The Saudi crown prince is on the first stop of his Asian tour, Pakistan, where he signed a US$ 20 billion deal. Meanwhile, a violent crackdown continues at home. Reformist religious leaders like Shaykh Salman al-Awdah risk the death penalty for their beliefs. Liberal Muslims must support the oppressed and break down the wall of silence.
Paris (AsiaNews) – Saudi Crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) arrived in Pakistan yesterday, the first stop on an Asian tour that includes India, China and Indonesia.
In Islamabad, he met with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, pledging US$ 20 billion in investments to boost the country’s fragile economy. The agreement provides for US$ 8 billion financing for the oil refinery in Gwadar. The Pakistani government gave the illustrious and wealthy guest a lavish reception, anxious to get his petrodollars to cope with a serious domestic crisis.
For Salman, money is one way to silence criticisms and attacks by NGOs and pro-human rights activists for the abuses and violence perpetrated in the kingdom and abroad. Increasingly, the “reformist” image that the 33-year-old Crown Prince has tried to project seems more and more illusory. This includes his much-vaunted Vision 2030 plan to reform, among other things social mores, like granting women the right to drive.
In reality, the arrests of senior officials and entrepreneurs last year, the repression of activists and critical voices, the war in Yemen with its civilian victims, including children, not to mention the assassination of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi cast a giant shadow on MbS.
What follow are the thoughts of Kamel Abderrahmani, 30, an Algerian Muslim scholar.
A French saying notes that "appearances are often deceptive". This is the case of the "Kingdom of Allah". One must indeed be wary about what appears to be openness in a country like Saudi Arabia, an image it has tried desperately to project to the world. That's something I said over a year. If I say it again, it is because the country’s theocratic politics is always faithful to sharia (Islamic law) and has not hesitated to make use of its barbarous and inhumane rules.
Crown Prince Salman has tried to charm the West, a way to stifle the voices that oppose the oppression imposed on human rights activists. His attempts to create the image of an open and modernising prince in the eyes of the world are contradicted by his actions: repression, arrests, organised assassination and death sentences by decapitation, etc.
Human rights activists continue to sound the alarm bells highlighting the inhuman and barbarous actions carried out in that country. One way or another, the kingdom’s courts find a way to justify the death sentence.
Like the religious reformer and university scholar Ferhan Al Maliki, who could be beheaded and whom I mentioned in another article, it is now the turn of Shaykh Salman al-Awdah. He too could be sentenced to death. Rest assured, he is not an Islamist terrorist but a religious reformer accused of promoting true personal and civil freedom, openness to critical thinking and updated religious interpretations and opinions of Islam.
Religious reformer Shaykh Salman al-Awdah has been unjustly incarcerated since September 2017 as part of a major wave of arrests aimed at stifling dissent in the kingdom of “Allah”. He was arrested just one day after he had welcomed possible reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, after he had objected to the economic war between Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
What shocks and scares me is that everyone is silent. Whether Al-Azhar in Egypt, the World Association of Muslim religious scholars, or Muslims around the world, no one is speaking out and this silence is unjustifiable and inconceivable.
This eminent progressive theologian does not deserve either imprisonment or decapitation. Saudi Arabia must revisit the way it deals with peaceful men and women who want only more freedom of conscience and expression. It is outrageous and unacceptable that men and women who denounce social injustice are treated this way in a community of more than one billion people. I include myself among them. Even though I may be in danger, as a liberal Muslim I stand by the oppressed because I am truly free, and for this reason I categorically refuse to be a prisoner of silence.