HEAVEN?
Religious groups around the world seem willing to pay big bucks to control newly available Internet domain names, such as .church and .Bible, it's reported. Beware groups that want to use the domain .hell.