NYT Op-ed: Saudi Arabia’s Duplicitous Legalism

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — The authorities knew all along that Waleed Abu al-Khair was guilty. They just needed something better to charge him with. So on April 15, even as the prominent human rights lawyer stood before a judge, accused of harming the country’s reputation and other offenses, they had him arrested right there in the courtroom for something that would really stick: breaking the country’s new antiterrorism law.

Saudi Arabia has been hugely successful in combating terrorism — there have been no major attacks within its borders since 2004, when militants assaulted the American Consulate in Jeddah in an incident that left a dozen people dead. Thus, many people might be puzzled why the government has even bothered to pass the Law for the Crimes of Terrorism and its Financing, which went into effect in February. But like so many government actions of late — including the legal fishing expedition against Mr. Abu al-Khair — the legislation has little to do with fear of Al Qaeda and much to do with fear of the Arab Spring. Click here to read on.


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10 responses to “NYT Op-ed: Saudi Arabia’s Duplicitous Legalism

  1. Freedom of speech,freedom of thought and freedom of belief should be fundamental rights in all countries

    • Dear Dr. Eaman ,
      Re: Why Eaman is right only superficially ?

      I read your commentary in the NY times entitled :Saudi Arabia’s Duplictious legalism with interest and concerns . In my field of economics which to remind you is a social science with far reaching implications and in light of the international financail / economic crisis it is conventional wisdom to accept what often is rational for the individual is almost by definition can be irrational for the community . From a historical perspective we have two imponderables , for one the Arabs ( maybe the Moslems ) have been blinded by the Arab anger ( dumbed ) as Arab spring ., the masses in Egypt yearn for decent living which may or maynot coincide with political Democracey as understood in the West , not withstanding good Westren wishes , for second , the evolution of the state system in the region is still fragile where institutions are not solid , just witness the Iraqi experience after several elections in the second oil exporter within OPEC still generate hardly as much electric power as Kuwait’s which is has one tenth of the Iraq population .At this historical juncture opening the societies to endless demands and grievances would unleash centrifugal forces that will end up hurting more than human rights as defined by the cases you mention .
      This is not to deny the merits of any of the cases and It is not meant as a statistical measure but the interests for all including the putative victims .Imagine of the Chinese ruling establishment yielding to good similar wishes in 89 , China would be in endless strikes ,poverty for hundreds of millions , and foreigners advancing not so holy advise .The only people who achieved any measure of success after the Westren countries and Japan are the Asians and it was chieved with authoritarian powers , and that was in in era where media and social network was less pressing . State building will never be achieved if we embrace Westren practices during a tumultuous period of change , People who advocate quick evolution without passing through the rigors of development are either idealistic or simply not informed enough , both are dangerous .The lofty ambition that human rights are universal or the assertion that human rights are important than the state are too scary to contemplate or too philosophical to deal with in your commentary or my rebuttal , or rooted in Bin Khaldoun assessment of the Arab desire to grab power opportunistically .
      The game plan is to press for far reaching economic reforms and allow the societies to be more productive to foster genuine linkages vertically and horizontally rather than lethargic dependency on the state for everything . For example , in Saudi Arabia , it is very difficult not to recognize the need for land reforms through a tax or zakat . The challenge for you Eaman and people of your ability is to dare to embrace a different narrative not be boxed in Westren mind set that is simply unsuitable .

      Fawaz H.Alfawaz
      Riyadh based economic consultant and a columnist

      • Janet bred

        But fawaz, that is why it is the time for thought, deep reflection on the ” ideas of mankind”. Justice, compassion, governance To devop new thought reflective of the faith and the culture….not western or eastern…but your thought. This is the time for ideas to come from the region.

  2. Frances

    I am an American female school teacher. I have also been a “home-stay” host to about 27 male Saudi students who are studying English in Austin, Texas. Please even though I cannot get not even one of the students to read your blog, I thoroughly enjoy it and bring up your topics at every meal!
    Please keep writing! Frances in Austin

    • mizliz

      Frances, since they are young males and are subject to peer pressure I bet they would never admit to reading it even if they did. I am sure their curiosity has gotten the best of them and they have checked it out. Keep spreading the word at your meals!

      The article I read in the New York Times was brilliant. Thank you
      Saudi Woman for never disappointing with your views and showing such pure bravery. I worry about you and if you are safe writing the truth. Words can’t tell you how much I respect you as another human being and especially as another woman.

      God Bless You for all that you are trying to do.

  3. manea@pw.uzh.ch

    Thank you. Warm regards, Elham

    Sent from my iPhone


  4. Retired Maryland Lady

    I very much doubt that the Saudi authorities will let this excellent, eye-opening essay pass unnoticed. I sincerely hope you do not pay too high a price for your openness and candor, which I am sure your readers and fellow citizens prize dearly. Thank you for your efforts to bring some truth into your stifling environment, and I greatly admire your bravery in doing so.

    -A retired Maryland lady

  5. Janet,
    You are absolutely correct except ideas are not forth comings .I really want to be realistic and cold blooded about it rather than advancing rosy scenarios that donot hold water .In my columns I have tried to advance specific ideas to break the jam .
    In reality the middle Eastren cultures are gripped by the perennial questions of authority and top down , while they donot able to reach the bottoms physically or figuratively . In a strange way Janet the governments are authoritarians but ” not ” authoritarians enough in things that really matter and can alter the social land scape where it counts : how institutions and people actually live and behave .

  6. Maxwell Ryder

    You give a lot of Jews in America and Israel hope for destroying the country you live in. You ought to be ashamed of yourself for promoting your country’s destruction from the inside, especially that it gives you this free hand and platform willingly; and I am surprised the anti-terrorism law has not applied to your incendiary column. Enjoy giving New Yorkers some more fire to hate Islamic countries more than they already do.

    • A good portion of our so called intellectuals donot seem to Appreicate the historical perspective when it comes to modern state evolution in the region . women issue , human rights , open society are all important are all important aspirations .But to strive to destroy the. Whole edifice to highlights narrower concerns is somewhere between apathy and ignorance orolitical agenda .
      We all saw Ahmed Chalbi in Iraq and every Arab / Moslem country has its wanna be Chalbis , their message is loud and clear : we will cooperate with the devils to grab power even of the price is to destroy the state system , Beacuse we are taken by milaced conceptual Westrenerspective that is simply unsuitable .The Middle Eastren intellectual though is beset by a false choice : a choice between secularism and different variants of fundamentalism , while the true choice is between serious concerted efforts to progress or remain stand still ( via being busy with irrelevant foreign Models )

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