This is the third and final part of a series of three blogs that discusses the Saudi Crown Prince’s recent visit to the United States and, in particular, his interview in CBS’s 60 Minutes. Click here for Part I of the blog series.
Sharia Law and the Religious State
Sharia is an all-comprehensive ethicolegal system, but with an unfortunately bad name in the West. To explain this, I would need, in addition to being an expert in Islamic Jurisprudence, a hundred other blogs. I am not an expert, and I know you don’t want to read a hundred blogs. But, here’s an example of a paper that was presented this year at a conference in Harvard Medical School. It’s about the Islamic legal discussion on organ transplantation in the early part of the last century. Now you might not find the specifics of this medical procedure interesting, but the summary shown below gives you an interesting glimpse of a wide-ranging law that is certainly not only about limbs amputations.
It is unfortunate that an ethicolegal system as significant and as comprehensive as “Sharia” has been given a bad name due to lunatics like Osama bin Laden, Al Qaida and ISIS. The system that govern human relations be it financial, ethical, governmental, judicial or otherwise has been reduced to a very un-orthodoxically reckless interpretation of a very small part of it, the Hudood, which might not even constitute a single percentage of the total collection of Laws.
Hudood (an Arabic word for boundries, borders or frontiers) is the name of the section in Sharia that discusses penalties for a list of a limited number of ultimate crimes such as murder, brigandage, rape or high treason.
That bad name was amplified and furtherly terrorized by either mere ignorants, or special-interests’ driven Islamophobes who furthered their agendas by the habit of creating rifts between different cultures and civilizations.
The likes of Osama bin Laden saw a new version of a Sharia-compliant country that can actually work within the means and norms of the modern world… and hated it. This is precisely why back in 2001, he purposefully sought, found and recruited 15 naïve Saudis to be brainwashed and led by Non-Saudi experts to carry out his terror act of the century. The last of those “experts” to be arrested, was the Syrian-national Mohammed Zammar; an alleged 9/11 recruiter and a trainer who was caught by the Kurds in war-torn Syria this month. 15 out of the 19 attackers were Saudis not because Saudis in majority harbor terrorist tendencies, but because the head of Al Qaida wanted them to be seen as such. He wanted to damage the image of the only existing sharia-compliant modern nation, and he did. For years, Saudis (officials and citizens alike) have suffered the consequences of anti-terror measures, from one end, as well as terror attacks from the other.
Seventeen years after the ominous attacks, however, the world realized that Saudis did not harbor terrorism, but rather were at the forefront of battling this worldwide problem. Just recently for example, in a debate at the British House of Commons, Prime Minister Theresa May proclaimed powerfully that her country’s relationship with Saudi Arabia “is historic, it is an important one, and it has saved the lives of potentially hundreds of people” in her country
As much as it is important for the world to have realized Saudi Arabia’s vital role in fighting terrorism, it is also extremely important for the world to view the Saudi version of Sharia Law as a beacon towards a prosperous future for the Middle East.
The 60 Minutes interview with Mohammed bin Salman referred to it as the “ancient arrangement of power sharing between the House of Saud and the Wahhabi Islam, the strict predominant faith in Saudi Arabia.” Now, putting aside the “Wahhabi” rhetoric, this religion and state “arrangement” is why Saudi Arabia exists today. It is the glue that keeps our tribal society together. It is the legitimacy of a ruling house that was historically brought back to power by the people four times after it was destroyed by foreign forces. It is why 2.15 Million Kilometers of the world’s deserts that was completely in the dark for thousands of years exists today as a modern civilized member of the United Nations.
Now, I understand the West’s sensitivity towards monarchy and the religious state. But, on the other hand, the West must also recognize that their social experiment, and thus development over history, is as unique as ours.
You must understand, our society did not go through the experiment of a brutal theocratic authority of a single church. We haven’t experienced the superficially biased Noble rule and its inhumane feudal system. And, we did not have a historical libertarian revolution that denounced all this injustice and transformed the power to the hands of the demographic majority. This is a social experiment unique only to the West.
We had a unique experiment of our own that includes conditions inexplicable to Western society. Tribalism in our society, for example, is real, ancient and is going nowhere. To me at least, a religious autocracy with a legitimacy conditional to an ancient undisputed covenant is better than a secular republic with an unconditional legitimacy brought by a popular vote. A republic that is going to be autocratic nonetheless because of votes that are casted almost entirely due to cousinhood, not eligibility. In other words, Democracy or Secularism as they are known in the West can be perfect for Western society, but it might not be for everyone. In the Arab World, it is the secular republics, not the religious monarchies that had their people suffer brutal regimes, untouchable corruption, gruesome genocide and bloody revolutions. During the Arab Spring of bloodshed, the people under the religious monarchic system of Saudi Arabia have enjoyed safety, unity and prosperity.
Now I am not saying that all Western ideas are bad, nor that we are perfect. But you have to give us our space to grow, and we are growing fast. We want change, and we want it fast. But we want it our way and in our pace.
In any positive relationship, there is mutual understanding, mutual dialogue and mutual compromise. If such things were based on mutual values and bound by mutual respect, mutual existence will be achieved, and it will, indeed, be beneficial for all.
In the conclusion of Mohammed bin Salman’s tour of the USA and Europe, he is saying what all his people are thinking and he is saying it to the people of the West, not only the politicians. Hey! We are here. We are extending our hands. Meet us halfway, will ya?