Posts Tagged ‘Saudi Arabia’

Death of a King

January 22, 2015

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has died. The Associated Press has an obituary.

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, the powerful U.S. ally who joined Washington’s fight against al-Qaida and sought to modernize the ultra conservative Muslim kingdom with incremental but significant reforms, including nudging open greater opportunities for women, has died, according to Saudi state TV. He was 90.

More than his guarded and hidebound predecessors, Abdullah assertively threw his oil-rich nation’s weight behind trying to shape the Middle East. His priority was to counter the influence of rival, mainly Shiite Iran wherever it tried to make advances. He and fellow Sunni Arab monarchs also staunchly opposed the Middle East’s wave of pro-democracy uprisings, seeing them as a threat to stability and their own rule.

He backed Sunni Muslim factions against Tehran’s allies in several countries, but in Lebanon for example, the policy failed to stop Iranian-backed Hezbollah from gaining the upper hand. And Tehran and Riyadh’s colliding ambitions stoked proxy conflicts around the region that enflamed Sunni-Shiite hatreds – most horrifically in Syria’s civil war, where the two countries backed opposing sides. Those conflicts in turn hiked Sunni militancy that returned to threaten Saudi Arabia.

And while the king maintained the historically close alliance with Washington, there were frictions as he sought to put those relations on Saudi Arabia’s terms. He was constantly frustrated by Washington’s failure to broker a settlement to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. He also pushed the Obama administration to take a tougher stand against Iran and to more strongly back the mainly Sunni rebels fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Abdullah’s death was announced on Saudi state TV by a presenter who said the king died at 1 a.m. on Friday. His successor was announced as 79-year-old half-brother, Prince Salman, according to a Royal Court statement carried on the Saudi Press Agency. Salman was Abdullah’s crown prince and had recently taken on some of the ailing king’s responsibilities.

He can’t have had an easy time trying to balance between the needs of modernizing his country and the ultra conservative religious establishment which controls so much of the kingdom’s society. As the obituary mentions, King Abdullah was an ally in the fight against al-Qaeda and Islamic terrorism, yet Saudi Arabia has supplied much of the funding for that terrorism, with members of the Saudi royal family almost certainly providing assistance to radical groups. The strict Wahhabi sect of Islam which is Saudi Arabia’s official religion has provided much of the ideological backing for the most extreme Islamic groups and Wahhabism has spread in the Islamic world due largely to the financial support from the sale of Saudi oil.

King Abdullah ibn Abdul Aziz in 2002

King Abdullah ibn Abdul Aziz in 2002 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Saudi Arabia is among the few countries left in the world governed by an absolute monarchy. The King of Saudi Arabia holds all the legislative, judicial and executive functions of government in his own persons and his royal decrees make up the law of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is also one of the few countries without even a pretext of any democratic machinery. Totalitarian dictatorships such as the People’s Republic of China and the People’s Democratic Republic of (North) Korea have (one party) elections and a legislature to rubber stamp the rulers’ commands. Saudi Arabia is still ruled like a medieval kingdom or a Bedouin tribe. Things are beginning to change in this old fashioned land. Recently there have been elections on the municipal level though no political parties are permitted and the councils elected are mostly powerless. In the 2015 elections, women will actually be allowed to vote and even run for office.

The king’s rule is not absolute, however. He must rule in accordance with the Koran and sharia law. Every Saudi male has the right to petition the king through a tribal council called the Majlis and in practice members and branches of the royal family have considerable influence as well as ulema, the religious establishment of Islamic scholars and jurists. The royal family, the Sauds, form an elite in the kingdom. These are the descendants of the first king of Saudi Arabia, Abdulaziz ibn Saud who united the Arabian peninsula and founded the Kingdom in 1932. Because of the practice of polygamy, the number of princes in the kingdom is very large, perhaps more than 7000. Of these, around 200 play an important role in the kingdom’s government. The Sauds effectively own the whole country and little distinction is made between the family’s assets and the finances of the state. They are the Saud in Saudi Arabia.

It is not easy to determine what will come next in the desert kingdom since so much is dependent on the personality and concerns of the king. So far, every king of Saudi Arabia has been a son of Abdulaziz. The new king, Salman, is 79 years old, so I doubt he will provide vigorous leadership.  Since Abdulaziz died in 1953, I doubt if any of his remaining sons are much younger, so it is possible there will be a series of short-lived, feeble kings for several years until the line of succession goes to the next generation.One can only hope that the desert kingdom continues to inch toward modernity.

