From Khashoggi to Nicki Minaj: the immoral misadventures of MBS

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July 13, 2019

by Ramin Mazaheri for The Saker Blog cross posted by permission with PressTV

(Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for PressTV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. He is the author of “I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China”.)

Last month I was in Tehran for the end of Ramazan, and the night before Eid e-Fitr my family and I went to a public street food festival downtown.

It might surprise many non-Iranians, but the array of live music included electric guitars and rock and roll. The rockers did not draw a bigger crowd than an excellent, traditionally-dressed Sufi singer playing the daf (a Middle Eastern hand drum).

It will likely not surprise non-Iranians, however, that there was not any performer who resembled Nicki Minaj.

Saudi Arabia provoked indignation across the Muslim world by inviting Minaj, an American rapper known for her nearly-naked live performances and profanity, to perform in public at a cultural festival in Jeddah.

Saudi women fairly complained: How can the government (and probably also their grandmothers) compel them to wear modest clothing in public, but then give a stage to Minaj?

Saudi women who support their dress code – and credible polls show that Saudi women overwhelmingly support both the code as well as the most modest forms of female Muslim dress – fairly screamed that Mohammad Bin Salman is helping Minaj break a rule which they truly treasure.

Minaj’s concert would have come just ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, adding another layer of democratic disapproval at home and shock across the Muslim world. The Minaj invitation provided yet another reason why Muslims are openly boycotting Hajj like never before: The Saudi monarchy clearly does not respect the values of Islam, and they are committing horrific crimes against Muslims.

Minaj has just pulled out of the concert, saying that she did not want to perform in a country where “women have no rights”, adding that her decision was not intended to “disrespect” the Saudi government. Minaj shows her lack of political modernity by declaring her respect for the reactionary and outdated form of government of monarchism, but MBS is sure to be very sad-faced about her decision – this puts him at odds with the average Saudi person’s morality, yet again.

Our headline does not equate the death of (psuedo-dissident) Jamal Khashoggi with the now-cancelled performance of a stripteasing rapper – it points out how both are cases of the Saudi monarchy evincing no respect for humanity nor for the democratic will of Saudi Arabians.

Minaj and her values are embraced and encouraged in the US, and that is their decision – it is not for Saudi Arabia to impose their choices on the US, any more than the average Saudi wants the US to decide how they should live. However, it seems rather obvious that the average Saudi woman and man absolutely disagrees with Minaj’s values, and it is the obligation of rulers (we cannot use the phrase “civil servants” in the Saudi context) to respect their own people (subjects, in the Saudi context).

Yet we should never be surprised that MBS – or any Arab monarch – so blatantly defies public opinion, because these Western-propped governments lack anything resembling modern democratic structures. Who knows what whim possesses them to do anything? What is certain is that they act with zero accountability, zero democracy, zero notions of post-aristocratic ideals, and in a manner which is totally unbecoming of the custodians of Islam’s most important sites.

The goal of the Minaj invitation seemed obvious, and we see Israel do the same thing: it was an attempt to whitewash the regime’s crimes within the Western public: By slavishly showing the West that they embrace Western pop culture, they are trying to “normalise” reactionary, murderous and apartheid-like conditions.

This is why the Saudis promised fast-tracked electronic visas for international visitors: they want the West’s 1% taste-makers to visit, and then return home saying,

“Saudi Arabia is just like us – our Western government is right to support them.”

Their governments are not right.

The show would have been broadcast by MTV, which would have furthered the reach of this attempt to normalise an abnormal government. MTV would have surely billed Minaj’s performance as a “step forward for female empowerment in Saudi Arabia”, which is preposterous.

If Minaj truly wanted to empower the average Saudi Arabian woman she could have considered performing in local clothing – that would say, “Saudi women have a culture worthy of admiration, emulation and respect.” Minaj performing in an abaya could show young, impressionable MTV viewers that Islamophobia is wrong, and that the anti-hijab laws across Europe are racist, anti-democratic and produce violent attacks on Muslim women. But fighting Muslims – not fighting Islamophobia – is the goal of the West’s leadership, from their political leaders to their cultural elite.

