Peeling Jewish myths about Saudi Arabia

Category: Faith & Spirituality, Middle East Topics: Interfaith, Judaism, Occupation, Saudi Arabia Views: 10330

In Isi Leibler's "Candidly Speaking" (July 29), we read myths regarding the kingdom of Saudi Arabia; sweeping statements are presented as immutable fact.

In 2005, one of my closest professional partners (as well as closest friends) and I planned for and created a model for a Saudi-sponsored interfaith dialogue to be ideally hosted by King Abdullah in Spain. We worked on the concept in Riyadh, where I live. (For the record my friend is Jewish and visits the kingdom frequently.) We submitted the business plan to specific members of the royal family, and three years later the dialogue materialized almost exactly as we imagined. It may well be that our idea was coincidence and incidental to the king's own interfaith dialogue, as we were not part of further planning, but either way the desired outcome has been achieved. 

We also, however, expected precisely the sort of media response printed - that in effect, any Jewish representative who participated on behalf of Judaism would, indeed, be placating the king or appeasing Saudi sensibilities. Any progress made in discussing globally relevant issues, specifically similarities and differences of religions, would be somehow offensive. Or, as written in The Jerusalem Post, they would be "grovelling" or "intoxicated." 

Yet, if the king or any other Saudi official did not initiate this dialogue, no doubt it would be nanoseconds before it was written that the Saudis failed, once again, to make strides toward peace. 

ONE CANNOT win for losing, but as the African proverb goes: "The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now." King Abdullah, unlike counterparts in Israel, has planted that tree. 

Leibler also repeats the oft-cited myth of "state sponsored export of Wahhabism" that has produced a network of sanctified violence. There is no such thing as "Wahhabism," just as there is no such thing as ""Maimonism." As you should know, madrassa is merely the Arabic word for school, madrassa al-din specifies a religious school, and there is no evidence yet to support any direct link between a madrassa and fighters in Afghanistan, Palestine or Iraq. In fact, there have been no convictions for terrorist activities in the United States of any Saudi, which would indicate that they have certainly had no success whatsoever for their supposed multi-billion dollar export of a radical doctrine. It certainly seems a poor cost-benefit analysis. 

Additionally, the depictions of Jews are yet another story that won't die, and I have addressed the Saudi textbooks and education directly to the US Congress and do not need to repeat here, or specify Torah or Talmud chapter and verse for comparison. The depictions of Muslims and Arabs, specifically Saudis, however, remains abhorrent within Israel at times, just as in many parts of the world. The difference appears to be that Saudis have little ability to recruit the media to their cause, and have almost no ability to boast about their culture and their views to meet the rapidly changing news cycles. They thereby too often fail to quash these sweeping and persistent generalizations, despite all their excessive cash. 

Also regurgitated is the notion that Jews are forbidden entry to Saudi Arabia. This is completely untrue, but these rumors have existed for decades, begun by US Aramco employees. Despite all corrections from the Saudis, they remain ignored. Clarifying that those with Israeli passports are not permitted entry into the kingdom (akin to no American being permitted to enter Cuba or Iran, for example), the policy rests on the political situation between the two nations. I feel safe in assuming that neither Fidel Castro nor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would be invited to many Israeli-sponsored conferences either. 

FINALLY, LET me address the state of Islam in Saudi Arabia. 

It is correct to state that it is the official religion, but that is all it is. The confirmation is in the Constitution of Saudi Arabia. It states "Islam," not Sunni, not Sufi, not Shi'ite, not Ismaeli - just plain Islam, full stop. Indeed, would it not be foolish to ban Jews or Christians from the kingdom, given the assumption that the Saudis are spending vast quantities of petrodollars on exporting Islam? Are Jews not the very people whom they would wish to "convert"? Why, until relatively recent history and migration to Israel, were Jews living safely in Arabia, having existed there since the days of Abraham? Actually, why did the prophet marry a Jew, if not to show peace among religions? 

It is understandable that some may choose words - sharper than swords - to block the path of peace and progress given the prism of Islam from within Israel. As occupiers of a predominantly Muslim land pre-1948, and as occupiers of the predominantly Muslim West Bank and Gaza, those fighting to preserve what is left of their land may "represent" to Israel all of Islam. Yet I suspect that the vast majority of Israeli Jews do not wish to be represented by the likes of the late Baruch Goldstein either, even though his slaughter of Muslims in 1993 was not in defense of his homeland and was instead an act of simple premeditated murder. 

Leibler is perfectly correct in stating that the fear of offending the other party prevents true progress. 

Indeed, a conference wherein Shas rabbis sat down with Hamas leaders and openly spoke their minds, now that would be progress. 

Tanya Cariina Hsu is a Saudi-US political analyst originally from London. She lives in Riyadh and London. 

Source: Jerusalem Post

  Category: Faith & Spirituality, Middle East
  Topics: Interfaith, Judaism, Occupation, Saudi Arabia
Views: 10330

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Older Comments:

It is a waste of time to defend the Saudi Arabia. They had oil wealth and respect as guardians of the holy places but they have squandered both due to their hedonism and narrow minded approach to muslims from around the world from top to bottom. Saudi Arabia desperately needs to change to become a more responsible player in the Muslim world and world at large or it will be forced to change by outsiders.