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Snowmen are Anti-Islamic

January 12, 2015

That is what a recent fatwa from a cleric from Saudi Arabia states. I read about it in this story from Yahoo News.

A prominent Saudi Arabian cleric has whipped up controversy by issuing a religious ruling forbidding the building of snowmen, described them as anti-Islamic.

Asked on a religious website if it was permissible for fathers to build snowmen for their children after a snowstorm in the country’s north, Sheikh Mohammed Saleh al-Munajjid replied: “It is not permitted to make a statue out of snow, even by way of play and fun.”

Quoting from Muslim scholars, Sheikh Munajjid argued that to build a snowman was to create an image of a human being, an action considered sinful under the kingdom’s strict interpretation of Sunni Islam.

“God has given people space to make whatever they want which does not have a soul, including trees, ships, fruits, buildings and so on,” he wrote in his ruling.

That provoked swift responses from Twitter users writing in Arabic and identifying themselves with Arab names.

“They are afraid for their faith of everything … sick minds,” one Twitter user wrote.

Another posted a photo of a man in formal Arab garb holding the arm of a “snow bride” wearing a bra and lipstick. “The reason for the ban is fear of sedition,” he wrote.

A third said the country was plagued by two types of people:

“A people looking for a fatwa (religious ruling) for everything in their lives, and a cleric who wants to interfere in everything in the lives of others through a fatwa,” the user wrote.

Sheikh Munajjid had some supporters, however. “It (building snowmen) is imitating the infidels, it promotes lustiness and eroticism,” one wrote.

“May God preserve the scholars, for they enjoy sharp vision and recognize matters that even Satan does not think about.”

Snow has covered upland areas of Tabuk province near Saudi Arabia’s border with Jordan for the third consecutive year as cold weather swept across the Middle East.

I wouldn’t have thought this would be a problem in Saudi Arabia, but evidently it does snow there. In any case, this ruling is not as crazy as it might appear. Islam is a religion which strongly forbids even the suggestion of idol worship and for this reason  Islamic law and culture has discouraged the visual representation of any human or animal which might be taken as an object of worship. This is why the arts in Islamic cultures have never produced any equivalent to the works of renaissance artists like MichelAngelo with their precise, almost photographic portraits and detailed studies of human anatomy and perspective. Persons with an artistic bent in Islamic countries have generally concentrated on beautiful calligraphy, generally of Koranic verses and abstract geometric designs. According to the strictest interpretations of Islamic law, as is found in Saudi Arabia, any representation of the human form for any reason is forbidden. Forbidding the creation of snowmen is simply taking the iconoclasm of Islam to a logical extreme.

This does say something about the nature of Islam. Islam does not seem to be a very joyful religion and its adherents certainly do not seem to have much of a sense of humor. The Ayatollah Khomeini is reported to have said,

Allah did not create man so that he could have fun. The aim of creation was for mankind to be put to the test through hardship and prayer. An Islamic regime must be serious in every field. There are no jokes in Islam. There is no humor in Islam. There is no fun in Islam. There can be no fun and joy in whatever is serious. …”

Mohammed didn’t care for music, believing it to inspire sin, so Islamic cultures have tended to discourage music. There is no Bach or Mozart in Islam. There seems to be no joy in Islam.

It also says something, that every detail of life, no matter how trivial, seems to be subject to endless rules concerning what is allowed and what is forbidden. Can you imagine a person of any other religion even wondering if building a snowman is acceptable? There doesn’t seem to be much emphasis on thinking or reasoning for yourself in Islam. Every decision seems to be based on what Mohammed would do or what the religious authorities centuries ago wrote.

In contrast, Christians are told to:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:4-7)

We are set free from rules and are made sons of God.

23 Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. 24 So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.

26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female,for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

 What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world. But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. (Gal 3:23-4:7)

So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.(Romans 7:4-6)

This does not mean that we are free to commit sins, of course, but if we do commit sins we follow a God more interested in forgiving and saving us than one eager to condemn us. It may be said that Christians and Muslims worship the same God, and to a certain extent it is true, but we have very different ideas about who God is and what He wants from us. Our God wants us to be His sons and sent His own son to die for us. Their God wants us to be slaves of a harsh master. I think I prefer Jesus over Allah. At least Jesus doesn’t have any issues with snowmen.

