ARABS LOCK HORNS

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir called Qatar’s demands for an internationalization of the Muslim hajj pilgrimage a declaration of war against the kingdom.

“Qatar’s demands to internationalize the holy sites is aggressive and a declaration of war against the kingdom,” al-Jubeir told us. “We reserve the right to respond to anyone who is working on the internationalization of the holy sites,” he said.

Corrupt terrorist Saudi Arabia and its corrupt terrorist royal family have been actively spreading their interpretation of Islam since the 1970s, though, among others, the MWL (Muslim World League) and the WANY (World Assembly of Muslim Youth), as well as mosque construction and imam education. Many senators have called for a government investigation to criminalize the spread of militant Wahhabism and Salafism as an important part of national efforts against extremism and jihadi propaganda.

Qatar accused the Saudis of politicizing Hajj and addressed the United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion on Saturday, expressing concern about obstacles facing Qataris who want to attend hajj this year.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and Bahrain have previously issued a list of 13 demands for Qatar, which include curtailing its support for the Muslim Brotherhood, shutting down the Doha-based Al Jazeera channel, closing a Turkish military base, and downgrading its relations with Gulf enemy Iran.

Wahhabism is a cult built on fanatical fantasies of a power-hungry desert preacher in the 1700s, and it permitted the execution of apostates, which included proponents of different interpretations of Islam, followers of other religions and non-believers. Coincidentally, this is where Jihadis happen to stand.

Norway and Sweden came under fire for voting yes to allow Saudi Arabia, arguably the world’s biggest abuser of women’s rights, to the UN Commission for the Status of Women, despite Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström previously calling Saudi Arabia “medieval.” Electing Saudi Arabia to protect women’s rights was like making an arsonist into the town fire chief!

On Sunday, foreign ministers of the four countries said they were ready for dialogue with Qatar if it showed willingness to tackle their demands. The four Arab countries which have cut ties with Qatar said on Sunday they were ready for talks to tackle the dispute if Doha showed willingness to deal with their demands

The foreign ministers of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) met in the Bahraini capital Manama to discuss the crisis that has raised tensions across the region.

Diplomatic efforts led by Kuwait and backed by Western powers have failed to end the dispute, in which the four states have severed travel and communications with Qatar.

“The four countries are ready for dialogue with Qatar with the condition that it announces its sincere willingness to stop funding terrorism and extremism and its commitment to not interfere in other countries’ foreign affairs and respond to the 13 demands,” Bahrain’s foreign minister, Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa, told us. They announced no new economic sanctions on the Gulf state.

Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and Bahrain have previously issued a list of 13 demands for Qatar, which include curtailing its support for the Muslim Brotherhood, shutting down the Doha-based Al Jazeera channel, closing a Turkish military base and downgrading its relations with Gulf enemy Iran.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said Qatar was not serious in tackling the countries’ demands. “We are ready to talk with Qatar on the implementation of the demands, on the implementation of the principles, if Qatar is serious, but it has been clear that it is not,” he said. The four countries have also listed “six principles” they want Qatar to adopt.

The Saudi-led bloc cut ties with the Gulf state on June 5, accusing it of backing militant groups and cozying up to their arch-foe Iran, allegations Doha denies. The four countries are expected to impose sanctions that will gradually affect the Qatari economy.

Saudi Arabia has closed its land border with Qatar while all four countries have cut air and sea links with Doha, demanding the gas exporting country take several measures to show it was changing its policies.

Turkey and Iran have stepped in to provide fresh produce, poultry and dairy products to Qatar instead of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, with Oman providing alternative ports to those in the UAE. The four Arab countries added 18 more groups and individuals they say are linked to Qatar to their terrorist lists last week.

During his trip to Saudi Arabia, Israel and Europe in May, Trump inaugurated the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology (GCCEI) in Riyadh — an endeavor that its appointed secretary-general, Nasir Al-Biqami of Umm al-Qura University in Mecca, described as the fruit of collaboration between Muslim countries that believe in the importance of combating terrorism.

However admirable a goal from the point of view of the West, this initiative has little chance of success, given the repressive regimes involved and the extremist worldview of the individuals who will be funded to promote it.

Partnerships with repressive regimes may in some cases exacerbate rather than solve the problem for us. Gradual reform is exactly the right approach, but will we see pushing Sisi of Egypt (with whom he is friendly), or Erdogan of Turkey, or the Bahrainis, for gradual reform?

This is quite wrong. The Sunni royal family’s oppression of the country’s Shia majority is in fact creating a breeding ground for radicalism and opening a door for Iranian subversion.  Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi Islam is at least a gateway drug for extremism. All around the world, Saudi money is being used to suppress indigenous forms of Islam. Saudi preachers, mosques, and schools teach that local and moderate versions of Islam are impure and must be replaced by the only true version, the Saudi Wahhabi version. But that version of Islam treats unbelievers with contempt and often hatred, oppresses women, and opposes democracy.

The new Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology seems to be the logical extension of Obama’s efforts in the same area. In February 2015, the United States hosted a summit on combating violent extremism, which produced follow-up regional meetings to tackle various aspects of this phenomenon. It may have amounted to little more than extended speechifying.

Even on Iran, which Trump identified as the source of extremism and instability in the Middle East, the White House issued waivers on May 17 regarding Iranian sanctions, in keeping with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

The only way, therefore, that the GCCEI can become more than simply another heavily-funded, failed organization — and contribute credibly to the war on global extremism and terror — is for its member states to engage in genuine introspection and undertake serious study of the roots of radicalism.

The GCCEI needs to examine, among other things, the way in which its patron, Saudi Arabia, has participated in, if not spearheaded, the very extremism that it is claiming now to combat: the connection between Wahhabism and terrorism; the hostility of its regime to democracy; the abuse of human rights; and the suppression of moderate interpretations of Islam.

The other Muslim/Arab states taking part in the initiative, too, must address the possible correlation between their regimes’ repression, humiliation and torture of their people and the adoption of violence on the part of individuals. Only after acknowledging and scrutinizing these questions can internal reform take place.

Is the GCCEI interested, willing or able to undertake such measures, or will it serve as an arena for Saudi propaganda and short-sighted state-security work? The latter is more likely, for a number of reasons.

First, Muslim/Arab leaders have come to learn, from past experience, that much of the White House’s approach to the Middle East begins and ends with lip service. Second, when Trump stated that fighting extremism and terrorism transcends every other consideration, he was, in effect, giving them unwritten permission to continue cracking down on their citizens.

Third, GCCEI — called Etidal (moderation) in Arabic — will be managed by a board of 12 directors appointed every five years, and the number of directors from each member state will be based on that country’s financial contribution to the center. In other words, the center will be ruled by — and further the interests of — wealthy absolute monarchies.

Finally, GCCEI research on how terrorist groups function, coupled with innovative monitoring techniques that the center develops, will provide additional fodder to the arsenals employed by member states not only to tackle terrorism committed by groups they oppose, but to enhance the political stronghold of their regimes.

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