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Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Saudi Arabia takes a step forward, as Iran moves backwards

When the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, challenged the fundamental precepts of Islamic Sharia in an interview on April 28, the tremors were so deep, they left most Muslims and their clerics in a state of silent shock.

MBS, as the crown prince is known, had questioned the very validity of ‘Hadith’ literature – sayings attributed to Prophet Muhammad – that provide much of what is today considered Islamic Law in places as far apart as Aceh in Indonesia to University campuses in California in the West.

Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (left) in an April 28 interview challenging Sharia precepts, Iran’s President-elect Ebrahim Raisi (right) declaring himself “proud” of his tenure as a judge responsible for mass executions in a June 21 press conference.

As an example, the hijab suddenly lost its religious justification and much of the Islamic laws that created the Taliban lost their validation.

Many of us who had for decades fought the Saudization of Islam were taken aback by MBS’s statements. The man who is turning his country slightly away from funding overseas jihads and civil wars had quietly heralded women’s rights and in an unprecedented move included the Hindu texts of Mahabharat and Ramayana into the school syllabus.

These tremors in Islamdom were so deep and fundamental, they left the Imams, Muftis and mosque clerics who had always looked towards Riyadh for inspiration – both financial and religious – in a state of stunned silence. They still have not reacted.

Even the Islamist scholars in Canada held their breath, not knowing what to say or how to react to the changing winds in Islam. Of course, there was Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Pakistan’s Imran Khan to fall back on, but this Lone Ranger and Tonto team are neck-deep in their own Islamization projects; one waging jihad against rape-inducing women’s wear and the other battling Kurdish women in AK-47s.

But what we secular and liberal Muslims thought as fresh air that would cleanse centuries of stale morbidity, medieval anger, hatred of each other (particularly African Blacks), and ‘ownership’ of women, was not to last long.

While the social climate of Saudi Arabia improved dramatically, on Friday, its neighbour to the north, across the Persian Gulf, the Islamic Republic of Iran, ended up with someone who has been involved in mass murder as the country’s new president.

Iranians hitherto knew Ebrahim Raisi as one of the officials of what was in the late 1980s known as the ‘Death Commission’ that had as its task the putting to death of political prisoners found to be ‘not Muslim’ i.e. Marxists and socialists, or who were aligned to the opposition Mujahideen Khalq.

Sun columnist Candice Malcolm has detailed the horror of those times in her column here on June 21. “Within two minutes, this Death Commission would decide whether a prisoner would live or die – most were put to death. This cruel madness continued for months, as the Death Commission ordered the killing of thousands of political prisoners in just a few weeks. Some activists put that number closer to 30,000.”

Amnesty International too has responded to the election of Raisi in very harsh words. Secretary General Agnès Callamard said: “That Ebrahim Raisi has risen to the presidency instead of being investigated for the crimes against humanity of murder, enforced disappearance and torture, is a grim reminder that impunity reigns supreme in Iran.”

She noted that in 2018 Amnesty documented how Raisi had been a member of the ‘death commission’ which forcibly disappeared and extrajudicially executed in secret thousands of political dissidents in Evin and Gohardasht prisons near Tehran in 1988.

The circumstances surrounding the fate of the victims and the whereabouts of their bodies are, to this day, systematically concealed by the Iranian authorities, amounting to ongoing crimes against humanity.

Callamard added that under Raisi’s watch “the judiciary has also granted blanket impunity to government officials and security forces responsible for unlawfully killing hundreds of men, women and children and subjecting thousands of protesters to mass arrests and at least hundreds to enforced disappearance, and torture and other ill-treatment during and in the aftermath of the nationwide protests of November 2019.”

To date, not a single Canadian Islamic voice has praised Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for his liberalism nor have they denounced the new Iranian president who stands accused of mass murder.

The question to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his opposition also remains unanswered:

Will Canada maintain any ties with a country led by a man accused of mass murder? Will he permit the Iranian-born MPs in his caucus to utter a few words of condemnation?

-by Tarek Fatah

(This article was published on meforum.org on June 23, 2021 and has been reproduced here in full.)

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