The Saudi monarchy is also not right in supporting Minaj’s brand of rap. I reviewed some of her lyrics, as I am unfamiliar with her music: her lyrics openly glorify her pride in exchanging her beauty for money and luxury; they glorify criminality and drug-dealing; they are ragingly capitalist and obsessed with asserting her self-importance and your inferiority.

When I read Minaj’s lyrics I don’t see an artist, but I do occasionally see an attempt at art: Minaj deserves credit for also talking about how her African-American community has been absolutely devastated by the incredibly racist policies of the United States at all levels of their government.

It is no wonder that the vast majority of Minaj’s lyrics are so debased – she is from a community which has been degraded for 400+ years simply because of their color. The recognition of this degradation is why during the occupation of the US embassy in 1979 the modern Iranian leadership freed not just the embassy’s women but also the African-Americans.

But, excepting their slave era, it is now worse than ever for African-Americans: Since 1980 their imprisonment rates have skyrocketed by well over 300%, a community-crushing experience which may only be paralleled by Palestinians. This has devastated African-American families, and thus gutted their culture and music of peace, hope, harmony and love.

Compounding this sadness is the fear and violence they live with – guns and gang warfare are permitted to flourish in the African-American part of town, whatever town that is, and this is expressly by American cultural design. The US government, at all levels, has no interest in providing African-American citizens and taxpayers with safety or law and order. Even Europe’s Roma don’t live with such violence, at least.

Adding to all that: The economic and political power redistribution efforts finally begun in the 1960s were killed by the Democrat Bill Clinton, and thus endemic poverty in the African-American community adds yet another level of hardship and tremendous suffering to their daily lives.

Therefore, considering how often she has seen her fellow African-Americans die young, and spend their lives in prison, and spend their lives in poverty, then I can understand why Minaj’s lyrics are so unconcerned with consequences and so concerned with immediate, greedy acquisition. After all, acceptance of these degraded concepts have been been violently forced upon the African-American community, just like drugs, guns, poverty and familial dissolution.

Minaj is thus just another raging American capitalist – with all the depravity that implies – because African-Americans are given no other way out. She sells her body just as violently as a Black American football player from the ghetto does in the hope of acquiring a university education.

Given this reality, when Washington’s officials and NGOs try to lecture Iran about human rights, I wonder if they have ever even set foot inside the entire African-American-majority cities of Gary, Indiana, or Flint, Michigan, or most of the west side of Chicago, or any of the thousands of “American Apartheid” towns and neighbourhoods. The systematic oppression of African-Americans may be ignored by them, but it is not going unnoticed by the rest of the world. When Iranian officials say that the values of Washington make diplomacy impossible – and this was heard long before the JCPOA – this is certainly one of the situations they are referring to.

All these things cannot be admitted in the United States. The oppression, delusion and total hypocrisy in the US regarding this abomination is so extreme that I find it hard to conceive that African-Americans could acquire justice before Palestinians do.

Minaj has certainly not been elevated by their mainstream media for her prideful lyrical defences of her besieged community, although I can imagine that does explain part of her popularity among the African-American community. No, Minaj is elevated as a “liberator” and “model example” by the Western 1% expressly because of her vulgarity, both romantic and ideological.

Minaj actually serves an important function: she injects this culture of desperation, violence and self-centeredness – which is required to survive in a US ghetto – into the culture of the middle and upper classes, which have no need to resort to such desperate tactics, and this helps perpetuate US neo-imperialist culture at home and abroad. US capitalism-imperialism first requires, of course, domestic indoctrination of their own people.

But the problems of the African-American community are not the responsibilities of MBS and the Saudi monarchy – reflecting the moral standards and public opinion of the Saudi people is.

Minaj victimises everyone with her lyrics, probably because she doesn’t realise that she has been victimised herself by US culture. While it technically could depend on the song she chooses to rap and the manner in which she would have appeared on stage to rap it, barring some sort of immediate and drastic conversion she would have certainly victimised impressionable Saudi Arabians as well.

