Saudi Arabia’s ruling monarch has just paid a visit to the United Kingdom, where Kim Howells, the Middle East minister standing in for Foreign Secretary David Miliband, said Britain has shared values with the Saudis.
I’ve searched for but haven’t found any explanation or exposition on what, exactly, these shared values are. Here’s a good article from the Daily Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=490596&in_page_id=1770
But bizarre claims have come from our side too. Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells has spoken of the ‘shared values’ between our two countries.
What shared values? Was he thinking of Riyadh’s ‘Chop-Chop Square’ where adulterers and thieves lose heads or arms under the kingdom’s brutal Sharia law?
Was he referring to the scores of Saudi political dissenters executed and tortured every year?
Perhaps he meant the Saudis’ treatment of women who are, in effect, kept under house arrest, banned from driving or leaving their home without a male guardian and made to dress ‘modestly’ – in other words covered from head to toe.
He presumably did not mean Tony Blair’s suppression of a corruption probe into British Aerospace’s alleged bribery of the ruling dynasty to secure a multi-billion arms contract.
In the coming days, the Saudis will claim that both Osama Bin Laden and the 15 Saudi 9/11 hijackers had no deeper connection to the culture and mores of the kingdom than that they were born and educated there.
Just as they did unconvincingly after 9/11, the Saudis will trumpet their new-found resolve in combating domestic terrorism, while promoting the idea of a UN centre to co-ordinate information on international threats and touting their peace plan for the Middle East.
But all of this polite verbiage conceals stark realities. For the truth is that for nearly three decades now, the Saudis have been exporting their indigenous extremists all over the world.
It was in 1979 that Saudi fundamentalists – fuelled by mass unemployment as well as the vast wealth, corruption and hypocrisy of the royal dynasty – stormed and occupied the holy shrine at Mecca, killing and capturing hundreds of pilgrims.
The Saudi authorities retook the mosque but they placated the growing unrest by introducing a religious crackdown and ensuring that strict Islamic codes were enforced.
They also encouraged fundamentalists to find trouble elsewhere – to go to Afghanistan and fight the atheist Soviets, even providing them with cheap flights and cash for weapons.
In this way, the authorities played a major role in financing what coalesced into Al Qaeda, whose leader, Bin Laden, is the spoilt scion of the largest Saudi construction firm.
So keen have they been to bury this connection that London’s libel courts have been used to obliterate an academic book called Alms for Jihad for daring to broach this subject.
Equally disturbingly, Saudi Arabia has used its vast oil wealth to purvey on a global scale the austere Wahhabist strain of Islam on which the Saud dynasty’s legitimacy rests, but which poisons young minds and fuels murderous anti-Jewish and anti-western resentment.