King Abdullah: Charlie Hebdo couldn’t have satirised a more ridiculous farce

Rather than paying respect to a tyrant, Britain should be extricating herself from legitimising Saudi rule

The death of King Abdullah should not be the cause for obsequious official mourning, but rather offer a natural juncture for Britain to reassess her relationship with Saudi Arabia.

The UK government’s response was clearly out-of-step with the wishes of the British public, who were quick to express revulsion at the entirely unjustified praise and honours heaped upon the dead king. We lowered the flag for Nelson Mandela, to do so for King Abdullah would be farcical were it not so indicative of the dangerous relationship we maintain with Saudi Arabia.

In a small and complex world, any nation has to form ties with others it differs from. No country is uncompromised, no country side-steps realpolitik; but there is a limit to which hypocrisy can be justified by supposed national interest. There also comes a point where that hypocrisy undermines any legitimate criticism of oppressive regimes we choose not to befriend.

Britain’s condemnation of abuses across the world risks being undermined when we fall silent on Saudi Arabia, ranked among the ‘worst of the worst’ in international rankings of freedom and rights.

It is beyond farcical that David Cameron praised King Abdullah for his “…strengthening understanding between faiths” when Saudi Arabia bans the public practice of religions other than Sunni Islam, persecutes Christians, condemns and oppresses Shia Muslims as heretics and punishes conversion, apostasy and atheism with death.

When David Cameron and Prince Charles, both Christians, arrive in Riyadh to pay their respects, they should remember not to take a Bible as ‘smuggling’ one into Saudi Arabia can risk execution.

Tony Blair paid tribute to a man who “Was loved by his people and will be deeply missed” just after tweeting about tackling anti-Semitism. Given Saudi Arabia is not only institutionally anti-Semitic but has been foremost in exporting that hatred abroad, it seemed equally odd for the Israeli president to note his “grounded, considered and responsible leadership”.

When Obama praised Abdullah’s “courage of his convictions” did he mean his commitment to routine beheadings and floggings, oppression of women and LGBT, or maybe simply the ongoing destruction of ancient holy sites in Mecca and Medina, to the dismay of Muslims across the world?

As the rally in Paris stood together saying ‘Je Suis Charlie’ they were joined by the Saudi Ambassador in the knowledge that Raif Badawi had been sentenced to 10 years in prison and a 1000 lashes for ‘insulting Islam’. Charlie Hebdo could not have satirised a more ridiculous farce.

As if these examples of rank hypocrisy were not enough, it is an open secret that Saudi Arabia is the foremost sponsor of Salafist Islamism in the world. It’s estimated that $100BN has been ploughed into exporting ultra-conservative Wahhabi Islam to countries including the UK, and funds for Al Qaeda and the Taliban come from Saudi coffers.

Our leaders unite in condemnation of ISIS atrocities but have they compared the legal code of our friends, Saudi Arabia, with those we are committed to opposing? What are the key differences between ISIS and Saudi Arabia? Both impose oppression and atrocities at home, both export their violent ideology and yet one we oppose and the other we uphold as a friend despite its ongoing funding and support of our enemies.

Like a modern-day Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, both sides have opposing values, undermine each other, yet maintain the appearance of good relations. Sometimes countries feel the need to pinch their nose and think of the national interest, but when that itself is being attacked by the state-sponsored terror of Saudi Arabia our values seem too high a price for cheap oil.

The British public, the media, left and right have seen the official responses to King Abdullah’s death for what they are. At best farce, at worst an insult to the domestic and global victims of the Saudi regime.

King Salman’s promise of continuity should be a warning to us all. Rather than paying respects to a tyrant, Britain should be extricating herself from legitimising what should be a pariah state.

James Hallwood is chair of the Young Fabians. Follow him on Twitter

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.

19 Responses to “King Abdullah: Charlie Hebdo couldn’t have satirised a more ridiculous farce”

  1. ForeignRedTory

    ‘Given Saudi Arabia is not only institutionally anti-Semitic but has been foremost in exporting that hatred abroad, it seemed equally odd for the Israeli president to note his “grounded, considered and responsible leadership”.’

    Given the Saudis’ record of staying out of anti-Israeli aggression, I don’t see what is odd.

    ‘Rather than paying respects to a tyrant, Britain should be extricating herself from legitimising what should be a pariah state.’
    In order to be a pariah, one has to be expendable. That excludes Saudiland.

    Apparently the author thinks that human righs, or perhaps liberal democracy, should be the cornerstone of Foreign Policy. If so, we witness the making of a Liberal Interventionist – a Neocon with a Healthplan. What does he propose: bombing Saudiland into Democracy, or handing the place over to Daash?

  2. David Lindsay

    I am pleased to see that that Charlie Hebdo march had such an affect on David Cameron and on François Hollande, as they arrive to heap praise on King Abdullah and to kiss the hand of King Salman. Barack Obama will turn up there next week. I should be surprised if they did not come away with blood on their lips, so much of it drips from the hands of any King of Saudi Arabia

    I should like to know the last time that the flags over our Parliament building and over Westminster Abbey were lowered to half mast for the head of a foreign state. Probably for Kennedy in 1963. So long ago that
    Churchill was still in Parliament.

