Malaysia fails to stand up to Saudi bullying

Abdullah Ahmad, Editor of Malaysia’s New Straits Times, lost his job yesterday for writing an editorial critical of the Saudi royals, essentially for telling the truth and calling a spade a spade.

Anyone who reads about the House of Saud knows that the story is most unflattering to the dynasty.

Saudi Arabia has long been suspected of complicity, conscious or otherwise, in the Sept 11 attacks. No matter how much the kingdom tried to wriggle out of it, there was no escaping the fact that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis who were educated and of good birth. Above all, so is Osama bin Laden.

Although he might have been swayed by ideologues from countries like Egypt, there is also no escaping the fact that he provided al-Qaeda with at least the initial means to organise itself — Saudi money.

Excess oil money coupled with the ultra-conservative Wahhabi sect was bound to add up, sooner or later, to a combustible mix. Some American analysts contend that the export of radical Islam was a deliberate ploy by the Saudi elite to keep it away from their country. Many moderate Muslims agree.

By supporting the ustaz, mullah and madrasah, chiefly in the Afghan jihad against the Soviet heathens, the rich Saudis tried to pay off the extremists to look elsewhere. But when the Saudi Government invited US troops on its soil in the Gulf War of 1991, al-Qaeda lashed round to bite the hand that fed it. It never forgave the House of Saud for violating Islam’s birthplace with the presence of infidel soldiers.

Call it a CIA conspiracy to discredit the so-called custodian of the holy places, but the “export” theory is difficult to disprove. New Straits Times|Cached at Google

So it looks like the new leadership in Malaysia under Abdullah Badawi either succumbed to Saudi pressure (in this case, a reduction of Haj quotas) or bent backwards to ingratiate itself to the Saudi royals. In any case this is a poor move from a state as modern, as dynamic and as progressive as Malaysia. It should have instead upheld its own model of moderate Islamic government as an example for the Muslim world. Succumbing to Saudi bullying has sullied Malaysia’s reputation of being resolute in the face of foreign criticism and standing up for its beliefs.

The move is also hypocritical. Malaysia under Mahathir has never shirked from cocking a snook at the United States, Britain or Australia – its major trading partners and investors. But the merest whiff of pressure from the Saudi royals, and Malaysia bends backwards. It may be that this was a clever political move to appeal to the Islamic constituency; but a vast majority of Malaysians are proud of their country, and its tradition of seeking its own way. Pandering to the Saudi royals has let Malaysians down.