The fact that I need to add the word “Satire” to the title tells you that it is in fact very challenging to deploy Satire within a Saudi context. In fact, the pronouncements and actions of the various clerics make it almost impossible to discern the line between the things that are satire and the actual pronouncements that echo forth from that bastion of utter delusional insanity.
The piece in question is one that I quite enjoyed and reads …
JEDDAH: A leading Saudi cleric this morning came out with a warning that his team of radical hardliners was running out of things to ban.
“Simply put, we’ve banned ourselves into a corner,” said Dr Mustafa Slash, who yesterday outlawed the raising of toilet seats as “despicable”.
Many critics in the industry suggest that Dr Slash is simply a victim of his own success, and that with an average rate of 14 new things forbidden at his behest each day, he was simply outlawing things quicker than they were being produced.
“He needs to slow down with immediate effect or end up finding himself out of business,” said leading religious edict expert Osama O’Hara.
Last year, Dr Slash took the controversial path of moving from actual items and physical actions towards metaphysical states, and famously banned ‘curiosity’ and ‘irony’, before pulling the plug after just a few months.
“Banning irony proved to a complete nightmare,” said Dr Slash at the time. “Nobody seemed to understand what we were talking about.”
And there was also this one liner as well …
There was also an attempt to outlaw banning, a move which created a terrifying paradox Dr Slash admitted “was a bit too much”.
Its satire OK … and yes, I really do need to place emphases upon that point, because when faced with real news stories like the following, it is indeed very very challenging to work that out at times.
Now I just made a claim here, so lets test it. Below you will find 5 recent news stories with actual links – four of them are quite real and one of them is a fake story, so can you spot which one is the fake bit of satire?
- Saudi cleric says driving risks damaging women’s ovaries
- Saudi Cleric Forbids Muslims From Traveling to Mars
- Saudi Cleric Praises Hitler for ‘Barbecuing Jews and Russians’ in Hate Poem
- Saudi cleric warns that allowing women to drive could “enable them to get to places of sin quicker”
- Saudi cleric claims each man gets 19,000 women in paradise
So did you successfully find the fake one? To find the right answer, just hover over each link (no need to actually click the links … unless you are curious), the one that is fake is the one from the satire site www.panarabiaenquirer.com, the other four are quite real.
So why is it like this is Saudi Arabia?
The quick one word answer is “Wahhabism“.
Now you might not be familiar with that term, so I better explain it. First the basics, Islam is like all other belief systems – it is highly complex and is akin to an umbrella under which a vast diversity of often conflicting and quite different variations of Islamic interpretation shelter, and so what we actually find within Saudi Arabia is variation that is known as “Wahhabism” because it has its roots in the teachings of a chap called Mohammed bin Abd Al-Wahhab who was around in the 1700s.
Basically it is an ultra-conservative branch of Sunni Islam that aspires to return to the earliest fundamental Islamic sources of the Quran and Hadith, or to put that another way … “Hey, lets drag everybody back to the 7th century because that was such a golden age”.
So by now you will have worked out this next bit, Mohammed bin Abd Al-Wahhab was a complete and utter religious nut, and that is not simply an opinion that is looking upon all this from a decadent “western” modern viewpoint, because both his father Abd al-Wahhab and his brother Salman Ibn Abd al-Wahhab who was an Islamic scholar and qadi, openly opposed him and criticised him.
Yes, but why does this specific strand of Islamic thinking now prevail?
Basically because Mohammed bin Abd Al-Wahhab established a power sharing pact with Muhammad bin Saud in 1744 that helped to establish the first Saudi state and so that began a dynastic alliance and power-sharing arrangement between their families which continues to the present day. Several centuries later the descendants of Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab still dominate the Saudi state’s clerical institutions. Like many others before him, Muhammad bin Saud had realised that religion was a very useful tool of state that could be harnessed to pull together and unify a lot of tribes and so enable him to gain power, so it made a lot of sense to use religion for this goal.
Rather sadly for the modern world, Muhammad bin Saud picked a rather abhorrent variation of Islam, because Mohammed bin Abd Al-Wahhab was not a nice chap at all. For example, he resurrected the idea of stoning. In his time the idea of stoning people to death was uncommon, so he not only revived it as a jolly good idea, but he personally organized a few stonings himself.
Will anybody oppose this cosy little theocratic dictatorship? In time yes, like most such arrangements it will pass, but right now they retain power for two reasons:
- The non-Muslim states will not oppose them for one reason alone – oil
- The Muslim states will not, because most Muslims will at some point wish to partake in a Hajj to Mecca, and pissing off the state that enables them to do so would make that rather difficult.
So if you personally feel these Saudi Clerics are complete nutters, well you are not alone because the truth is that the Wahhabies are in fact so extreme that almost all other variations of Islam (about 99% of the Islamic world) will agree with you.