Polio’s Comeback

December 2, 2013

It wasn’t that long ago that the disease poliomyelitis, or polio, was feared all over the world, even in the most advanced countries. Polio is a contagious disease caused by the polio virus. While most people who are exposed to the virus do not show any symptoms, if the virus gets into the bloodstream or into the central nervous system, the results can be dire. In the worst cases, the virus may cause permanent paralysis. Polio became epidemic in the twentieth century and the worst outbreak in the United States was during the 1950’s. Every year, people dreaded the summer and the polio outbreak that would come. It must have seemed a near miracle when Jonas Salk developed the polio vaccine and ended the threat of polio. Polio rapidly became unknown in the West and it seemed that the disease would soon be eradicated worldwide.

Polio is making a comeback in the developing world, however. Is this because the vaccine has become ineffective? Have international health agencies lost interest in distributing the vaccine? No. What has happened is that Muslim authorities in several countries have become convinced that polio vaccination is a conspiracy against the Islamic world and have declared jihad against it. Here is the story in USAToday, which I found through Jihad Watch.

Once close to eradication worldwide, the dreaded disease polio is resurfacing in Muslim-majority countries where vaccinations are hard to come by due to war, religious edicts and ignorance, experts say.

The latest example comes this week in Syria, where a strain of polio originating in Pakistan has crippled more than a dozen children, according to doctors for the Kurdish Red Crescent. Cases have also been showing up in Somalia, Afghanistan and Nigeria.

The problem is prompting some polio-free countries to demand that visitors from high-risk countries take oral vaccines at the airport upon arrival if they cannot prove they’ve gotten the vaccine.

“The Saudi government has introduced restrictions for all those traveling to the Holy Land from polio-affected countries,” said Mazhar Nisar of Pakistan’s Ministry of National Health Regulations and Services.

“Every pilgrim is to take polio vaccine before traveling to Saudi Arabia and also upon arrival at any of the international airports in the Kingdom,” Nisar said.

It says something when the Saudi government, where they still execute people for witchcraft, is the voice of reason. Other people are far less sane about this matter.

In Pakistan’s Northwest territories, where Taliban clerics have significant influence, polio vaccination teams are maligned as un-Islamic or Western purveyors of poison meant to sterilize Muslim women.

A cleric in Pakistan’s Punjab province warned that a jihad would be launched against polio vaccination teams, whose mission he labeled a Western conspiracy, frightening away a team that arrived in Muzaffargarh, according to The Express Tribune.

This week, militants in northwestern Pakistan kidnapped 11 teachers involved in a polio vaccination campaign. Local official Khyali Gul said the teachers were taken from a school in the Bara area, close to Pakistan’s northwestern border with Afghanistan.

The United Nations in Pakistan pulled its staff involved in immunization from Pakistan after three eradication workers were shot in Peshawar and two of them were killed, in 2012. Since then, more vaccine teams have been targeted.

Without vaccination, the cases of polio are rising in Pakistan, as is the appearance of the Pakistani strain of polio in other countries where infected Pakistanis travel.

The Pakistani polio virus was found in sewage samples in Israel in June this year (the virus can be found in fecal matter of an infected person) and in Cairo in January.

It would be bad enough if the effects of this sort of idiocy were simply the spread of polio in places like Pakistan. In this age of rapid and easy travel, no disease can be stopped by national borders for very long. Despite any precautions by other countries, polio is likely to spread among the unvaccinated, even in Europe and America.

The World Health Organization says the once-rare disease could be resurrected and has declared a polio emergency across the Middle East. Allias Durray, a doctor who is the chief of polio eradication for Pakistan, warned that Europe may be next.

“After the Syrian polio outbreak and the flight of refugees in proximity to Turkey and European Union, it is evident that the polio virus is at the doorstep of Europe,” he said.

Not all countries check for polio vaccinations among foreign visitors from countries where polio is considered endemic. The United States requires immigrants be vaccinated, but not visitors.

“We collaborate closely with international organizations and other countries to make sure that international and U.S. guidance on vaccination for immigrants is implemented, said Donda Hansen, media spokesperson for the Center for Global Health at the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta.

