Elie Elhadj66 Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 16, No. 3 (September 2012)Morocco, the leaders of the winning partiesbecame president and prime ministers. InEgypt, the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidatewon the presidency with 51.7 percent of thevotes cast (June 2012).Further, in all Arab monarchies andrepublics (excluding Lebanon), Islam is thereligion of the state (In Syria, Islam is thereligion of the president instead).
Also,Shari’a law is either “the main” source of legislation, “a principal” source of legislation,or “the basis” of legislation. The exceptionsare Tunisia and Jordan, where Shari’a is notmentioned. Arab personal status laws alsofollow Shari’a rules, except in Tunisia, wherepolygamy and Shari’a courts were abolishedin 1956. Even the former Iraqi dictator, thesupposedly “secular” Saddam Hussein, addedthe words “
” (God is great) to theIraqi flag in 1991.
WHY ARAB RULERS EXPLOIT ISLAM
Islam has been used by Arab rulers as ameans to prolong their dictatorships. The word“Islam” means submission or surrender--surrendering to God, to Muhammad, and toMuslim authority. Koran verse 4:59 reads:“Obey God and obey God’s messenger andobey those of authority among you.” Suchwording occurs dozens of times throughoutthe Koran. In addition, according to thecanonical
,Muhammad reportedly said, “He who obeysme, obeys God; he who disobeys me, disobeysGod. He who obeys the ruler, obeys me; hewho disobeys the ruler, disobeys me.”
Similar wording appears dozens of times in
and other canonical hadithcollections
As a result of these injunctions a culture of obedience to hierarchical authority developedin Arab societies--male ruling over the female,the father over the children and wife (orwives), the teacher over the student, employerover the employee, and so forth. Arab kingsand presidents have taken advantage of thesecommands. Whether in Riyadh, Damascus, orCairo, the palace ulama--in return for wealthand power--have energetically indoctrinatedthe masses into believing that blind obedienceto the king or president (
) is at theheart of the Islamic faith, synonymous withpiety.Verse 4:59 became a psychological weaponagainst political dissent, supplementing Arabrulers’ brigades of security forces. In thisrespect, Saudi Arabia is unique. Securitymeasures are turned into Wahhabi dictums inorder to eliminate the potential opposition tothe regime of one half of the population;namely, Saudi women. Male guardianshiprules over women mean that a husband, father,son, or brother of an errant wife, mother,daughter, or sister must pledge in writing tothe police his assurances and responsibility forthe woman’s future infractions. Furtherrestrictions on women in Saudi Arabia includesevere gender segregation, a ban on driving,the requirement to wear a head-to-toe black cloak, the ability to obtain a passport or totravel only with her guardian’s permission,and even being forbidden to undergo any typeof surgery without the guardian’s approval.On March 11, 2002, a fire broke out at agirls' school in Mecca. Firemen and concernedcitizens quickly arrived on the scene.However, the religious police locked theschoolgirls inside the inferno rather than letthem escape into the streets without their veilsand head-to-toe cloaks. For this same reason,the religious police prevented the firemenfrom entering the school to rescue the girls forfear that the girls would be seen without theircoverings. As a result, fifteen young girlsburned to death and dozens more wereinjured.
These restrictions are all enforced in thename of the “true” Islam, but in reality serveto tighten the regime’s security grip on thepopulation. As if to legitimize the actions of the religious police concerning this incident, anoted Saudi cleric, Abd al-Rahman al-Barrak,opined in a
(religious ruling or decree)in 2010 that those who promote heresies likethe mixing of men and women in theworkplace or in educational institutions shouldbe put to death.
Islamic scholars at Egypt'sal-Azhar University were outraged anddemanded al-Rahman retract the fatwa.