The Khashoggi Murder and Other Reasons Why I Lost Faith In Saudi Arabia

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Powerful Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, suspected to have authorized the Khashoggi hit. Photo: State Department Photo/Public Domain 

[Commentary]

Saudi Arabia has dominated the global headline news for weeks since the gruesome murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the kingdom's many attempts to cover it all up with bold face lies. This behavior of Saudi Arabia only reminds me of what I heard from an African Islamic scholar who lived and attended school in Saudi Arabia for many years. According to him, "In Arabia, I saw Islam but not Muslims." That means whatever Islam expects of its followers is being violated in Saudi Arabia and other Arabic Islamic countries. 

To understand my devastation and total disappointment some background. 

Long before I got to know about a country called Saudi Arabia, I knew about Mecca and Medina, two holy cities that are visited by millions of pilgrims every year as part of their Islamic religious obligations. 

I would later learn more about how Saudi Arabia was created in 1924 out of the region that was known simply as Arabia; how the alliance between a political leader, Abdul Saud, and religious leader Abdul Wahhab, led to the creation of Saudi Arabia. The country and many others in the region came about as a result of the Arab revolt against the rulers of the Ottoman Empire. 

The picture of Saudi Arabia as a holy land where millions of people travel to for prayer to the Most High for the forgiveness of their sins remained stuck in my head over the years. If there was any place on earth where I wanted to travel to as a child, it was the country where Mecca and Medina are located. 

Mandingoes in West Africa, who are predominantly Muslims, rejected schools set up by African American settlers who founded the nation that came to be known as Liberia. They feared that the new school introduced by the formerly-enslaved Africans could cause their children to abandon their Islamic faith. They sent their children to traditional Quranic education and later on to the madrassa which were influenced by the religious teachings from Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries. When our madrassas started receiving scholarships to study in Mecca, Medina, or Riyadh, many of our brothers who wanted education traveled to Saudi Arabia. Just as many people today from Africa and other regions seek to travel to Europe or the United STAmerica for school, people in my community sought the opportunity to study in Saudi Arabia. 

It was years later before many of us started going to what was called Nazara Karan whose literal translation was "Christian education." Any school that was not "madrassa" was considered by some to be "haram" which in Arabic means forbidden or not permissible. So I grew up with much respect and reverence for Saudi Arabia. It's home to two of the holiest places revered by billions of Muslims around the world. The pristine image of Saudi Arabia etched in my mind from childhood has been defiled over the years by the hypocritical political culture of Saudi Arabia as it fights for political dominance of the region against other countries. Consider: Saudi Arabia's role in Libya against the late Moammar Kaddaffi, leading to his overthrow and violent murder; its backing of Jihadist groups in Syria; and, its senseless war in Yemen, which has caused a reported 56,000 deaths and left 20 million people in need of humanitarian assistance and suffering starvation. 

As if the devastation in Libya, Yemen, and Syria were not enough, Saudi Arabia is urging the Trump administration to bomb Iran, even siding with Israel on that crusade; this is very troubling for a country known as the bastion of puritanical Wahhabism. 

Some in our community have argued that whatever Saudi Arabia is doing in the Middle East has nothing to do with Islam. It's difficult to make that argument when Saudi Arabia is fighting to maintain its status as the leader of the Muslim world against regional rival Iran whose version of Islam is considered as heresy by the Wahhabist religious scholars of Saudi Arabia. It is fair to say that since Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam and it's the country where Islam's holy places are located, it may have the right to claim leadership of the Islamic world. As such, it is expected to live up to expectations of billions of Muslims around the world. 

It is disappointing to see Saudi Arabia engaged in practices that contravene the principle of Islam. The  disastrous war in Yemen, the support for Jihadist militants in Syria and Libya, the overthrow of the democratically-elected government of Mohammed Morsi in Egypt, and now the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi have exposed the corruption and depravity of the Saudi regime. 

The brutal murder and reported dismemberment of Khashoggi has exposed Saudi Arabia for the whole world to see. They are getting the shock of their lives knowing that much of the world does not consider the killing "civilized" behavior; no one is on their side on this issue. How can people who say they believe in the teaching of Islam behave in such barbaric fashion? It did not help that the lunatic president of powerful U.S. tried to help cover up the murder for the sadistic Saudi regime because of the $100 billion arms deal. Meaning the U.S. was willing to turn a blind eye to the war crimes Saudi Arabia is committing everyday in Yemen with impunity. Imagine if Iran was conducting such a brutal war? 

Libya under Moammar Kaddaffi was more progressive than Saudi Arabia where women were only recently allowed to drive. Iran has regular democratic elections. There have been different leaders over the years but USA wants regime-change there while at the same time cozying up to the brutal theocratic regime of Saudi Arabia. After many of years of looking the other way while Saudi rulers did as they wished, now the U.S. has forced to confront them for their brutality. 

The Jamal Khashoggi murder has exposed the Saudi regime's unwashed rear-end for the whole world to see.

 

Nvasekie Konneh is a practicing Muslim and a veteran of the US Navy. He's a poet and writer who has written extensively on Liberia. He's the author of three books which includes Going to War for America, The Land of My Father's Birth, memoir of the Liberan civil war and The Love of Liberty Brought Us Together. He can be reached at Nvaskon1@gmail.com

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