By Ameer Ali –
The most barbaric of murders ever committed in the history of journalism and shocked the civilized world was, when Saudi-born Jamal Khashoggi, an insider turned critic of Saudi regime, chopped into pieces inside the premises of Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, and his dead body reported to have been dissolved in chemicals by a team of butchers especially dispatched to accomplish that barbarity by a member of the Saudi Royal household. Lies after lies were loaded through the media by Saudi regime to cover up the savagery. World could not be silenced. All international and independent investigations soon revealed that the master mind behind that heinous crime was none other than the Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, the so called visionary who wants to modernise the desert kingdom.
It was Donald Trump, before anybody else, who absolved the Prince of that murder, because to the President of America profits from selling weapons to killers are more precious than life of a truth-seeking journalist. Saudi largesse had successfully bought the support of the super power and muteness of its allies.
However, the world of journalists, civil rightists, academics and intellectuals, peace activists, justice seekers and every other civilised voices demanded the Prince to be brought to justice. Even the United Nations condemned the murder. But, in a mockery of a trial conducted in secret by Riyadh’s criminal court and stage managed by the royal palace, five of the accused were sentenced to death, three sent to prison to a total of 24 years without individual breakdown for each, and another three were found not guilty and released. The master mind was not even brought before the court.
Leaving aside the rest of the world for a moment, the question posing world Muslims is too agonising to ignore. How could the world of Muslims and the fifty-seven member countries of OIC go on tolerating Saudi Government’s barbaric excesses, and continue to accept the regime’s claim to be the guardian of the two holiest of mosques in Islam, to which millions every year go on pilgrimage, and fill the coffers of that regime? Wasn’t the Saudi regime that produced Bin Laden and the first batch of Muslim terrorists? Isn’t that same regime and on the order of the Crown Prince that is now killing tens of thousands and impoverishing millions of Yemenis, while at the same time washing off its hands from the cause of Palestine? Isn’t the same regime that wants to trade with Israel while wishing to destroy Iran, a proud contributor to Islamic civilization? Isn’t the same regime that coalesced with the US and sabotaged the 2011 Arab Spring in Egypt? In short, if the world of Islam has lost its pride and prestige in the international arena, especially after 1980, it is largely because of the Procrustean politics of the Wahhabi Saudi regime.
Why is the Sunni Muslim world leaders continuing to tolerate this intolerable regime? Because, the simple answer is that the US tolerates and befriends, and no Muslim leader would dare crossing the US line. President Roosevelt’s meeting with King Ibn Saud on 15 February 1945 on U.S.S. Quincy over Suez Canal began that “eternal friendship” between American weapons and Saudi oil. Today, it is the power of Saudi petrodollar that speaks loud and covers all the evils of that barbaric regime? Even the obedience of Saudi citizens is bought with petrodollars. Sooner the scientists and technologists help the world to switch completely to an affordable non-hydro-carbon energy source, all Arab oil kingdoms and sheikhdoms will collapse and natural environment will have a sigh of relief.
What should the Muslim world do now? At least it should start agitating to get the two holiest mosques removed from the jurisdiction of Saudi Government, and bring them under the management of a consortium of Muslim countries. What this regime has done to the mosque in Mecca and its historic surrounding is inexcusable by any measure. In the name of modernization, the rulers have destroyed its history and transformed that place from a spiritual enclave to a mega shopping centre for rich Muslims and tourists to display their ill-gotten wealth. Mecca has lost its pristine glory. It is fitting to quote in this context, a lament about Mecca by the Prophet (peace be upon him) himself, “O Mecca, I love thee more than the entire world, but thy sons will not let me live” (Shibli Nomani’s Sirat al Nabi and quoted by Ziauddin Sardar, Mecca: The Sacred City, London 2014, p. 47). The modern sons are gradually destroying even his memory. The removal of Mecca and Medina from Saudi government’s jurisdiction will knock out the hold Saudi regime has over the Sunni Islamic world at least. Which Muslim leader is going to bell the cat?
In the meantime, will Sri Lankan Muslim leaders including the mufti of ACJU join the International Human Rights Group and condemn Saudi travesty of justice in Khashoggi’s scandalous murder trial? It will be great if President Rajapaksa and or his Prime Minister raises the country’s concern about the trial with the Saudi Ambassador. After all, Saudi Arabia, through propagation of its ultraconservative religious ideology, has done more damage to Sri Lanka’s inter-religious harmony and tranquillity than any other foreign powers.