“The U.S. maintains ‘elimination status’ in the U.S. by aggressively investigating every suspected case to determine whether an importation has occurred, taking steps to prevent transmission, and safeguarding Americans,” Hansen said.

It’s too bad a general quarantine cannot be imposed against the parts of the world controlled by these fanatics until they see reason.

It is not clear why Islamic authorities would oppose vaccination. Inoculation or vaccination seems to have been invented in either China or India. It was widely practiced against smallpox  in the Ottoman Empire in the sixteenth century and European travelers from that country brought the knowledge of the procedure to Europe and America. There is no prohibition of the practice in any Islamic scripture or law that I know of. Medical products made from unclean animals like pigs have been ruled acceptable for use by both Jewish and Islamic authorities. It seems clear that saving lives is of greater importance than dietary purity. Perhaps the concern is not really religious at all, but stems from a general paranoia and hatred of the West. Whatever the cause, the fools making the fatwas will not be hurt as much as the innocents who will have their lives blighted by their ignorance.

Saudi Arabia Deports Irresistible Men

April 19, 2013

And on a lighter note, I may have to postpone my trip to Saudi Arabia. Evidently they do not want handsome men who Saudi women could fall for in their kingdom. At least that is what this story in the Telegraph says.

The delegates from the United Arab Emirates were in attendance at the Jenadrivah Heritage & Culture Festival in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, when religious police officers stormed the stand and evicted the men because “they are too handsome,” according to the Arabic language newspaper, Elaph.

“A festival official said the three Emiratis were taken out on the grounds they are too handsome and that the Commission [for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vices] members feared female visitors could fall for them,” Elaph reported.

The UAE released an official statement indicating that the religious police were anxious over the unexpected presence of an unnamed female artist in the pavilion.

“Her visit to the UAE stand was a coincidence as it was not included in the programme which we had already provided to the festival’s management,” Saeed Al Kaabi, head of the UAE delegation to the festival, said in a statement.

It was not clear if the woman’s presence was related to the decision to evict the “handsome” Emirati men.

Following the incident, Elaph said the festival’s management took swift action to deport the trio back to Abu Dhabi, capital of the Emirates.

With a majority Sunni Muslim population, Saudi Arabia is a deeply religious and ultraconservative society which forbids women from interacting with unrelated males and refuses to accord them with the same rights as men.

With my irresistible good looks, they probably wouldn’t even let me into the country.

Obviously I am kidding, both about traveling to Saudi Arabia and about my looks.

Lack of Swordsmen

March 13, 2013
English: Saudi Arabia

They are progressing in Saudi Arabia. Soon they’ll join the eleventh century. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes it is hard to find good people to do a difficult and demanding job. For example, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia may have to resort to firing squads to execute murderers and sorcerers since there is starting to be a shortage of swordsmen to behead criminals.

Is this what progress looks like in Saudi Arabia? The kingdom is considering ending execution by beheading in favor of firing squads, reports the Egyptian English-language news website Ahram Online. A committee consisting of representatives from the Ministries of Interior, Justice and Health says there are shortages in government swordsmen and argue that a change to execution by firing squad would not violate Islamic law, the Saudi daily newspaper al-Youm writes. According to an official statement from the committee, “This solution seems practical, especially in light of shortages in official swordsmen or their belated arrival to execution yards in some incidents.”

I have to wonder, how hard can the job be? It’s not like brain surgery where precision is needed, just a stroke at the neck. It can’t be a highly skilled job or one that demands much education. I imagine that it would be desirable to behead the victim with one stroke and that might take practice. You don’t want the person executed to be just lying there screaming as the executioner whacks away over and over.

I wonder if the Saudi government provides the sword, or would you have to use your own? Do they have regular inspections to make sure the swordsmen keep their sword properly sharpened? What about laundry bills from blood spatters? Maybe they get a special uniform. It might be interesting to be able to tell people at a gathering that you are a beheader, or is this the sort of job that makes people not want to have anything to do with you?

Kidding aside, I suppose this is progress, of a sort. Personally, I am less concerned about the death penalty than Saudi standards of jurisprudence.

