Discrimination is a terrible thing, but only when the wrong people do it.3:33 PM, May 26, 2015 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
The Guardian had a story last week about the soon-to-be completed Abraj Kudai, a new hotel in Mecca which will have 10,000 guest rooms, 70 restaurants, four helipads, and five floors reserved for the sole use of the Saudi royal family.
Totally unmentioned by the Guardian is that you’re not allowed to stay there unless you’re Muslim.
Several years ago I wrote a piece on the steroid-level religious discrimination by which Saudi Arabia declares two entire cities off-limits to non-Muslims:
The Koranic revelations were given to the prophet Muhammed in Mecca, which was then a pagan place. Soon after, he left Mecca and traveled to Medina, where he assembled an army, returning to conquer Mecca in A.D. 630. "The Prophet then ordered, on the basis of what he said was God's command to him, that the environs around Mecca should only be for Muslims," explains Seyyed Hossein Nasr, a professor of Islamic studies at George Washington University.
The custodians of Islam take the ban seriously, and they have constructed a large apparatus to keep infidels out. In The Saudis, Sandra Mackey's account of living in Saudi Arabia several years ago, she recalls trying to drive near Mecca (with her husband at the wheel, of course): "Billboard-size blue and white signs in both Arabic and English appeared along the road, warning non-Moslems to turn back." She saw religious authorities and Saudi policemen "lounging in a small wooden building adjacent to the road." Eventually, "we were forced off the road by one of the angry policemen." She was fined about $100 and turned away. (What's the penalty for actually being caught inside Mecca? The Saudi embassy refused to return calls.)
Ali Al-Ahmed, executive director of the Washington-based Saudi Institute, explains that these posts "check your religion, basically." He notes that, "if you're a Saudi, of course, there is no problem. But if you aren't, your ID says what your religion is." If you're wondering why it's not a problem if you're a Saudi, Ms. Mackey explains it best by quoting a passage from a Saudi hotel directory: "Islam is the official religion of Saudi Arabia. Churches of other religious denominations do not exist in the kingdom."
Professor Nasr has a more benign view. When traveling to Mecca, drivers are stopped at a toll station, he explains (the city has no airport): "Somebody comes forward and looks and says, 'Are you all Muslims?' And the people will say 'yes' and they'll say, 'Go on.'" But "if the authorities become suspicious because someone doesn't look like a Muslim, they'll say, 'Recite the first chapter of the Koran' or some such thing which all Muslims know by heart."
It’s important to understand that this ban isn’t just for a single holy site, but for an entire metropolitan area. How seriously do the Saudis take it? This seriously:
Companies that rely on skilled workers often resort to using auxiliary offices outside the city. Mackey tells of the building of a hotel designed by a Western architect. The Saudis refused to allow him into the city and, she writes, "insisted that he stand on a hill outside of town and direct the work through a telescope."
And yet American companies which care deeply about social justice at home are happy to accommodate discrimination abroad. Remember last year when Starbucks decided to ban customers who were legally carrying firearms from its stores? Because to Starbucks, progressive ideals are more important that constitutionally-enshrined rights. Well in downtown Mecca there’s a Starbucks. And not only is it inaccessible to non-Muslims, but it’s segregated by gender, too.
Cue the outrage in . . . never mind.
Jonathan V. Last is a senior writer at The Weekly Standard.
The Saudis push back against the Obama foreign policy. May 25, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 35 • By HUSSAIN ABDUL-HUSSAIN
The Obama administration put a happy face on its Camp David summit last week, even as four of the Gulf Cooperation Council’s six leaders turned down Obama’s invitation to attend. The most significant absence, of course, was that of Saudi Arabia’s king, Salman. In his place, Riyadh sent Salman’s 55-year-old nephew, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, and Salman’s 28-year-old son, Mohammed bin Salman, deputy crown prince and defense minister.
