Saudi: Arse-licking Politics

So, with the burial of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, we are flying flags at half-mast on public buildings in London.

No 10, the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey are prominent in doing so, paying tribute to the former ruler despite recent rights abuses such as the sentencing of a Saudi blogger to 10 years in jail and 1,000 lashes for (apparently) insulting Islam raising the veil (yes, a poor pun but true) on the country’s dismal human rights record.

This attitude is typical of the astonishing misjudgements of the out-of-touch elite who consider it appropriate to do this. Even worse, regardless of widespread criticism, this was at the request of Buckingham Palace; the Palace stating that this is simply in line with protocol following the death of a foreign monarch. Protocol be damned – Saudi Arabia’s historical and continuing abuses of free speech and human rights are widely known, as is the country’s role as a cradle of Islamist extremism. This should never have been allowed to happen.

Unsurprisingly, The Prime Minister said he was “deeply saddened”, saying that Abdullah would be “remembered for his long years of service to the kingdom, for his commitment to peace and for strengthening understanding between faiths”. Tony Blair said Abdullah was a “stable and sound ally … a patient and skilful moderniser” in a turbulent time in the region. Nauseating.

Compounding this contemptible display of arse–licking sentiment, when asked to justify its decision to fly its flag at half-mast, Westminster Abbey said in a statement: “… for us not to fly at half-mast would be to make a noticeably aggressive comment on the death of the king of a country to which the UK is allied in the fight against Islamic terrorism. Nor would it have done anything to support the desperately oppressed Christian communities of the Middle East for whom we pray constantly and publicly.” This is an outrageous stance for our Church of State to adopt when it’s illegal to practice Christianity in Saudi, whether overtly or in private, and Christians are routinely harassed and persecuted.

Saudi Arabia exists as a ruinous symbiosis of fear and hatred, financed by unimaginable amounts of cash, and enjoying a quietly malign influence on the outside world. Surely, any decent human being who truly believes in equality and human rights would wish to shout, accuse and criticise all of this at every opportunity.

But this never happens. I’ve described this scenario as “arse-licking politics” for a simple reason. It is. It’s a cynical display of the desire not to offend the world’s biggest oil producer and the west’s key Middle Eastern ally, and is a transparent and convenient delusion observed by the West that allows the Saudis to claim they respect human rights while breaching every known norm of behaviour.

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