Execution by beheading in Saudi Arabia has continually been condemned by human-rights groups. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), at least 69 people were executed by beheading in 2012, while Amnesty International says 79 were killed under the death penalty in the same period. In 2012 HRW wrote, “Saudi Arabia has no penal code, so prosecutors and judges largely define criminal offenses at their discretion.” Rape, murder, armed robbery, drug trafficking and even suspected “sorcery” are punishable by death under Saudi Arabia’s Islamic law.

The Saudi death penalty recently made headlines following the execution of Rizana Nafeek, a young Sri Lankan woman who was beheaded for the murder of her employers’ 4-month-old son. Nafeek arrived in Saudi Arabia in 2005 at age 17 but spent the next seven years in Saudi jails after the baby died under her care, writes CNN. The family of the boy believed he had been strangled by Nafeek, while she claimed he had choked on his milk. The young Sri Lankan immigrant had no access to a lawyer during her pretrial interrogation during which she said she was forced to sign a confession, notes CNN. The execution of this young woman revealed how “woefully out of step they [the Saudi justice system] are with their international obligations regarding the use of the death penalty,” said Philip Luther from Amnesty International. It highlighted how Saudi law tends to treat children as adults in criminal cases even though international law prohibits the death penalty for crimes committed before the age of 18, writes HRW.

I don’t mind the idea of chopping people’s heads off so much, but I would like proof beyond a reasonable doubt that they actually are guilty of a crime.

Burkas for Babies

February 3, 2013

Maybe, I just need to stop reading the news for a while. The more I read, the more I am convinced that the whole world is going mad, which is a very depressing thought. The latest outrage against sanity is a fatwa issued by a Saudi cleric, (actually anything coming out of Saudi Arabia is likely to be some kind of outrage), that baby girls should be veiled to keep away child molesters. The Drudge Report has a link to the story in Al Arabiya News.

A Saudi cleric has called for all female babies to be fully covered by wearing the face veil, commonly known as the burka, citing reports of little girls being sexually molested.

In a TV interview on the Islamic al-Majd TV, which seems to date back to mid-last year, Sheikh Abdullah Daoud, stressed that wearing the veil will protect baby girls. The Sheikh tried to back his assertion with claims of sexual molestation against babies in the kingdom, quoting unnamed medical and security sources.

Recently picked up on social media, Sheikh Dauod’s statement prompted wide condemnation from his fellow Saudis on Twitter. Some tweeps called for the Sheikh to be held accountable because his ruling denigrates Islam and breaches individual privacy.

Sheikh Mohammad al-Jzlana, former judge at the Saudi Board of Grievances, told Al Arabiya that Dauod’s ruling was denigrating to Islam and Shariah and made Islam look bad.

Jzlana urged people to ignore unregulated fatwas and explained that there are special regulations set by the Saudi authorities to administer religious edicts and appoint those who are entitled to issue them.

He said that he feels sad whenever he sees a family walking around with a veiled baby, describing that as injustice to children.

Not that their regulated fatwas are much saner. It occurs to me that the person most likely to abuse a little girl would be a male relative, or someone who has access to the child, especially given the nature of Saudi society, making it largely irrelevant whether the baby goes out covered up. It also occurs to me that the strict rules regulating interactions between the sexes found in Islam seem to imply that people, especially men, are simply unable to control their urges, that is if a man rapes a woman wearing a mini-skirt, he simply couldn’t stop himself. It seems a rather pessimisic assessment of human nature.

 

Book Burning in Timbucktu

January 30, 2013
English: Image of Timbuktu manuscripts.

English: Image of Timbuktu manuscripts. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I was a child, Timbuktu generally seemed to mean the farthest possible place it was possible to travel to while still remaining on the planet, an almost mystical city, not one you who expect to travel to. It actually came a something of a shock to me when I saw Timbuktu on a map. I didn’t really think it was a real city.

Well, Timbuktu is real enough and not nearly far from the troubles of the world as the inhabitants might wish. Timbuktu has been in the news quite a lot recently as a battleground in Mali‘s civil war. Recently, Malian and French soldiers captured the city from the Islamic militants who had seized the city ten months ago. The terrorists did not show much respect for the historical or cultural legacy of Timbuktu, and even less respect for the rights and well being of the people there. I read this report from the Associated Press.

Timbuktu, a city of mud-walled buildings and 50,000 people, was for centuries a seat of Islamic learning and a major trading center along the North African caravan routes that carried slaves, gold and salt. In Europe, legend had it that it was a city of gold. Today, its name is synonymous to many with the ends of the earth.

