Monday, January 02, 2006

The T word

One of my favourite blogs is The Religious Policeman. Its one and only remit is to lampoon the pecadilloes of the Saudi Royal Family and the excesses of Wahhabism. It also contains large amounts of piss-taking of the idiosyncracies peculiar to Saudi Arabians. Now it must be said that there are no lack of people willing to lampoon the Saudi Royal Family and take the piss out of Saudi Arabians and I’ve met plenty of them. But none that I’ve come across have ever been a Saudi. Alhamedi claims to be a bone fide Saudi who blogs from London. The Religious Policeman has taken the laughter from behind the closed doors of air-conditioned villas in Riyadh to the blog readers of the world. This has been for me one of the successes of the blogosphere phenomenon.

One of the reasons the Religious Policeman has been so successful is because it offers some real insights into Saudi Wahhabism which is a puritanical interpretation of Islam and happens to form the blueprint of faith for the Islamist Terrorism that is springing up in any number of places around the world. Not least Bangladesh, where this writer comes from.

However, all this hilarity comes with a qualification. As an Arab, Alhamedi cannot be seen to address the plight or even, in fact, to take the side of Palestinians in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. To do that would be to blow his lampooning credentials and he can be sure, if he were ever to do so, that the Religious Policeman would cease to be as amusing. If there were a blog that lampoons Bangladesh and the shameless legacy of the political parties which have held the future of 150 million Bangladeshis to ransom (and God knows that the BD diaspora is crying out for such a blog), I know that if it wanted to “stay in business” it could never be seen to buy into the sentimental politics of either the BNP or the Awami League. That would be seen as siding with one 'mythology' over another 'mythology' and any cachet of objectivity would be lost. Its not for nothing that Alhamedi has been careful not to pour scorn on the failure of the Saudi kingdom, and the Arab World, to come to a consensus about the Palestinian problem.

While it is important for Arabs like Alhamedi to build bridges he must not fall into the trap set by those who equate the support of the Palestinian cause with anti-Semitism or anti-Jewishness. The question of terrorism is often addressed by the Religious Policeman and, in particular, he has been a vociferous critic of Saudi Arabia’s inability or unwillingness to address the thorny issue of the 9/11 atrocity which was wholly the action of 19 Saudi terrorists. But Alhamedi’s obligation to critique his country means that he must skirt around the Islamophobic perception that all Saudis and/or all Arabs (and by a skip and a hop, all Muslims) are violent terrorists.

Lets check out Robert Fisk for a definition of the word Terrorist taken from his book Pity the Nation: Lebanon at War

For the Israelis - for Sharon and Begin and their soldiers - 'terrorist' did not have the same connotation as it does elsewhere. In Europe and America, in many Asian countries, even in the Soviet Union, the word 'terrorism' evokes images of hijackings, bombs planted in restaurants or schools or airports, the murder of civilians on planes, buses, trains or ships. But in Israel, 'terrorist' means all Palestinian Arabs - and very often, all Arabs - who oppose Israel in word or deed. Loren Jenkins used to refer to 'the careless depreciation of meaning' that the Israelis imposed on the word, claiming that this distorted the reality of terrorism. But it was not 'careless'. It was deliberate. Like the Syrians, the Soviets, the Americans and the British, the Israelis drew a careful distinction between good terrorists and bad terrorists. In Israel's case, the fomer were sympathetic to Israel and were graced with various, less harmful epithets - 'militiamen', 'fighters', 'soldiers' -- while the latter opposed Israel and were therefore terrorists pure and simple, guilty of the most heinous crimes, blood-soaked and mindless, the sort of people who should be 'cleansed' from society.

By labelling Palestinians as terrorists, the Israelis were describing their enemies as evil rather than hostile. If the Palestinians could be portrayed as mindless barbarians, surely no sane individual would dare regard their political claims as serious. Anyone who expressed sympathy for the Palestinians was evidently anti-semitic - and therefore not just anti-Israeli or anti-Jewish, but pro-Nazi - which no right-thinking individual would wish to be. Anyone who even suggested that the Israelis might be wrong in their war against the Palestinians could be castigated in the same way. Do you think Hitles was right? Do you agree with what happened at Auschwitz? No, of course not. If Israel called the PLO its enemy, then the Middle East dispute involved two hostile parties. But if the world believed that the Palestinians were evil -- that they represented sin in its crudest form - then the dispute did not exist. The battle was between right and wrong, David and Goliath, Israel and the 'terrorists'. The tragedy of the Israelis was that they came to believe this myth.

I hope the Muttawa the RP continues to be as funny and relevent in 2006 and, at some stage, can address the T word with his customary wit and humour.


At January 03, 2006 7:24 am, Blogger Rezwan said...

Spelendid post! Yeah we surely are missing such a blogger from Bangladesh who can make satire out of the filthy politics in Bangladesh.

Alhamedi is often questioned by the readers whether he is for real. Those who questions this are stereotyping all Arabs as those Muttawas.

Thank you very much for quoting the definition of Terrorist.

At January 03, 2006 10:49 am, Blogger Siddhartha said...

Thanks Rezwan. Lets hope a BD-satirical similar to Relgious Postman blog turns up in 2006.

At January 09, 2006 12:08 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Or, just perhaps, Alhamedi is less credulous about the Palestinian issue than you are.

At January 09, 2006 12:16 am, Blogger Siddhartha said...

Or most likely Alhamedi isn't an Arab at all. But that's another blog entry.

At May 16, 2006 2:43 am, Anonymous Mike Crichton said...

Laysa Arab. Huwa la yatakalam al arabiya, bis yaqul "Lastu qirdik al rakis!" and shakhsun yas'aluhu. Huwa kathib kabir fi ra'i.

(He's not an arab, he doesn't speak the language, only saying "I'm not your dancing monkey" when challenged. He's a fake, IMO.)

At May 16, 2006 2:46 am, Anonymous Mike Crichton said...

Plus, he has a nasty habit of editing people's comments, when he doesn't just delete them so he can have the last word.


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