I personally respect Nicki Minaj a great deal – she is a human being and a woman, and she deserves much better than being paid to gratify a leering, murderous sheik.

I also personally respect the people of Saudi Arabia and their wishes for democratic empowerment – I hope they finally realise that their reactionary monarchy do not, and never will.

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Saudi Authorities Target Families of Activists: Deprived of Life!

By al-Ahed

Beirut – The Saudi authorities continue their escalatory policies to silence any voice demanding rights and justice. In the context of tightening the grip on peaceful activists, the Saudi regime continues its oppressive measures against their families. It is preventing the families of those “wanted” from basic services, punishing them for their rightful activism.

According to information obtained by al-Ahed news, the Saudi authorities are banning families of activists from the governmental services, as well as depriving them of traveling or obtaining any personal document such as a passport or an identity card.

The families are also deprived of issuing identity and health cards belonging to their children, making it impossible for them to receive any kind of medical treatment or even entering hospitals.

The measures are practiced against the mothers, fathers, siblings, wives and children of those “wanted”, and include the educational services, banning them even from registering them at schools.

Not to mention, they are also being targeted financially as they are not allowed to renew their bank cards once they are expired, leading eventually to close their entire bank accounts, and logically, stop their living and daily affairs…

Former Qatari PM: Most of ISIL Fighters Are Saudi

June 8, 2019

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The former Qatari prime minister Hamad bin Jasem denied all the Saudi accusations about his country’s involvement in supporting terror, stressing that most of ISIL fighters are from Saudi Arabia.

In an interview with the British newspaper, The Telegraph, bin Jasem said that all the Saudi allegations are unproven, adding that neither the United States nor the European countries have supported them.

Bin Jasem also said that Saudi supports the terrorist groups for its own interests, reminding that 15 out of the 19 terrorists who carried out the September 11 attacks are Saudi.

Source: Al-Manar English Website

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Saudi Crackdown: Three Prominent Scholars to Be Executed after Ramadan

By Staff, Agencies

In the course of the ruthless Saudi crackdown led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman against Muslim preachers and intellectuals, the kingdom’s officials are reportedly set to sentence three imprisoned dissident scholars to death and execute them shortly after the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

The London-based Middle East Eye news website, citing two unnamed Saudi government sources, reported on Tuesday that the three men are Sheikh Salman al-Ouda, Sheikh Awad al-Qarni and Ali al-Omari.

Ouda is the assistant secretary-general of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, listed by the Riyadh regime as a ‘terrorist’ organization.

Saudi authorities detained the prominent cleric on September 7, 2017, and have held him in solitary confinement without charge or trial ever since. The officials have imposed travel bans on members of his family as well.

A family member told Human Rights Watch that the distinguished cleric was being held over his refusal to comply with an order by Saudi authorities to tweet a specific text to support the Saudi-led blockade of Qatar.

Ouda, instead, posted a tweet, saying, “May God harmonize between their hearts for the good of their people,” – an apparent call for reconciliation between the Gulf littoral states.

Awda has been prevented from communicating with the outside world since October last year.

The trio is currently awaiting trial at the Special Criminal Court in the capital Riyadh. A hearing was set for May 1, but was postponed without setting a further date.

“They will not wait to execute these men once the death sentence has been passed,” a source said on condition of anonymity.

A second source, requesting not to be named, said the beheading of 37 Saudi nationals in a single day on April 23 was used as a trial balloon to see how strong the international condemnation was.

“When they found out there was very little international reaction, particularly at the level of governments and heads of state, they decided to proceed with their plan to execute figures who were prominent,” the source said.

Saudi Arabia has stepped up politically-motivated arrests, prosecution and conviction of peaceful dissident writers and human rights campaigners.

Saudi officials have also intensified crackdown in the country’s Shia-populated Eastern Province.