I lived in saudi arabia for the last 2years and half.I would confirm that there are jewish in saudi and some of them are married to saudi after they claim they are reverted to islam.starting from jeddah and riyadh to the west of arabia there are alot of jewish and christans,sauid is changing negatively, sauidis don't want to follow the islamic law anymore except for very few of them.
the article mentioned our prophet may peace and blessing be upon him that he married a jewish whom was safeyya ( from banee qoraydah) may Allah be pleased with her, and she reverted to islam before he did marry her.I use to hear always that saudi arabia is the best place to be ,it's not true anymore after I've been there.we can be the best servent of Allah from any country in the world , and i can go to makkah and madinah from any where ,may Allah guide all of us ,ameen

ASA, I also agree w/Br. Mustafa. I live in the USA and have directly witnessed the salafi/wahhabi brand of Islam being thrust upon US Muslim communities, by people and/or books that are written or studied in the Kingdom. This brand at times obsesses with minor issues and takes them to the strictest/harshest limit and beyond. This is done, often at the expense of major core Islamic values like wisdom, adab, tolerance, shura, humility. Often scaring people by using the name of 'shariah', it is never explained how the Saudi monarchy concept fits into the shariah. Many wahhabis (not all) have hijacked our beautiful religion, injecting into it false pride, arrogance, and puritanical supremist zeal. This goes against the tradition of so many of our classical scholars like the Imams of the 4 schools, Imam Al-Ghazali, and many others, May Allah have mercy on them.

Nimah,hatred will get you nowhere,which country do you belong to?!
There is two sides to a history lesson.ALSO learn to spell!!Peace


The claims in this article about Saudi Arabia's policy on Jewish visitors is not entirely correct. Until recently, the Kingdom did exclude Jewish visitors. See here, for instance: It seems hopeful that this has changed. It is a mistake, though to talk about 'rumours (which) have existed for decades.' For most of the period of decades referred to, the rumour was true.

It is the pkaitsai who hae done more damage to Islamic name and religion than anyone else unfortunatley. there is some fult of the arabs but the maina ones here are the [akistanis whom god made powerful and they promised to implement the islam as their contttiuion but failed to do so. .how could they pkaistan was created to break the power of muslims kings of south asia by the british with the help of hypocrite Ismaili scalled muhammed ali jinnah. who married apris and was drunkard ' used to sit and drink alcohol with the western invaders. " it is already recorded in history. even with so called majority muslims pkaistan still has the highest corruption rates in the world. paskistanis are foudn near the holy masjid haraam sbegiing and stealing from others. face it ti s the truth . theere are alot of qadiyanis , Ismails , and christian missionaries who have done alot of damage to akistan and look at bhutto and her husbadn who are crimnals of the higest order . would do anything to get in power including looting and killing their own nrother in laws and still sitiing on the power seat. if pakistanis dont change their ways they may face same or even worse situation than Iraq sooner than later . and above all pakistani are the first ones to arrest innocent people for wordly gain. and there is eneought evidence to prove that.

Salam Br. Mustafa and Br. Navaid,
With all due respect, I disagree with your comments here for no reason other than the fact that they are irrelevant to the context of this article. This article deals with a very specific issue - the propaganda that Israelis deliberately undertake to undermine this country, which is a fact you can not deny. And most people in this world believe them without verifying their validity, which is unfortunate. This article simply deals with this. It is also clear from the title that it is not the intention of article to do a complete analysis of Saudi politics or social affairs. So saying things like the article was trying portray Saudi Arabia as a flawless country is simply not fair.

Brothers, I share the same feelings with you about the Gulf/Middle Eastern countries who are just sitting on riches that could have been used to eliminate troubles of Muslim communities and other people. It is their selfishness, greed, and their hunger for power that make them act against Islam/justice. To tell you the truth, Islam is nowhere in any so called Muslim countries.

But this anger should not make us make comments that undermines the truth no matter who it is for/against. Also, I have my fair share of guilt - what have I ever done anything to make things better?

May Allah bless us all.
Allah knows best.
Allah Hafez!

I agree with Mustafa- the fact of the matter is that Saudi Arabia does export an Islam it considers "ideologically" correct. Apart from that, the Saudi regime should be criticized as much as possible for manipulating Islamic teachings for their own ends. It is a sad fact that they would teach Tawheed, yet establish a Kingdom wherin the monarchy is hereditery and not the result of any sort of shura (consensus) in society, which is contrary to the Prophetic message.

I am a non-Saudi Muslim who lived in Saudi Arabia for many years. While I completely agree that many myths and outright lies are propagated against the country and its people, the article makes it seem as if there is nothing wrong there. That is simply not the truth, and it detrimental to the entire Ummah to act defensive and gloss over the major human rights concerns and authoritarian implementation of Wahabbist doctrine. And please don't tell me Saudi's don't try to export their "version" of Islam. I have been privy to negotiations with Islamic organizations in the US with the Saudi govt, where they offered millions for building a mosque, with the stipulation that they would provide imams and all the books. The Saudi govt has done more damage to Muslims worldwide then any bomb or foreign govt could ever do.