Arabia springs surprise as Saudi royal hits new low

By Soroor Ahmed,

Instead of coming out of the hole, the Saudi royal family chose to go deep into it, and possibly get buried. In a shocking move on April 28 it decided to shut its embassy and recall its ambassador from Egypt in protest against a demonstration by about 1,000 Egyptians, who were upset over the arrest of Ahmed El-Gezawi, a lawyer who went for pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.

The Saudis, on the other hand, said that the lawyer was caught on April 17 for having in his possession more than 21,000 pills of the anxiety drug Xanax, which is banned in Saudi Arabia. It was alleged that he had smuggled the pills inside bottles of infant milk formula and boxes intended to hold the Koran.

Incidentally, the Gulf Kingdoms and Sheikhdoms chose to support Saudi Arabia on the issue and media blitz have been launched against the lawyer. This infuriated none else but the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, whose political wing said the protests at the Saudi embassy showed “the desire of Egyptians to preserve the dignity of their citizens in Arab states.”

It further said: “We call on the military council … to take serious measures to resolve the Gezawi problem in a way that guarantees the dignity of Egyptians and at the same time preserves the strength of Egyptian-Saudi ties.”

At present Egypt is being ruled by a military council, which is going to hand over the power to the President after May 23-24 election, which Brotherhood’s candidate is likely to win. It is the largest party in Parliament too.

However, Gezawi’s wife and others in Egypt, alleged that the lawyer was detained in Saudi Arabia when he arrived for pilgrimage after being sentenced in absentia to a year in prison and 20 lashes for insulting King Abdullah.

Whatever be the truth the manner in which the Saudi monarchy is handling the situation reminds one of the post-Islamic Revolution days in Iran. The ruling class in Saudi Arabia always suspected the Iranians and charged them with instigating Shias in the east of the Saudi peninsula. The Saudis and other Gulf monarchies incited the then Iraqi dictator Saddam Husain to attack Iran. The Americans and the West openly sided with Iraq and other Arab countries as they wanted to teach Iran a lesson. It was much later that they decided to punish Saddam.

If any trouble occurs in any Muslim country where Iran is remotely associated––as for example in Syria, Bahrain, Yemen and Lebanon––the Saudis are quick to see a Shia conspiracy. By whipping up this passion they did succeed, however, partially.

But what had prompted them to take such a drastic step against Egypt. A demonstration by 1,000 Egyptians outside the Saudi embassy in Cairo does not merit such a sharp reaction––unless and until there are other motives involved.

There is no doubt that the Saudi kings had a very good relationship with the then dictator of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak. But how can the Egyptian expats living in Gulf or the fledgling regime in Cairo make life insecure for the royal family of Riyadh and other Emirates and Sheikhdoms?
Saudis are groping for an excuse as Egypt is––unlike Iran––a Sunni-dominated country and the population is Arab. Yet it choses to make the April 27 protest demonstration in Cairo an issue for going to such an extent.

Whether the Egyptian lawyer had actually smuggled the drug or not can only be stated after independent verification; but who can deny the fact that the regime in Riyadh is misusing Islam and Shariah to suppress the people. The way most rich and royal Saudi behave with the white and blue collar workers of the Third World countries is nothing but condemnable and totally un-Islamic. The anger in Egypt had more to do with that as was evident from the Muslim Brotherhood’s statement cited above.

Saudi Arabia, which is increasingly getting isolated, poked its nose in the trouble-torn Syria for obvious reasons. Like the Saudi royal family, Bashar-al-Assad too is a dictator. But the Saudis wanted to play the American and Israeli cards in that country.

Since the leader of Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammad Riad Shaqfa, has been living in exile in Saudi Arabia for the last many years the Saudi tried to fish in the troubled water and exploited the contradictions. The Syrian Brotherhood are against Assad regime.

But the monarchies in the entire Arabian peninsula will have to realize that a new situation has emerged in the vicinity. It can not go on blaming Iran. There is no more dictatorship in Egypt and Turkey too and the regimes in these two countries detest kingship.

Soroor Ahmed is a Patna-based freelance journalist. He writes on political, social, national and international issues.