In the beginning of this article I would like to remind you that I am a Shia Muslim, and even though I oppose the Shia Islamist regime in Iran, one could argue that it is still in my religious interest to attack Saudi Arabia at every possible opportunity. I am often seen amongst those who criticize Saudi Arabia for its human rights violations, but as a man of principle who also promotes social reforms throughout Muslim nations, I have to maintain a non-sectarian approach when speaking about the kingdom.
While most of the criticism directed towards Saudi Arabia is valid, the mainstream media never tells the other side of the story; making it appear as though they are purposely presenting a one-sided narrative of Saudi Arabia. This is concerning, simply because at the end of the day, Saudi Arabia is an ally to the USA and the British Commonwealth, and manufactured one-sided narratives not only present a false image of certain incidents, but also serve the cause of Saudi Arabia’s enemies – in this case, they are Hezbollah and the Iranian Regime. Saudi Arabia has made great efforts towards peace in the Israeli-Palestinian region, and as a Muslim I strongly believe that all reporting done should be neutral and based on facts in order that we do not fall in to the trap of indirectly supporting the narratives of terrorist regimes.
To clarify my case, I will present three occurrences that were not and are not reported with fairness:
1. The Killing of Jamal Khashoggi
After the killing of Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, two governments made it a mission to milk this incident for what it’s worth: Turkey and Qatar. Not because they truly cared about Khashoggi, but because it was a perfect opportunity to attack Saudi Arabia.
It was no secret that Turkey’s Erdogan had and still has a vision for a revived Islamic Caliphate similar to the Ottoman Empire, and it is understandable that such a vision is intimidated by the existence of the Saudi Kingdom which controls Mecca and Medina, Islam’s two most sacred cities.
On the other hand, we see Turkey and Iran getting along almost smoothly, and that is because Iran’s Ayatollahs are Shia Muslims, while Erdogan is a Sunni Muslim – their ideological ‘markets’ and audiences differ, and hence they don’t consider each other a threat. Instead, they both find common ground in being opponents of Saudi Arabia; because Iran also sees itself as the only legitimate Islamic Government, and by lacking control over Mecca and Medina, it resorts to building giant Mosques and interfering in international conflicts such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to somehow present itself as the genuine guardian of Islam and its holy sites.
Meanwhile Qatar had its propaganda network, Al-Jazeera, camped outside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, waiting for any opportunity to seek revenge from Saudi Arabia after suffering a diplomatic crisis in 2017.
Yes, many will not be convinced that Saudi Arabia is actually punishing those responsible for the killing of Khashoggi. However, what the mainstream media did not reveal is that if we were to consider Jamal Khashoggi’s murder an execution by the Saudi Kingdom, then there is nobody to blame but Khashoggi himself, as he was a staunch supporter of the death penalty – and had also defended Saudi State executions of other people wanted by the Kingdom. In other words, Jamal Khashoggi believed that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had the right to execute those it believed worthy of execution.
In an interview with Al-Jazeera regarding the case of Nimr al-Nimr who was executed by Saudi Arabia in 2016, Jamal Khashoggi stood by the decision of the Saudi Kingdom, and also supported many other executions of non-violent oppositions in Saudi Arabia.
2. Obsession with Mohammad bin Salman
There seems to be an obsession with making Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman the face of Saudi criminality. Last week, two Indian nationals were executed in Saudi Arabia. Those to be held responsible are the judicial department – they are the ones who should be questioned as to why the Indian government was not informed or involved in the arrest and trial of their citizens. However, numerous media outlets reported the incident with a thumbnail image of Mohammad bin Salman, as though the orders had come from him.
Governments are made up of different departments and ministries, and a crown-prince (who is not yet the King) is not informed of everything which takes place in every ministry. Another important factor worth mentioning is that CP Mohammad bin Salman is not regularly briefed on judicial matters, as they do not concern the office he holds. Supposing he did know about the sentencing of the two Indians beforehand, it is not in his power to reverse a court ruling. There are other appropriate procedures for such a reversal.
3. Genuine Progress of Saudi Women
The lives of Saudi women are influenced by both culture and religion. Both Middle Eastern culture as well as Islam emphasize on the “modesty of the woman”, sprinkled with a handful of man-made laws “to keep them in line.” This culture requires more than just the abolishment of the driving ban on Saudi women – it requires much more effort, and of course, patience. The way in which women are treated in Saudi Arabia was not created by the Saudi Kingdom, it existed in this very Arabian region even before the emergence of Islam.
Allowing Saudi women to drive was a great step in the right direction. The problems that emerge in or from the kingdom after these reforms do not mean that the Kingdom is taking one step forward and ten steps back, it means that change is happening, and with serious change come serious challenges. Reforming the society within Saudi Arabia is not like demolishing and rebuilding a structure, it is rather rebuilding an entire country – and not any country, a country revered by the majority of the Muslim countries in the Middle East.
Giant media corporations have the power to add speed to this process and to assist in the reformation of the entire Middle Eastern Society with what concerns women’s rights, but they are too concerned with maintaining a negative narrative towards the kingdom and its neighbours.
It is not all black and white, and despite the genuine cases of women’s rights violations in Saudi Arabia, there have been serious and commendable developments worthy of acknowledgment. These progresses not only provide hope, but also create more of it:
- The Fourth Way Law, created by HRH Princess Basmah Bint al-Saud. She describes it as: “A constitution, after taking into consideration the new and old challenges that all communities face, regardless of the systems of governance they use. I conceived of it as an antidote that can be tailored and injected into any system of governance, and customized to any country, culture and religious background.”
- Appointing HRH Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud as ambassador to the United States, making her the first female to serve as an ambassador for the Saudi Kingdom. Princess Reema has a bright history of being an advocate for women’s rights in the kingdom, and is widely seen as a rising political and social star in the country.
In this article, I had the space to attack the Saudi Kingdom and its Royals, but that would make me no different from the mainstream media. The message I am trying to get across is that: Every government has room for improvement, some take longer than others based on their social circumstances. There will be challenges and many speed bumps, but they will eventually be overcome; our duty as citizens of this planet is to assist in the solutions to these challenges and to become voices of positivity.