It has been home to some 20,000 irreplaceable manuscripts, some dating to the 12th century. It was not immediately known how many were destroyed in the blaze that was set in recent days in an act of vengeance by the Islamists before they withdrew.

Michael Covitt, chairman of the Malian Manuscript Foundation, called the arson a “desecration to humanity.”

“These manuscripts are irreplaceable. They have the wisdom of the ages and it’s the most important find since the Dead Sea Scrolls,” he said.

The militants seized Timbuktu last April and began imposing a strict Islamic version of Shariah, or religious law, across northern Mali, carrying out amputations and public executions. Women could be whipped for going out in public without wearing veils, while men could be lashed for having cigarettes.

During their rule in Timbuktu, the militants systematically destroyed cultural sites, including the ancient tombs of Sufi saints, which they denounced as contrary to Islam because they encouraged Muslims to venerate saints instead of God.

The mayor said the Islamists burned his office as well as the Ahmed Baba institute, a library rich in historical documents.

“It’s truly alarming that this has happened,” Mayor Ousmane Halle told The Associated Press by telephone from Bamako. “They torched all the important ancient manuscripts. The ancient books of geography and science. It is the history of Timbuktu, of its people.”

This is unfortunate, but not unexpected. There is something of a tradition of iconoclasm among the more fanatic Muslim sects. Muslims generally regard the pre-Muslim past as the time of Jahiliyyah or ignorance. This often leads Muslims to denigrate the pre-Islamic history and culture of a nation and more devout or fanatic Muslims can even systematically destroy artifacts from the past, especially art that is considered pagan or idolatrous. The worst offenders in this regard are probably the members of the Wahhabi sect, prominent in Saudi Arabia. In their zeal to purify the Islamic faith and to ensure that Allah alone is worshiped, the Wahhabi have often attacked long standing customs and traditions of less strict Muslim sects, such as the veneration of saints, Sufi mysticism, and the Shi’ites whom they regard as heretics. The Wahhabi dominated government of Saudi Arabia has been destroying historical sites in Mecca and Medina that are associated with the beginnings and early history of Islam.

I am not certain to what extent the militants in Mali have been influenced by Wahhabism. The story said that they were linked to al-Qaeda and Osama bin Ladin was, of course, from Saudi Arabia. It seems likely that their ignorant destruction of historical manuscripts is derived from the same sort of fanaticism that drives the Saudis to destroy houses and mosques associated with Mohammed and other figures from early Islam.

 

Exotic Vacations

June 4, 2012

If you want to go on vacation somewhere away from all those tourists, Yahoo travel may have just the destination for you. In this article, they present ten exciting locations where you can really get away from it all, maybe permanently.I actually would like to visit a few of these places like Iran and Iraq. Both countries have wonderful historic and archeological sites to visit. Iraq is still somewhat unstable but I think it would be safe enough with some obvious precautions, such as staying with a group and not wandering around Baghdad alone. Iran is also a bit unsettled but the population is not as hostile toward Americans as one might think. President Obama missed a huge chance when he didn’t openly support the protests in 2009.

Antarctica is almost completely unspoiled by human contact and unlike many of these destinations is completely safe, at least from war and terrorism. Still, I think it might be a little too cold for my liking. Cuba and Myanmar have fantastic natural scenery and Cuba was a popular vacation spot before Castro took over. I think, though I would prefer to wait until after the Castro brothers die or are overthrown. The same sentiment goes for the military junta in Myanmar. I would also prefer to avoid actual war zones like Libya and Afghanistan. I really wouldn’t want to get in the way of our troops in Afghanistan. They have a hard enough job without having to mess with stupid war tourists.

Chernobyl would be interesting. The population was evacuated after the disaster in 1986 and the town has remained untouched ever since. It would almost be like visiting a time capsule or a contemporary version of Pompeii. There is still a danger of radioactive contamination but I think if you followed the rules, the risk should be minimal.

Then there are the destinations that I have to wonder about. Places that no sane person would want to go to, like North Korea or Saudi Arabia. Why would anyone want to go to North Korea?

Nick Bonner of Koryo Group (which has been running North Korea tours for almost 20 years) says, “By visiting North Korea and interacting as much as you can, you have a positive impact on engagement. You are bringing civilians into contact with Westerners and providing job opportunities.”