The province has been the scene of peaceful demonstrations since February 2011. Protesters have been demanding reforms, freedom of expression, the release of political prisoners, and an end to economic and religious discrimination against the oil-rich region.

They, however, have been met with a heavy-handed crackdown by the regime, with regime forces increasing security measures across the province.

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War on Qatif: Demolishing Al-Thawra Neighborhood, The Cradle of Peaceful Protests…

By Latifa al-Husseini

The Saudi authorities are escalating their arbitrary measures against the people of al-Qatif eastern province and its towns. Random detentions, executions and raids in the eastern province contradict all humanitarian, ethical, rights and internationally-recognized legal standards.

The Saudi security apparatuses are implementing the royal orders they are receiving, imposing the rulings militarily and violently against safe civilians at their homes, those civilians who don’t enjoy the freedom of objecting to those tyrannical rulings.

The regime’s scheme goes beyond oppressing the opposition members or those trying to voice objection to the Al Saud’s family. The issue is way more dangerous as the information obtained from inside Saudi Arabia suggest a sectarian proposal the Saudi regime tends to apply in al-Qatif against its people’s will.

An insider source told al-Ahed News that the “security sources are on the brink of razing hundreds of houses inside Qatif, namely those located in al-Thawra Street to displace thousands of residents like the issue of razing the al-Mosawara neighborhood back in 2017.”

Apparently, the Saudi authorities claim implementing a developmental plan that includes charitable projects, in an attempt to gain some popular support, but what is hidden is worse. The source stresses to al-Ahed that in this context, “the Saudi regime seeks to change the Shia demographic formation in the region to weaken the biggest portion of the people; the original landowners, by nationalizing foreigners and intruders.”

The source further links the anticipated plan with the popular movement of 2012. What is meant here is to eliminate the symbolism it used to represent, especially that Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman seeks to muzzle people and silence any voice of opposition by detaining or killing them afar from the judicial system.”

“The goal behind destroying houses and displacing their people is way beyond the Saudi media claims of chasing terrorist groups, according to them. The issue, as simple as it is, is that the Saudi regime is waging a sectarian war under the strategy of dominating people by dividing them, in which it is distracting the people with “reformative” religious instructions, although it is manipulating the governance as well as the people’s resources and wealth,” the source tells al-Ahed.

According to the source, the direct responsible for the scheme of razing the houses is the King and his heir. “The scheme is managed, under their order, by their affiliated spies and tradesmen in al-Qatif. They want to harm all walks of the people living inside those houses, including the youths who long for obtaining the simplest aspects of a dignified life Al Saud has stolen from them by force someday; the families of the activists who took to the al-Thawra street in 2011.”

While people were informed about the scheme, the source explains that “there were reports on those malicious intents, but the people refused to leave their houses for many reasons, including that the compensations supposed to be paid for them are not convenient with the inflation as well as hiking house prices. Hence, the family that leaves its home cannot buy another one with the amount of money it will receive in exchange of the razing; they can only rent a house.”

The source affirms that the “Saudi regime doesn’t care for those issues, it only continue its oppression by destroying and razing houses against their owners’ wills.”

The provided information signal a scheme similar to previous ones in other neighborhoods and streets. The historic al-Mosawara neighborhood is a good evidence to remember.

 

To read the Arabic version click here

Entire Yemeni Family Martyred in Saudi Airstrike on their Home in Sana’a

By Staff, Agencies

All members of a Yemeni family were martyred as a Saudi warplane raided their home in al-Raqas neighborhood in central Sana’a.

Witnesses reported the death of a whole family, composed of six members including four children, following an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition targeting a house in the residential neighborhood of al-Raqas.

Meanwhile, Yemeni Health Ministry announced that more than 30 people were martyred and injured as the coalition targeted residential neighborhood.

Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched the devastating campaign against Yemen in March 2015.

According to a report by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project [ACLED], the Saudi-led war has so far claimed the lives of about 56,000 Yemenis.