8:01 AM, May 14, 2015 • By DANIEL HALPER
Barack Obama greeted Crown Prince Bin Nayef of Saudi Arabia in the Oval Office yesterday by getting some names wrong. Here's how the president began the remarks:
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT OBAMA AND CROWN PRINCE BIN NAYEF OF SAUDI ARABIA BEFORE BILATERAL MEETING
THE PRESIDENT: Well, it’s wonderful to welcome back the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Nayef, as well as Deputy Crown Prince Salman. We are very pleased to have them both here today, as well as the delegation from Saudi Arabia.
9:02 AM, May 13, 2015 • By THOMAS DONNELLY
The early Cold War period might be called the Age of the Treaty Organization. The United States, scrambling furiously to respond to the fact that it had become the guarantor of the “Free World,” had discovered a surprising interest in entangling alliances of all sorts and in all parts of the world. NATO, of course, was the biggest pact of them all, but in 1954 the “Manilla Pact” created the Southeast Asian Treaty Organiz
3:30 PM, May 11, 2015 • By THOMAS DONNELLY
It was a long time ago and a galaxy far, far away: In July 2008, presidential candidate Barack Obama made big, bold news by travelling to Berlin to – as The New York Times triumphantly recorded – “restore the world’s faith in strong American leadership and idealism.” With 200,000 Berliners waving
8:12 AM, Apr 16, 2015 • By MICHAEL WARREN
A prominent Pakistani-born women's rights activist is asking presidential candidates, including Hillary Clinton, to pledge not to accept donations from foreign nations that oppress women. Raheel Raza, the Canadian journalist behind the documentary film Honor Diaries, is requesting all the presidential candidates, from both parties and both "men and women," to sign her pledge.
Unlike President Obama.12:08 PM, Mar 5, 2015 • By IRFAN AL-ALAWI and STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
Following the death of Saudi King Abdullah at the end of January, and the succession of his half-brother, now King Salman, 79, many observers of the desert monarchy have speculated on its future.
The politics of oil Feb 16, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 22 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
"We can’t just drill our way to lower gas prices.” As recently as two years ago, that’s what the president was saying—with his usual self-assurance—about the nation’s dependence on foreign oil and on oil in general. And he wasn’t the only one. The line was widely echoed on the political left, where the instinctive feeling is that petroleum is poison. It helped that the opposition, led by archvillainess Sarah Palin, was meanwhile chanting, “Drill, baby, drill.”
What more proof was needed?
Time to counter the Saudis with a tariff? Feb 16, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 22 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
We are in a war with Saudi Arabia—and losing. The Saudis aim to regain substantial control of our oil supply by driving from the industry many of our shale-oil-producing frackers who have reduced the power conveyed to the kingdom’s rulers by the underground ocean of oil on which their palaces sit. And we seem prepared to let them do just that, by failing to do what is necessary to prevent a reversal of the major strides we have made to get out from under the boot of an avaricious oil cartel.
2:22 PM, Feb 3, 2015 • By IRFAN AL-ALAWI AND STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
Following the death of King Abdullah Bin Abd Al-Aziz, at 90 or 91, on the night of January 22-23, Saudi Arabia is very likely to continue its policies of opposition to Iran and the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, and its participation in the coalition effort against the Islamic State. These alignments are not an expression of mere rivalry between Sunni Saudis and Shia Iranians, or between Saudi fundamentalists and ISIS radicals.
9:45 AM, Jan 26, 2015 • By JERYL BIER
Obama administration officials have been effusive in their praise for late Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdul-Aziz who died last week at the age of 90. Now comes word that chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin E.
7:49 AM, Jan 23, 2015 • By DANIEL HALPER
Westminster Abbey announced on Twitter that it's flying its flag at half staff after the death of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.
"The Abbey flag is flying at half mast as a mark of respect following the death of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, King of Saudi Arabia," the church tweeted.
12:01 PM, Dec 17, 2014 • By ELLIOTT ABRAMS
Imagine for a moment that you are a Saudi, Emirati, Jordanian, or Israeli. Your main national security worry these days is Iran—Iran’s rise, its nuclear program, its troops fighting in Iraq and Syria, its growing influence from Yemen through Iraq and Syria to Lebanon.