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Saudi Barbaria

Sunday, 14 October, 2018

“The fate of Khashoggi has at least provoked global outrage, but it’s for all the wrong reasons. We are told he was a liberal, Saudi progressive voice fighting for freedom and democracy, and a martyr who paid the ultimate price for telling the truth to power. This is not just wrong, but distracts us from understanding what the incident tells us about the internal power dynamics of a kingdom going through an unprecedented period of upheaval.”

So writes John R. Bradley in The Spectator. His article is titled What the media aren’t telling you about Jamal Khashoggi. Among the things we don’t hear in the reportage about the disappearance in Istanbul of the Saudi dissident and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi is his view of democracy. “In truth, Khashoggi never had much time for western-style pluralistic democracy,” writes Bradley. “In the 1970s he joined the Muslim Brotherhood, which exists to rid the Islamic world of western influence. He was a political Islamist until the end, recently praising the Muslim Brotherhood in the Washington Post. He championed the ‘moderate’ Islamist opposition in Syria, whose crimes against humanity are a matter of record.”

Bradley portrays the struggle for the soul of Saudi Arabia is one between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Wahhabi movement. Both hate each other and they’re united only in their hatred of the West:

“The Wahhabis loathe democracy as a western invention. Instead, they choose to live life as it supposedly existed during the time of the Muslim prophet. In the final analysis, though, they are different means to achieving the same goal: Islamist theocracy. This matters because, although bin Salman has rejected Wahhabism — to the delight of the West —he continues to view the Muslim Brotherhood as the main threat most likely to derail his vision for a new Saudi Arabia. Most of the Islamic clerics in Saudi Arabia who have been imprisoned over the past two years —Khashoggi’s friends — have historic ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. Khashoggi had therefore emerged as a de facto leader of the Saudi branch.”

And, says Bradley, there’s another issue: “Khashoggi had dirt on Saudi links to al Qaeda before the 9/11 attacks.”

Bringing Saudi Arabia into the 21st Century — or even the 19th — was never going to be easy, but the feeling in the West up to now has been that if Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman could pull it off, the results would be worth it. The brutal reality is that it’s always one step forward, two steps back in the barbaric monarchical autocracy.


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