This is not the first time that Saudi political movements from the Sunni jihadists on the far-right to the Shi’ite far-left and everything in between have converged.
A few days ago the sheikhs and academics of Qatif issued a statement in rebuttal to the Saudi authorities’ statement regarding the presence of a spy network working for a foreign country operating within the kingdom.
Some of the statement’s more prominent signatories from the Saudi Shi’ite community included Sheikh Hassan Al-Safar and Dr. Tawfiq Al-Seif.
The condensed statement claimed that the Saudi authorities’ statements regarding the spy network were suspicious, contemptible, and geared to exploit sectarian tensions (Interior Ministry spokesman Major Gen. Mansour Al-Turki never mentioned the terms “Shi’ite” or “Iran”). In addition, they demanded political reform and a resolution to the prisoner issue.
Prior to this, Dr. Salman Al-Ouda, a leading figure of the Sahwa Movement, issued a strongly worded statement regarding the prisoner issue. He warned of repercussions if these demands were not met, saying, “Stifled revolutions transform into armed movements, and spread if ignored. The solution lies in wise decisionmaking which prevents any spark of violence from ever happening.”
For some time now political Islam groups, both Shi’ite and Sunni, have been working towards unifying their demands and forming a loose coalition. This trend was most pronounced in 2003 which witnessed a slew of statements to this end. Thereafter this receded from the political scene only to return to the fore once again following the events of the Arab Spring.
Here are a few points worthy of consideration:
– The statement signed by Sheikh Safar and others implies that Iranian espionage is a sudden, new, and fabricated phenomenon, when in reality it has been constant and systematic. In Yemen alone several spy networks were recently uncovered. Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi warned of virulent Iranian infiltration and arms shipments, not to mention the cells uncovered in Kuwait, Bahrain, and elsewhere. Moreover Iran-based espionage cells are known to have attacked Saudi Arabia through politics and the media. Not to mention the assassination attempt on the Saudi ambassador in Washington and the cyber attack on Aramco’s servers.
– Espionage and foreign loyalties are not exclusive to Iran or any one sect, they are an unspoken reality of politics in which all nations and groups constantly partake to varying degrees. Recently these activities have increased due to the turmoil in the region. We are all aware of the Muslim Brotherhood network which was uncovered in the UAE, not to mention the Kuwaiti prime minister himself acknowledging that Kuwaiti nationals were involved with this in a speech before parliament.
– Demands for good governance, fair litigation, and social justice are reasonable and in no way out of line. Objections are being raised to the fact that they are politicizing the issues. It is the right of anyone with a political vision to exploit the circumstances available and mobilize the energies of the public in order to realize this end.
In short we are living in a time fraught with noisy podiums, an abundance of media outlets, and highly-varied political posturing in which everything is mixed. It is natural that every group, whether motivated by honest ideological principles or selfish ambition, should try to politicize every issue to their benefit. However it remains paramount that we protect society from the turmoil we all fear, and that in the midst of this hubbub we do not let cold reason lose out to the flames of incendiary rhetoric.
For it does not matter what the eye sees, but what the mind perceives.