The recent ethicaloil.org advertisement asking us to support Alberta oil sands over Saudi oil begs the question, Why? Because the Saudi’s won’t let women drive? The Saudis won’t allow women to work? In Saudi Arabia a women’s testimony is only worth half of that of a man’s?
Well, not to make light of these egregious violations of individual rights, only 100 years ago here in Canada women couldn’t drive. (Mind you cars didn’t exist so it wasn’t much of a concern). One hundred years ago in Canada women had to be clothed in such a way as to not show any skin except face and hands. One hundred years ago women were not recognized as persons and prohibited from voting and very few worked as it was considered a man’s responsibility. Canada has matured since our Victorian coverture laws. It has evolved into a country which respects (to a degree) a person’s individual rights regardless of gender.
If Saudi Arabia’s faults were only their oppressive treatment of women then the thrust of ethical oil’s ad is very week. What Ethical Oil should have exposed to the light of day were the many other violations of civility that Saudi Arabia is guilty of.
Saudi Arabia has existed as a nation state for only 79 years. Its ruling family, the House of Saud, has its roots in murder and thievery. Abdul-Aziz bin Saud, the patriarch of the Royal Family, earned his kingdom by murdering opposing tribes and stealing their wealth. But that is history and even our own monarch’s family tree is replete with bloodshed and war, although certainly not as recent as the House of Saud.
Twenty First century Saudi Arabia however, is no less violent than its bloody past. In fact it can be considered even more bloodthirsty and cruel. The Ethical Oil ad, when it says that women aren’t allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, gives us the impression that if a woman is pulled over by a cop she could get a ticket and maybe a ride home. Not so. If a woman is found driving a car she could be pulled from the car by a gang of government sanctioned thugs and beaten to death.
There is a government bureaucracy in Saudi Arabia called the “Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice.” Agents of this committee are called the Mutaween or the religion police. Armed with thin wooden canes the Saudi Mutaween patrol the streets enforcing the official religion of Saudi Arabia, Wahhabi Islam. Their job is to enforce Sharia Law. They look for violations of dress codes, strict separation of men and women, prayer by Muslims during prayer times, and other behaviors it believes to be commanded by Islam including;
- checking that women wear the abaya, a traditional all-enveloping black cloak.
- making sure that men and women who are spotted together in public are related.
- arresting anyone engaged in homosexual acts, prostitution, fornication, or proselytizing of non-Muslim religions.
- enforcing Muslim dietary laws (such as the prohibition from eating pork).
- enforcing store closures during the prayer time.
- prohibiting the consumption or sale of alcoholic beverages.
- seizing banned consumer products and media regarded contrary to Islamic morals.
- preventing the religious practices of other religions within Saudi Arabia. 1
Punishment is Saudi Arabia is swift and brutal. The Mutaween can beat you to death on the spot for infractions against Sharia. If found guilty of crimes in a court punishment may range from caning, to the cutting off of hands, to death by hanging or public decapitation.
In May 2007, a man alleged to have alcohol in his home was reported by Arab News to have been arrested and beaten to death by CPVPV members “The father of the deceased said that commission members continued to beat his handcuffed son, even though he was already covered in blood, until he died
In August 2008, a young Saudi woman who had converted to Christianity reportedly was burnt to death after having her tongue cut out by her father, a member of the Committee.
On 5 April 2006 a Catholic priest, “Fr. George [Joshua] had just celebrated mass in a private house when seven religious policemen (muttawa) broke into the house together with two ordinary policemen. The police arrested the priest and another person.
One of the most widely criticized examples of mutaween enforcement of Sharia law came in March 2002, when 14 young girls died of burns or smoke asphyxiation by an accidental fire that engulfed their public school in Mecca. According to the statements of parents, firemen, and the regular police forces present at the scene, the religious police forcibly prevented girls from escaping the burning school by locking the doors of the school from the outside, and barring firemen from entering the school to save the girls, beating some of the girls and civil defense personnel in the process. Mutaween would not allow the girls to escape or to be saved because they were ‘not properly covered’ and the mutaween did not want physical contact to take place between the girls and the civil defense forces for fear of sexual enticement. ibid
King Abdulla of Saudi Arabia is an absolute dictator. Unlike the monarchs of more civilized countries where they are mere figure-heads Abdulla’s word is law. Saudi Arabia is perhaps the second most oppressive and despotic regime on the face of the planet but for North Korea.
Members of the Saud family have been indicted for drug trafficking, and when a Saudi Royal traffics drugs we are talking shipping 2 tons of Columbian cocaine to France aboard their private 727 jet. 2
The Kingdom is being sued by Lloyds of London for their alleged role in funding Al-Qaeda and making the attacks of 9/11 possible. 3
It has been alleged that members of the Royal family knew Mohamed Atta, one of the Saudi nationals who participated in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. These members of the family fled the USA only 2 weeks before 9/11. 4
The Kingdom is the second biggest military spender as a percentage of GDP. 5
Why are they our ally? Why do we even trade with such a regime? Why aren’t these despots hunted down under the UN’s so-called “Responsibility to Protect” provision and brought to trial for their barbarism? Oil, of course.
Saudi Arabia has the largest reserve of easily accessed oil in the world. (Oil which was discovered by American oil giants, Texaco, and Exxon. 6) The Saudi government in the 1950s effectively nationalized the Saudi branches of these American companies with the help of the US government.
The ads by EthicalOil.org are tame and timid and do not do justice to the atrocities perpetrated by the Saudi dictatorship. And yet, the Saudi government has the nerve to send a “cease and desist” letter to the Television Bureau of Canada 7. Bell Canada owner of CTV has capitulated to the Saudi threat probably in fear of losing their lucrative Saudi business which amounts to billions of dollars. Sun News Network, true to form, has continued to air the ads and has called on the Prime Minister to call in the Saudi Ambassador over the threat to free speech. It is least he should do.
What Prime Minister Harper as well as the rest of the free and civilized world should do is ostracize this regime. Stop buying their stolen oil. Prevent them from spreading their hateful Wahhabism by blockading the country and preventing any of their citizens from emigrating. They should be shunned and condemned for their medieval political ideology. Why we continue to have truck and trade with these dictators belies our own tenuous understanding of what it means to be free.
Originally broadcast on Just Right #218, September 22, 2011.