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Britain’s love affair with the Saudi kingdom – tale of Saudi’s Islamic theocracy’s Oppressive brutality

November 4, 2007

Britain’s love affair with the Saudi kingdom – tale of Saudi’s Islamic theocracy’s Oppressive brutality

Britain’s love affair with the Saudi kingdom

By Jemima Khan
Last Updated: 12:01am GMT 04/11/2007

King Abdullah arrived at Heathrow last Wednesday morning for the
first State Visit to the UK for 20 years – five planes, 13 family members, an
entourage of several hundred. No women.

I’ve been to Saudi Arabia a few
times. It’s not much fun being a woman there. I suspect it’s worse being a Saudi
woman. And worse still being her migrant maid.

It’s a mad place and the
rules there have got nothing to do with Islam.

advertisementI’ve had my
feet beaten, not once but twice – first by a stick-wielding crone at Mecca for
not wearing socks, then by a pool attendant when I (swathed entirely in
compulsory trick-or-treat black) took my son to the hotel pool for a paddle.

I’ve heard old ladies complain that they are so harassed at night by the
frustrated male youth of Jeddah that they have to take their scarves off and
reveal their raddled faces just to scare them off. The irony of having to show
your face to protect your modesty was entirely lost on them.

I’ve also
woken up mid-flight on the plane home from Jeddah to London and discovered that
the passengers who embarked in full hijab have all been replaced by Bond Street
babes.

In Saudi Arabia, a woman can’t travel abroad, leave the house or
even be examined by a doctor without the express permission of her husband. She
cannot be seen with any man except a close family member, the only exception
being her chauffeur – and that’s a necessity because legally she’s not permitted
to drive. She cannot marry a non-Muslim (or even a non-Sunni Muslim). And she
cannot wear anything other than a long black cloak and headscarf in public.
Although women account for 70 per cent of all graduates, they make up just 5 per
cent of the workforce. If they contravene the strict laws, they risk public
floggings or execution.

A few years ago, 15 girls died in a school fire
in Mecca because religious police (“The Commission for The Promotion of Virtue
and Prevention of Vice”) prevented them from leaving the blazing school building
as they were not wearing correct Islamic dress and there were no relatives
outside to receive them. Apparently the police beat them as they tried to
escape.

Some would say the rules are as inexplicable (not to mention as
unIslamic) as in Afghanistan under the Taliban, where a friend of mine – a
Pakistani journalist – had his pubic hair measured at a check point (with a
stick with duct tape on the end shoved into his shalwar) to see if it was
cropped in accordance with religious custom.

But the difference is that
our government expressed outrage and bombed Afghanistan for their human rights
abuses as well as for harbouring (mostly Saudi) terrorists. And, for good
measure, we bombed Iraq too, at least in part for their human rights abuses and
lack of democracy.

King Abdullah, on the other hand – our Prime
Minister’s “friend” with whom, according to Foreign Office Minister Kim Howell,
“we have many values in common” – gets a ceremonial welcome, a couple of
banquets, breakfast with the Queen at Buckingham Palace and meetings with Gordon
Brown, David Cameron and Prince Charles.

The Prime Minister failed to
bring up the subject of human rights or democracy. Or the fact that Saudi Arabia
exports and sponsors an extreme and distorted form of Islam to the rest of the
World.

The madrassahs in Pakistan, which gave rise to the radicalism of
the Taliban, have been funded by Saudi money since the Afghan jihad.

And
a hoard of malignant literature can be found inside as many as a quarter of
Britain’s mosques, published and distributed by agencies linked to the
government of King Abdullah. These “education pamphlets” call for, amongst other
measures, the beheading of Muslims who abandon Islam, attacks on homosexuals,
religious segregation of society, for women to stay indoors and interfaith
marriages to be banned.

Nor did our PM mention the persecution of Shias,
homosexuals, non-Muslims, the public floggings, the torture, the detentions
without trial or the maltreatment of migrant workers. Nor the total lack of
freedom of expression and information nor the ban on trade unions, political
opposition and non-Muslim religions.

Does our government really care
about human rights and democracy?

The message is, it’s business as
usual, everything forgiven, as long as you’re a country which is pro-West,
strategically important, oil rich and able to buy billions of pounds worth of
our arms.

There’s nothing new about it. It’s not even that surprising.
In fact, our politicians can’t even be bothered to offer an excuse.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2007/11/04/do0407.xml

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