PEJOURNAL – The former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said on the anniversary of 9/11 that Saudi Arabia with huge oil wealth is propagating a fundamental, old-fashioned, and quite a backward view of Islam.
Blair described the 9/11 terrorist attacks as an event that changed the world. He said that the attacks created big anxiety in the world because they did not know whether further attacks were on the way.
Meanwhile, he added that Americans decided to leave Afghanistan because they realized that the enemy they were fighting there was not going to give up even after 20 years. He said that the Americans could not wait more and they were fighting an endless war.
He said that the US agreement with the Taliban demoralized the Afghanistan government and the people of Afghanistan who locally worked with the Americans in the provinces.
To shed light on the issue, we reached out to Professor Hossein Askari, Economist, Emeritus Professor of Business and International Affairs at George Washington University. Following is the text of the interview with him:
On the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, at the Yalta European Security conference (YES) in Kyiv, Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said that Saudi Arabia is propagating a fundamental, old-fashioned and quite a backward view of Islam. What do you think of this? Do you agree with him?
I think that Saudi Arabia is conveying the wrong message of Islam. The Saudi view is based on how best to maintain the absolute rule of the al-Sauds. It is alien to the message of the Quran and the life of the Prophet. Saudi Arabia bans other religions. No churches and no synagogues. How is this Islam? Islam preaches freedom of religion. Allah gave human beings freedom and the freedom to choose.
In Islam, rulers are answerable to the community. In Saudi Arabia, it is the opposite. Members of the community are to obey and not question a ruler, no matter how incompetent and oppressive. How is this Islam? In Islam, an opulent lifestyle is not recommended. Just look at how the al-Sauds and their cronies live. Over the top opulence. How is this Islam? In Islam, depletable resources, such as oil and natural gas, belong to the community and all future generations. Yet the al-Sauds have direct access to the treasury. How is this Islam?
Islam is about justice, peace, freedom, tolerance, modest lifestyles, poverty eradication, hard work and the like. This is not the Saudi message.
So yes, I agree with Mr. Blair only in part. I don’t think it is an old-fashioned view. It is a wrong and perverted view to suit those in power.
To what extent are some global powers using extremism as a tool to secure their geopolitical interests, particularly in the West Asia?
Global powers, especially the US, label a person or an entity a terrorist or extremist and give themselves a license to wage war and kill. They also uphold the view that rulers, no matter how cruel, oppressive and corrupt, must be supported for the sake of stability. Such rulers are needed to keep would-be terrorists in check and maintain stability. So in this way, they can collaborate with these oppressive rulers to further their national and personal agenda. It is how colonialism has evolved into collaborative colonialism.
Tony Blair refers to a fact, while the UK is still cooperating with a reactionary regime like Saudi Arabia. If leaders like him believe what they say why they are cooperating with Riyadh?
It is not just leaders but all sorts of former politicians and senior military men cooperate with leaders in these Arab countries. Many have lucrative consulting contracts and some are on the board of directors of companies that have vast business interests in these countries. Money is the answer. They cooperate to earn vast sums. There is no admiration but it is simply for money and in these countries, the rulers can grant vast sums. This does not happen in a country, such as Germany, with laws and checks and balances.
The United States left Afghanistan after 20 years after claiming of fighting against terrorism and extremism, while extremism still exists in the country. Why couldn’t the US succeed in its so-called war against terrorism?
The answer to this question requires several books. But let me give you a taste. To begin with, the source of terrorism can be just one person. The US cannot monitor and fight everyone in the world. In Afghanistan, the US partnered with corrupt Afghans who were largely interested in stealing and not building a prosperous nation. They built mansions in Kabul and in Dubai and put way millions in bank accounts abroad.
The US saw this but it did not seem to care. As Americans–American companies and contractors—were making money and lobbied to keep the war going. But the Afghans saw all this, while front line soldiers were not getting paid! So there was no loyalty to the puppet government in Kabul. On top of all of this remember that Afghanistan is a tribal land with a multitude of ethnicities.