No you’re not. They don’t let you talk to anyone.

Tourists in the country must stay with government minders at all times, and there are strict rules about what they can photograph and see.

Security personnel may also view any unauthorized attempt you make to talk to a North Korean citizen as espionage. North Korean authorities may fine or arrest you for unauthorized currency transactions, for taking unauthorized photographs, or for shopping at stores not designated for foreigners. It is a criminal act in North Korea to show disrespect to the country’s current and former leaders, [Kim Jong-un], Kim Jong-il, and Kim Il-sung. Hotel rooms, telephones, and fax machines may be monitored, and personal possessions in hotel rooms may be searched. …Persons violating the laws of North Korea, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.”

And Saudi Arabia?

Strict conduct rules govern visitors and locals alike. For example, women visitors must be met by a sponsor upon arrival into the country, can be arrested by the mutawain (religious police) for improper dress, and are not allowed to drive. Tourists are required to abide by local laws, as violations (including homosexual activity and adultery) may be punished with lashings or the death penalty.

There is nothing to see there except sand. Well, there is Mecca and Medina, but they don’t let you in there unless you are a Moslem, and I am not sure if I could fake it.

I think I will just stay in the US for now.

 

Australian Sentenced to 500 Lashes

December 7, 2011

More happy news from the Magic Kingdom, home of the Religion of Peace.

SYDNEY (AP) — An Australian man has been sentenced to 500 lashes and a year in a Saudi Arabian jail after being convicted of blasphemy, officials said Wednesday.

The 45-year-old man, identified by family members as Mansor Almaribe of southern Victoria state, was detained in the holy city of Medina last month while making the Muslim pilgrimage of hajj. Family members told Australian media that Saudi officials accused him of insulting the companions of the Prophet Muhammad, a violation of Saudi Arabia’s strict blasphemy laws.

Australia’s ambassador in Saudi Arabia has contacted Saudi authorities in a bid for leniency, the Department of Foreign Affairs said. Consular officials are providing support for the man and his family in Australia.

“The Australian government is universally opposed to corporal punishment,” the department said in a statement.

Almaribe was convicted of blasphemy on Tuesday and initially sentenced to two years in jail and 500 lashes. The court later reduced his jail sentence.

Almaribe’s son Jamal told The Age newspaper that his father was reading and praying as part of a group when he was arrested.

Almaribe’s son Mohammed said he feared for his father’s well-being. “Five hundred slashes on his back, and he has back problems. I wouldn’t think he’d survive 50,” he told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

I don’t see how anyone could survive 500 lashes. I don’t think that they would give him all 500 at once, but even if they stagger the lashings over several days, the cumulative damage would surely kill even the healthiest person.They might as well

This is why we need to build the pipeline to the Athabasca Oil Sands. I’m sure the Canadians don’t give people such barbaric punishments.

Saudi Arabia Arrests Colombian Soccer Player

October 14, 2011

I read this story in Jihad Watch and Colombia Reports.

A Colombian soccer player was arrested in Saudi Arabia Monday for displaying religious tattoos.

Colombian-born Juan Pablo Pino was arrested by the Saudi moral police after customers in a Riyadh shopping mall expressed outrage over the sports player’s religious tattoos, which included the face of Jesus of Nazareth on his arm.

Saudi Arabia is one of the most conservative countries in the Muslim world, and according to one of the country’s most respected clerics, Nayimi Sheik Mohammed, Saudi law prohibits tattoos, no matter what their form, and every player has to abide with these rules.

The cleric went on to stress the importance of respecting the status of “Sharia” (Islamic law) and that the tattoos must be covered at all times.

Pino, who plays in the Saudi league, has expressed “deep sorrow” for his actions and said he respects the laws of the country. He was released from custody when a team delegate arrived and discussed the matter with the police.

A similar event occurred in Saudi Arabia last year when a Romanian player kissed the tattoo of a cross he had on his arm after scoring a goal, which also caused public outrage.

Now, you see what happens when you are a raging islamophobe. If only people would show the proper tolerance and respect for Islam by never showing the symbols of any other religion in public. We really need to start acting like proper dhimmis. Then, they would have no reason to fear us and there would be no need for the practitioners of the Religion of Peace to resort to terrorism.


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