The war has also taken a heavy toll on the country’s infrastructure, destroying hospitals, schools, and factories. The UN has already said that a record 22.2 million Yemenis are in dire need of food, including 8.4 million threatened by severe hunger. According to the world body, Yemen is suffering from the most severe famine in more than 100 years.

New Saudi Airstrikes Claim Yemenis’ Lives in the Month of Fasting

By Staff, Agencies

Regardless that people are fasting as the month of Ramadan has not ended yet, at least six civilians, including children, were martyred and dozens of others wounded in multiple airstrikes by a Saudi-led coalition on various neighborhoods of Yemen’s capital, Sana’a.

According to Yemen’s Arabic-language al-Masirah television network, Saudi-led warplanes pounded various parts of the capital on Thursday, killing at least six civilians, four of whom were children from one family, and wounding dozens more.

Medical officials said the death toll could rise due to the intensity of the strikes and the number of those who have been seriously injured. They added that there could be other civilians, dead or wounded, under the rubble.

Most of the strikes targeted residential areas in Sana’a, the officials said.

Warplanes also struck a building of Yemen’s Ministry of Information, al-Masirah added. There were no immediate reports about possible casualties or the extent of the damage caused.

Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched a devastating campaign against Yemen in March 2015, with the goal of bringing the government of ex-president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi back to power.

According to a December 2018 report by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project [ACLED], a nonprofit conflict-research organization, the Saudi-led war has claimed the lives of over 60,000 Yemenis since January 2016.

The war has also taken a heavy toll on the country’s infrastructure, destroying hospitals, schools, and factories. The UN said in a report in December 2018 that over 24 million Yemenis were in dire need of humanitarian aid, including 10 million suffering from extreme levels of hunger.

 

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The Chilling Message of the Saudi Executions: Colorado Writer

Saudi flag

Terence Ward

May 9, 2019

Terence Ward is a Colorado-born writer, documentarist, and cross-cultural consultant. He grew up in Saudi Arabia, Iran and Egypt, and received his BA in political science at the University of California at Berkeley. For 10 years, he advised clients across the Gulf — Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia conducting management consulting projects and seminars. Ward is also the author of the books “Searching for Hassan” and “The Wahhabi Code: How the Saudis Spread Extremism Globally.”

A couple of weeks have passed since the dramatic beheadings of 37 Saudi citizens that shocked the world. According to Human Rights Watch, at least 33 of those who were executed were from the minority Shia community — which has suffered a long history of persecution in Saudi Arabia.

With the Kingdom facing mounting criticism over bombing deaths and starvation in the Yemen war, imprisoned and reportedly tortured women activists, and the grisly murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, many wonder why Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud offered critics another human rights issue? But these executions served a clear purpose to strike fear in the Saudi Shia population while rallying the royal family’s ultra-conservative Wahhabi – the official creed of the Kingdom fundamentalist base. In the end, to be Shia in Saudi Arabia has always been a complicated affair.

Few Americans know that Wahhabism, a branch of Sunni Islam, looks down on Shia Muslims as apostates. Violence against Shia communities is deeply rooted in the Saudi Kingdom’s DNA. Like African Americans in the Deep South, the Shia have suffered discrimination and suspicion from the Wahhabi ruling elite since the founding of the country in 1932.

Those who were executed in April included protestors who were arrested and convicted of terror-related crimes during the Arab Spring demonstrations in 2011 and 2012. However, the human rights group Amnesty International said the legal proceedings “violated international fair trial standards which relied on confessions extracted through torture.”

According to trial documents obtained by CNN, some of the men repeatedly told the court that their confessions were false and obtained through torture.

When Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman rose to power in 2017, there was some hope that the Salman dynasty would usher in reforms. However, anti-Shia rhetoric persisted. For example, the hardline cleric Saleh al-Fawzan, a member of the state-sponsored Council of Senior Scholars, claimed in 2017, that the Shia are infidels and that anyone who disagrees is also an infidel.

And al-Fawzan has also said that political dissidents who disagree with the Kingdom rulers should be put to death.

The disappearance and murder of Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi government, after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, fell in line with the intentions of al-Fawzan’s rhetoric.

