Saudi Arabia has gotten undeserved bad press recently with the usual bleatings from the alt right of the Kingdom’s alleged human rights abuses, public beheadings, financing of terrorist groups, shocking treatment of women etc. But exactly how much of this is true? This article aims to correct certain misplaced perceptions out there about a country that still remains the United States’ closest and most loyal ally.
Firstly, there are one or two cultural differences between our two countries that are undeniable. Although still a young country in relative terms, the United States is a mature economy and democracy, whereas Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy whose oil-based economy is young in absolute terms. Change is therefore only gradual and requires the United States to work ever more closely with its trusted ally to guide it along the same progressive path that it too followed. Once George Soros has solved America’s problems, he will no doubt do a stint in Jeddah.
Lest we be tempted to adopt a morally superior attitude, it bears remembering that slavery existed officially in this country until 1865, a full 89 years after the nation was founded. Who therefore are we to judge, as Pope Francis might ask.
It might seem morally repellant to us in the States for Saudi women to have apparently “zero rights”, but we must be sensitive to cultural differences. US women would understandably protest were they not allowed to drive, go swimming, uncover any part of their skin in public, interact with men who are not relations etc., however Saudi women are fine with all this as they know no different. The term “zero rights’ is also a misnomer. Saudi women can now, for example, ride a bicycle just like men can, provided of course they ride only in circles, in a park, covered up and accompanied at all times by a male relative. In any event, we should check our national privilege: trying to impose our cultural norms on another people is not only racist but morally abhorrent.
Saudi Arabia is also the spiritual center for many of the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims, with Mecca, the most sacred of pilgrimage sites. In order to preserve the richness of the Wahhabist Islamic faith, the Kingdom’s rulers have wisely banned all other religions from the country. Frankly, anyone entering the country wearing a cross, for example, deserves to be punished as per the law prohibiting such items.
If you are still unsure about Saudi Arabia, rest assured that the greatest president the US has ever had was so enthralled to be in the Kingdom that he was willing to humble himself to King Abdullah during his recent pilgri…visit there. If it’s good enough for Obama, it should be good enough for us.
“Delighted to meet you, your Majesty!”