On the Statement and Shameless Apologists

Two stories were the focus of much debate and discussion in Saudi Arabia recently: a) the trial of what the local media likes to call the “Jeddah cell,” a group of reform activists accused of terrorism and plotting to overthrow the monarchy; and b) the tragic events in Qatif that resulted in the death of four young men and injury of two members of the security forces.

On December 5th, a group of activists released a statement condemning what they called the “extremely harsh sentences” against the Jeddah reformers, and also condemning how the government handled the events in Qatif. The list of signatories on the statement included some prominent Sunni and Shia activists such as Mohammed Said Tayeb, Abdullah Farraj al-Sharif, Tawfiq al-Saif, Mohammad al-Ali and others.

This, as far as I’m concerned, is business as usual in Saudi Arabia. Something happens; a statement or a petition is released by a group of people. After all, it is not like there is much more they can do. Street protests are strictly prohibited, and there is no elected parliament where these people can question the government and hold it accountable for its actions.

However, something else happened this time around. Shortly after the statement was released, it was received with an aggressive backlash in the local media, where columnists held no punches in their scathing attack on the statement and those who signed it. Some observers even suggested that the attack looks coordinated and is probably orchestrated by the interior ministry to win public opinion.

But I don’t think the media backlash was coordinated. As Ahmad Abdulaziz said, it is not as if columnists in the local newspapers wait for government orders to open their verbal fire on government critics. “After a long practice, they have come to know very well what they have to do without even getting instructions,” he wrote. Also, let’s be honest here, does the government care all that much about public opinion?

I have read about 50 columns over the past 3 weeks attacking the statement and those who signed it. Some of these columns were penned by editors of the papers. This is fine, I’m all for free speech. If you feel this strongly about the statement and truly feel compelled to defend the official line on these issues, by all means go knock yourselves out.

One little problem though: none of these papers actually dared to publish the statement or report on it. If readers wanted to know what statement the columnists are talking about then they had to go Google it themselves. When the new editor of al-Eqtisadiah Salman al-Dosary was confronted with this fact in a recent TV interview, he said “we don’t publish anything” because they practice responsible freedom and protect national security.

Al-Dosary seems to think that protecting national security is part of his job description. Yay for the independent Saudi press! But I digress. Let me focus here on “we don’t publish anything.” In his column, al-Dosary accused those who signed the statement of “incitement to overthrow the regime and the government.” Nothing in the statement language even remotely suggests this.

It is one thing to choose to take the government side on some issues. It is quite another to lie and distort the facts just to show how patriotic you are and, while at it, imply that those on the the side of these issues are unpatriotic. The problem with many government apologists is that they severely lack any kind of class; they are shameless.

People like Samar al-Mogren, Adhwan al-Ahmari and Saud al-Rayes for example went as far as calling the signatories terrorism supporters. Seriously? But hey, this is a free country as I said earlier, I’m all for free speech. I just think that it is rather a sad day for this country (and boy did we have many of those lately!) when some people, including the grand mufti, try to score points with the government by using false accusations to discredit some national figures like Mohammad Said Tayeb.

Taybe, a long time activist who was repeatedly jailed over the past four decades, used Twitter to defend himself, calling those columnists a “choir” from a bygone era.

After a series of tweets directed at the columnists, he chose to send a message to Crown Prince Naif: “We understand the interior minister’s duties and responsibilities, but we believe that the most important duty of the crown prince is to guarantee the protection of public freedoms and human rights.”

I’ve been putting off writing this post because I thought the period of verbal diarrhea by government apologists would end soon, but the articles kept on coming nonstop like the floods of Jeddah.

Right, whatever happened to holding the corrupt officials accountable in that disaster? Oh, we are not supposed to talk about this? Sorry, my bad.

Ahmad al-Ghamdi sacked (or maybe not), Quarter to Nine news cast

  • Ahmad Qassim al-Ghamdi, the head of CPVPV in Makkah was sacked. No, he wasn’t. Yes, he was. No, he wasn’t. Well, apparently nobody knows for sure. The grand mufti came out with a strong statement few days criticizing al-Ghamdi, practically telling him to keep his mouth shut. Confusion is still dominating this matter. Will update you as things clear up. UPDATE: a spokesman for CPVPV sent a message to al-Hayat daily saying the news are inaccurate.
  • Arab News reports on Sah, a local internet channel that has gained some more attention lately. I have been following their satirical news show “Quarter to Nine,” and I have to say that I find it pretty nice. I think they could do a better job finding bizarre stuff in Saudi newspapers to make fun of, but for now they are doing okay. It’s a good example of what good content the new generation of Saudis can create using new media tools.


Everything is going great in the awesomest Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Well, almost everything. Today I read three disturbing news stories which shed the light on some serious problems that we should immediately take care of. Otherwise, the whole fabric of society might disintegrate under the pressure of these most horrendous disasters…

First, let’s give it to Dr. Omaima al-Jalahma who has discovered a huge flaw within the healthcare system that has apparently held our hospitals back all these years: no rooms for ruqyah. Al-Jalahma suggests opening ruqyah rooms in all hospitals in the country, and facilitating the work of ruqyah practitioners, who, according to her, have no problem entering any hospital at present but would benefit from having dedicated rooms where they can offer their much-needed services.

Meanwhile, the Grand Mufti has said that wearing graduation gowns is haram because apparently it is part of the infidels’ rituals and customs that no God-fearing Muslim should ever imitate or even consider getting near them. The Grand Mufti, of course, does not use the cars invented and manufactured by the aforementioned infidels. He also does not appear on TV or use a mobile phone, because these, too, are invented and made by those nasty infidels.

Last but not least, a committee in Ministry of Interior has concluded that enough is enough and so they decided it is time to raid the market looking for what they described as “illegal abayas.” The committee, which included members of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, the Ministry of Commerce, the Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, and the General Intelligence Service said those who sell illegal abayas have two choices: either modify them in a way that makes them Sharia-compliant or destroy them under the supervision of an official body without any compensation.

The committee, however, has not said what they are going to do about women who have already bought some of these abays and are wearing them. Rumor has it that they plan to open kiosks in every corner of every city in the country where these women can exchange their haram abayas with halal abayas at no charge.

Girls Beware!

In a lecture he gave earlier this week at KSU, Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bin Abdullah Aal Al-Sheikh, the Grand Mufti and Chairman of the Board of Senior Ulema, warned Saudi girls of those who want to deviate women from the right Islamic path:

They want her to go unveiled, moving about and traveling on her own, getting involved in relationships with whoever she wants, and calling whoever she wants to start up friendships with whoever she wants.

Who are they? They are the liberal forces. Damn them.