We at AIFD will shed no tears for King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who passed away yesterday, January 22nd.
As the head of a tyrranical, murderous and notoriously repressive government, King Abdullah is responsible for the execution of dissidents, the torture of minorities, and the exportation of the most malignant strain of politicized, radicalized Islam the world has known.
We do not share in the saccharine and morally bankrupt assessment of many in the media. King Abdullah was no “reformer,” and we grant him no credit for “nudging” the Kingdom forward. Under King Abdullah’s reign, Saudi Arabia remained the country where bloggers are sentenced to potentially fatal lashings, where writers are jailed for tweets , dissidents and “witches” are beheaded, and where the monarchy itself participates in child marriage and the religious establishment calls Jews “apes and pigs.” We have to question the integrity of those in the media and ruling classes who are now eulogizing King Abdullah as though he were worthy of admiration. Even Queen Elizabeth has ordered Britain’s flags to fly at half-mast today. While we do not revel in death, we also will not celebrate or participate in the fictional retelling of King Abdullah’s legacy.
The House of Saud, with the king at the helm, likes to refer to itself as the “Custodian of the two Holy Mosques” – that is, the owners and overseers of the holiest sites in Islam. We at AIFD reject not only this structure, but also the Saudi regime’s stranglehold on contemporary Islam. From the megalomania of the House of Saud to the cancer of Wahhabism, we at AIFD recognize that the real reformers of Saudi Arabia are languishing in its jails, dying by its sword, and living suffocated behind its walls; while those in power fuel the radicalization that brought us 9/11, the attack at Fort Hood, and even ISIS. The real human tragedy and loss is that today, the world sends condolences for King Abdullah while heroes like Raif Badawi remain in prison, the marks of severe lashes yet unhealed.
While we will not cry for King Abdullah, we are also not optimistic about his successor, King Salman – said to be even more repressive and problematic than King Abdullah, particularly with regard to women’s and minority rights.
In the wake of King Abdullah’s passing, we will not just pray for, but also continue to work tirelessly for the day when we Muslims and the world rid ourselves of the evils of theocracy and dictatorship. At a time when the movement to advance individual liberty and autonomy within the “house of Islam” is already challenging, we who stand for freedom and universal human rights must be more diligent than ever. Our hill just became steeper.