The Moral Case for Restoring U.S.-Saudi Relations

June 30 2022

Next month, President Biden plans to visit Saudi Arabia, where he will no doubt meet with its de-facto ruler, Mohammad bin Salman (MBS)—despite widespread objections (voiced previously by the president himself) that the kingdom should be isolated because of its dismal human-rights record. Of particular concern to those making this argument is the killing by Saudi agents of Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. Robert Satloff, however, argues that Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia isn’t an abdication, but an embrace, of moral responsibility:

What is so important to U.S. interests that it not only merits Biden’s travel to the kingdom but demands it? It is the fundamental decision by the leadership of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia to end its support and funding of Islamist radicalism, to stop its decades-long export of extremist ideology, and to focus instead on a positive agenda of human development at home and the development of a relationship with Muslims around the world that urges them to have a healthy respect for the laws and norms of the countries in which they live. This is huge.

A word of context. . . . Dating from at least the 1978 takeover of the Mecca mosque by the ideological forebears of Osama bin Laden, Saudi strategy has tried to outflank the extremists by outdoing them, financing people and institutions that rivaled the extremists in their extremism. In reality, this was a protection racket that required the kingdom to pay an ever-greater price to stay just one step ahead of the radicals. As such, it was doomed to failure—and when all those young Saudi men rammed jetliners into the World Trade Center towers, it failed in horrific fashion.

Extricating themselves from the grip of extremism has been, for Saudis, an agonizingly slow process. The . . . most dramatic changes have come in the last five years, since King Salman elevated his son Mohammad as crown prince.

So, yes, President Biden, go to Saudi Arabia and shake MBS’s hand. . . . After all our country has been through these past 21 years, isn’t the real moral imperative not to shun MBS but to do everything in your power as president to ensure that the Saudi Arabia of tomorrow is definitively, conclusively, and irretrievably different than the Saudi Arabia of the past?

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Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Human Rights, Islamism, Joe Biden, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy

 

Salman Rushdie and the Western Apologists for Those Who Wish Him Dead

Aug. 17 2022

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder and supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, issued a fatwa (religious ruling) in 1989 calling for believers to murder the novelist Salman Rushdie due to the content of his novel, The Satanic Verses. Over the years, two of the book’s translators have been stabbed—one fatally—and numerous others have been injured or killed in attempts to follow the ayatollah’s writ. Last week, an American Shiite Muslim came closer than his many predecessors to killing Rushdie, stabbing him multiple times and leaving him in critical condition. Graeme Wood comments on those intellectuals in the West who have exuded sympathy for the stabbers:

In 1989, the reaction to the fatwa was split three ways: some supported it; some opposed it; and some opposed it, to be sure, but still wanted everyone to know how bad Rushdie and his novel were. This last faction, Team To Be Sure, took the West to task for elevating this troublesome man and his insulting book, whose devilry could have been averted had others been more attuned to the sensibilities of the offended.

The fumes are still rising off of this last group. The former president Jimmy Carter was, at the time of the original fatwa, the most prominent American to suggest that the crime of murder should be balanced against Rushdie’s crime of blasphemy. The ayatollah’s death sentence “caused writers and public officials in Western nations to become almost exclusively preoccupied with the author’s rights,” Carter wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times. Well, yes. Carter did not only say that many Muslims were offended and wished violence on Rushdie; that was simply a matter of fact, reported frequently in the news pages. He took to the op-ed page to add his view that these fanatics had a point. “While Rushdie’s First Amendment freedoms are important,” he wrote, “we have tended to promote him and his book with little acknowledgment that it is a direct insult to those millions of Moslems whose sacred beliefs have been violated.” Never mind that millions of Muslims take no offense at all, and are insulted by the implication that they should.

Over the past two decades, our culture has been Carterized. We have conceded moral authority to howling mobs, and the louder the howls, the more we have agreed that the howls were worth heeding. The novelist Hanif Kureishi has said that “nobody would have the [courage]” to write The Satanic Verses today. More precisely, nobody would publish it, because sensitivity readers would notice the theological delicacy of the book’s title and plot. The ayatollahs have trained them well, and social-media disasters of recent years have reinforced the lesson: don’t publish books that get you criticized, either by semiliterate fanatics on the other side of the world or by semiliterate fanatics on this one.

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Read more at Atlantic

More about: Ayatollah Khomeini, Freedom of Speech, Iran, Islamism, Jimmy Carter