    Yet that happened automatically this week for the King of Saudi Arabia, and the people responsible were surprised that anyone was surprised. Yes, our political elite really is as close as that to one of the most evil regimes on earth. Meanwhile, the announcers on CNN, allegedly the flagship of American liberalism, have been dressed in mourning black. I want to see Obama bow to King Salman. He bowed to King Abdullah in 2009.

    In 2008 Hillary Clinton had promised that, as President of the United States, she would nuke Iran if so instructed by the Saudi, Kuwaiti and Emirati donors to her campaign. She has never retracted that promise.

    One day, one day soon, we shall see these people as we now see the British, French and American politicians who sucked up to Pinochet and to Ceaușescu, to Pol Pot and to apartheid South Africa, to Ian Smith and to Robert Mugabe, to Stalin and to Hitler.

  3. David Lindsay

    The public has finally been confronted with the reality of this country’s relationship with Saudi Arabia.

    Ed Miliband needs to expel Tony Blair and anyone who fancies going with him, and undertake to cancel this obscene deal as the first step in taking back the sovereignty of this Kingdom from that one.

  4. Christopher R Weiss

    For as long as the west needs oil from the middle east, politicians will push down their gorge and praise “cooperative” leaders from otherwise despotic regimes. The answer is energy independence. When the west no longer needs oil, then and only then will our governments be able to judge these theocracies appropriately.

  5. Cole

    But we in Britain buy very little oil from the Saudis…

  6. Cole

    Obviously not. But sucking up shamelessly to these monsters is unsavoury and unnecessary.

    And I’m getting fed up with ‘realists’ – mostly right wingers – who sneer at human rights. Maybe they shoukd be ‘rendered’ for a few months to Saudi or one of our other charming allies.

  7. Leon Wolfeson

    Russia is very arguably as bad.

  8. Guest

    No surprise you take another pop at Parliamentary Sovereignty’s existence.

  9. Leon Wolfeson

    Now now. Just because they’re horrible people doesn’t mean they don’t have rights.

    In fact, that’s what the right want – to have basic rights conditional on a number of factors such as your political views and economic status.

  10. DRbilderburg

    The US and Israel are worse

  11. Leon Wolfeson

    Thanks for that, Putinite.

  12. Guest

    No surprise you’re after Western democracy again. Churchill must be seen like…

  13. Guest

    Some people change their views. Churchill did.

    Your little friend? Did not. That the article thinks that the lame-duck PM, John Major, was a good thing for the party…

  14. TommyTCG

    We lowered the flag for Nelson Mandela… why so dumkopf?

    Those who say “So what?” to the question of Mandela’s membership in the SACP must ignore the well established facts that show:

    • The SACP was, and remains, a hardcore Marxist-Leninist organization in which all members must pledge unquestioned obedience to the will of the Party, as determined by its Central Committee;

    • The SACP took its direction from the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), and, as such, was an agent of a hostile foreign power;

    • SACP members, including Mandela, secretly took control of the ANC, pushing aside and sabotaging ANC leaders committed to reform and change through peaceful, political means;

    • ANC and its terrorist arm, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), which was also controlled by the SACP, were trained in Soviet Russia and Red China, or in Communist “Frontline States” — Zambia, Angola, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zimbabwe — by Soviet, Chinese, East German, Cuban, Czech, and other Communist instructors;

    • The SACP-controlled ANC and MK exploited the conditions of apartheid, racism and colonialism not to help South African blacks, but to further the objectives of the Soviet Union and the world Communist conspiracy;

    • The SACP-controlled ANC and MK used the Communist-provided training and arms to direct their terror, torture, and murder against South Africa’s black majority even more often than against the white minority;

    • If Mandela was not only a Communist Party member, but also a top SACP leader — which the evidence irresistibly shows he was — then he is not only a colossal and persistent liar, but he is all the more culpable in the innumerable acts of terror, torture, and murder committed by ANC mobs and MK cadres over the past several decades;

  15. rogero

    Hardly the point though. This article is about the disgusting hypocrisy of expressing support for the Saudi regime. Did you even read it ?

  16. CHEVI789 .

    More proof the west is in bed with ISIS, saying one thing while doing another, like saying Assad the president of Syria is evil while he and his army are killing ISIS and freeing his people from their clutches, down with the monarchy the terrorist loving scum.

  17. ForeignRedTory

    ‘But sucking up shamelessly to these monsters is unsavoury and unnecessary.’
    As opposed to cross-country invasion?
    Your hands drip with blood.

    Fed up? What we are fed up with is your pretense that Idealism, somehow, makes that right. On the contrary – your Idealism should be just another charge to be added to a loathsome record.

  18. ForeignRedTory

    You have a bit of an obsession with Tony Blair. Psychopathological,

Leave a Reply