The CIA later concluded that King Salman’s son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman personally ordered his killing.

The Saudi government has repeatedly denied the allegations, although the US Senate voted to condemn the young prince for Khashoggi’s grisly fate.

While Khashoggi’s death sparked international outrage, the Trump administration steered clear of assigning blame, and many businesses have quietly continued their plans for expansion there.

Amid inflammatory rhetoric against Iran a country dominated by Shia — coming from the White House, King Salman seemed encouraged to send a clear message of terror to his restive Shia citizens.

In doing so, the Saudi government seems to be ignoring the increased pressures it has recently faced on numerous fronts. Congress defied President Donald Trump in voting to suspend military aid for the kingdom’s war in Yemen. The state-owned oil company Aramco’s called off its initial public offering, while investors have reportedly pulled funding for MBS’ ambitious economic plan called Vision 2030.

To counter these setbacks, King Salman has drawn inspiration from the earliest days of the Saud dynasty to secure his most loyal followers the archconservative Wahhabi faithful. Historical persecution of the Shias has been the life-blood of the Wahhabi sect that was borne in central Arabia more than 250 years ago. For centuries, the Shia who lived along the Persian Gulf suffered violence from Wahhabi believers, who labeled them infidels.

During my childhood in Dhahran, when my father worked at Saudi Aramco from 1952-1960, I witnessed persecution of Shia who call the oil-rich eastern province, known as Al-Ahsa, their home. Our friends lived in oasis towns where Shia communities have dwelled for centuries. The sad fact is that the staggering oil wealth that poured into Riyadh was siphoned away from the Eastern Province.

Little was spent in the Shia communities, yet they have represented the majority of Saudi manpower in Aramco — now likely the world’s most profitable company.

Instead of benefiting from the profits of vast oil fields that lay under historically Shia lands, they have been treated as second-class citizens since Ibn Saud, who would eventually go on to found Saudi Arabia, and his family conquered their homeland in 1913. Even today, some Shia friends of mine call it “religious apartheid.”

When I returned as a management consultant to Saudi Arabia in the 1980’s, clerics had condemned mixing between Sunnis and Shia as well as intermarriage.

In numerous religious rulings, the late grand mufti, Abdulaziz Bin Baz, condemned the Shia community. Bin Baz’s religious rulings are still available in the kingdom’s official database and are often cited in Saudi court rulings, which are based on Islamic law.

More recently, a member of the Council of Senior Scholars said that Shia Muslims were “not our brothers … rather they are the brothers of Satan…”, according to Human Rights Watch.

Because of the historic conflict with the Shia community, the execution orders handed down by Saudi magistrates in April were expected.

But larger questions remain. Will MBS truly bring change and a more moderate Islam? Or do these April beheadings signal continued anti-Shia sentiment?

Is the Crown Prince trying to spark a conflict with Iran mother country of the Shia? And will this plunge America and the region into yet another unconstitutional war? Given the Saudi history of aiding and abetting extremists while claiming to be their enemy, should America be wary of being lured into another conflict? We should be very wary.

Recently, US National Security Adviser John Bolton announced that an aircraft carrier strike group with a bomber task force had been deployed to the Persian Gulf to deter Iran.

The royal Saud family may be gambling that America will come to its rescue and plunge the US into, yet again, another war, in what would be another trillion-dollar debacle. The truth is that America is extremely efficient at starting wars but dramatically incompetent at ending them.

Any aggression against Iran risks rupturing ties with Europe and in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, while provoking conflict with both Russia and China. If shooting erupts, the narrow Strait of Hormuz — the gateway in and out of the Persian Gulf — will surely be closed to oil tankers until the guns are silent. Lights of the industrial world will dim. It will be a time for lighting candles, unless cooler heads prevail. Perhaps this is a moment to stand up to the Saudi royals, (after the unpleasant experiences with al-Qaeda and ISIS — both Wahhabi inspired) and not be lured in yet again to another conflagration without end.

 

Source: CNN

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