The Guardian carried an interesting piece on current trends in the Middle East. It reports comments by the deputy crown prince of Saudi Arabia – Mohammed bin Salman al-Saud – claiming that Iran is ‘seeking to control the Islamic world’ and spread its (seemingly not welcomed) Shia doctrine. Most interesting of all, when asked whether he would engage in dialogue with the Iranians, he said:
How can I come to an understanding with someone, or a regime, that has an anchoring belief built on an extremist ideology? What are the interests between us? How can I come to an understanding with this?
As any casual observer of these things will tell you, Saudi Arabia is the biggest exporter of Salafist-Wahabbism in the world. Famous adherents to Salafi-Wahabbi Islam include ISIS/Daesh in Iraq and the Levant, Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, Boko Haram in Nigeria and the the Al-Nusra Front in Syria, amongst others. Wahabbism is an ultraconservative, fundamentalist strain of Sunni Islam and is backed internationally by Saudi Arabian funds. It is the chosen theological formulation of the vast majority of Jihadist expansionist groups in the Middle East.
Iran is Shia Muslim and therefore does not sponsor Sunni Wahabbi groups like Al-Qaeda and Boko Haram. No, Iran sponsors Shia militant groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon. Naturally, they make an exception and fund Hamas, the Sunni Palestinian organisation, on the grounds that fighting Israel is their ‘principled policy’. It was, after all, the Ayatollah Khomeini who first justified suicide bombings theologically that were exported across the Islamic world.
The interesting thing is this: Iran are routinely labelled as ‘the largest exporter of state-sponsored terrorism in the entire world‘ whilst Saudi Arabia remain our Western allies. Yet just about all Salafi-Wahabbi extremism has been sponsored and exported from Saudi Arabia. Iran get it in the neck for supporting the Assad regime, a horrible man indeed, yet Saudi Arabian support for the Al-Nusra Front receives limited comment. Who is supporting the terror here? The one’s backing the recognised government – albeit a totalitarian and unpleasant one – or those backing the extremist rebels seeking to topple said government?
It also seems worth asking who has done more to promote Islamic extremism in the UK? The overwhelming majority of Muslims in the UK are Sunni and view Shias as heretics. Wahabbi mosques all over the world, including in the UK, are being funded by Saudi money (which has been termed petro-Islam). This is increasing the number of Salafi-Wahabbi mosques in the UK which, in turn, is increasing the radicalisation of British Muslims. Iran simply has no such mosque building programme in the UK.
You see, Saudi Arabia fund extremism and terrorism but they are our allies. Iran fund extremism and terrorism but they are not our allies. Saudi Arabia currently sell us oil and buy our weapons; Iran do not sell us oil and are under sanctions so they can’t buy our weapons. When Saudi Arabia fund wars in Yemen it is OK; when Iran fund wars in Yemen it is very bad. When Saudi Arabia commit human rights abuses we turn a blind eye; when Iran commit human rights abuses we impose sanctions. Do you see the difference? When Saudi Arabia do something it’s fine but when Iran do it, not so much.
Now let us – for it is the hot-button issue of the UK election – compare and contrast with the media treatment of Tim Farron. Apparently our allies – who really do hate homosexuals and like to flog, imprison and sometimes kill them – are not bad guys. Sure, they indulge in a few idiosyncratic policies we’d rather they abandoned, but hey, Europeans think we’re crazy for being out in the sun at midday.
Tim Farron, like our allies, appeared (at least for a bit) to suggest homosexual sex might be a sin. Unlike our Saudi friends, he takes rather a different approach to homosexual rights what with being a liberal and all. Nonetheless, the media went into meltdown over Farron’s view on the issue without a peep about our Saudi friends. In fact, the Guardian note matter of factly that the Saudis don’t want to enter into dialogue with Iran because they are, to quote them directly, ‘too extreme’. Apparently this could not be further from the pot calling the kettle black. No, the Al-Sauds are leading a reasonable regime, open and willing to engage in dialogue but for those mentalists from Iran.
I wonder if you see the issue here? Tim Farron spoke against cultural orthodoxy but defends minority rights; the Saudis persecute certain minorities yet are reasonable Middle Eastern partners working in tough conditions. Do you see the difference? When the Saudis flog, imprison and kill homosexuals, it’s fine. When Tim Farron says he will defend homosexual rights, but dares to suggest their sexual practices might be sinful, we must do everything we can to stop that religious nutter getting into office. It seems Farron’s only hope is if he suddenly comes into a lot of oil.