Obama's friends

America's hypocritical friendship with Saudi Arabia: Just as Obama said to Mubarak a year ago, 'Now is now,' we expect him to tell the Saudi government: 'Enough is enough!'

Salman Masalha || Obama's friends

“Tell me who your friends are, and I will tell you who you are,” goes the proverb. So it’s worth directing our gaze for a moment at the friends of U.S. President Barack Obama and of his predecessors in the White House. In September 2009 there was a media uproar over the fact that the president of the greatest power bowed down before the Saudi king at the meeting of the G-20. It seems that since that bow Obama has been walking around with a bent back in the face of one of the most unenlightened regimes in the world. Obama, who called for the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at the outbreak of the Egyptian uprising, is remaining silent in the face of the outrageous actions of the Saudi government. Recently we heard one story that exposes the benighted nature of the Saudi regime, which is the darling of the West, including Israel.

A Saudi journalist named Hamza Kashgari made the mistake of opening a Twitter account. Several tweets that he posted are liable to cost him his life. What aroused the anger of the masses and the fury of the palace are the comments he made about religious “values” of Islam and its prophet Mohammed.

An examination of the tweets that got Kashgari into trouble paints a picture of someone who is just the opposite of a heretic. It turns out that the young journalist is a strong believer. He has only one small problem. He uses his common sense and raises thoughts and questions about all sorts of issues that he feels contradict his sense of morality.

On the birthday of the prophet Mohammed, Kashgari wrote: “I liked your revolutionary spirit, which has also inspired me. But I don’t like the halo surrounding you. I won’t pray for you.” And another tweet: “On your birthday I see you wherever I go. I say that there are things I liked about you, other things I hated, and there are things that I’ve never understood.”

Social groups, with thousands of members, quickly organized and demanded his head. He felt threatened, quickly erased what he had written and even tweeted an apology to the effect that “things were taken out of context.” But the uproar did not die down, and Kashgari boarded a plane and left the kingdom.

Saudi sheikhs, self-appointed defenders of God and guardians of the prophet, convened and discussed the burning issue. After a “profound discussion” they decided that the journalist’s tweets were words of “heresy” and that he must be tried according to the laws of Islam practiced in the kingdom. In such cases, as we know, the accused can expect the death penalty.

The issue was even placed on the table of the Saudi king himself. He ordered the arrest of the journalist, who tried to get to New Zealand. Kashgari was arrested at a stopover at the airport of the Malaysian capital. The many protests to the Malaysian government against the arrest made by international organizations were to no avail. Malaysia handed Kashgari over to Saudi security people, who flew him back to Saudi Arabia.

“Saudi women won’t go to hell, because it’s impossible to go to hell twice,” wrote the “heretic,” in a tweet on the position of women in his country. Now he is personally experiencing the difficulty of escaping that hell. That is life in the kingdom of oil. Kashgari, who tweeted and endangered himself, is in evil hands, awaiting his fate.

The time has come for lovers of freedom, both in the West and in the Arab world, to peel off some of the layers of hypocrisy regarding this regime. All the more so for the man who sits in the White House, the one who bowed down and danced in the club that is filled with the smell of oil.

Lovers of freedom, wherever they are, must distance this smell from their noses and stand erect when dealing with the kingdom of darkness. Just as Obama said to Mubarak a year ago, “Now is now,” we expect him to tell the Saudi government: “Enough is enough!”
Published: Opinions-Haaretz, 22 February 2012

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