The demonstrators are stating very clearly that they do not want interference either from Saudi Arabia or America in their internal affairs. What is fascinating is that the slogans in Bahrain have been slogans of unity between Shias and Sunnis. We can see how the Saudis have sent in their armies and have tried to play the sectarian card. The mass of the demonstrators are not talking about this issue.
We can see in Syria that a lot of Saudi money is being channeled again to create dissention. In Lebanon certain elements are being supported by Saudi money to create friction in a very tiny country which has a mosaic of nationalities, religions and allegiances. In Pakistan petro dollars have created fireworks. The Pakistani mosques, regardless of whether they are Sunni or Shia, which are being blown up are being funded, without doubt, by Saudi money.
It is fascinating to see where Saudi money is going. Not to alleviate the Muslim situation but to create friction. Where there is no animosity money can easily buy people to create that friction.
How does the Saudi curse relate to the Arab spring? I am sure our speaker will explain.
Lord Nazeer Ahmed: I would like to thank the Gulf Cultural Club for inventing me. The topic today is very interesting: The Saudi curse and the Arab spring. If we look at the Arab spring, which started on December 18th, many of the commentators have pointed out that 60 percent of the population in the Arab world is under 25. Because of the rising unemployment there is huge social deprivation. The gap between the rich and the poor is widening. The power is with the few with the wealth and some would say this has caused the problem.
When a country like Saudi Arabia exports over a billion dollars worth of oil every day and there are trillions of dollars in the banks of the GCC countries earning interest every day the people want to ask why are we living like this? Why are we treated in this way? There are those who would say it is because of the interference from outside. Some would say it is from the West and others would day it is from the east.
In Tunisia one young man was unemployed and he set himself on fire. This is how the spring started in Tunisia and then it went into Egypt. The role played by Saudi Arabia is very interesting. I don’t want people to think that it is Saudi bashing day. I have just come from a meeting I organized in the House of Lords and a Saudi diplomat was there. I am sure there will be brother or a sister here who will report back to the Saudi government. I have no problem with that. I have done hajj and umrah and I can pray from here. Allah is listening to me here. I don’t need to be in Saudi to pray.
I do not have anything personal against the Saudis. I don’t have anything personal against the ruling family. What I resent is that when they are earning billions and billions of dollars every day there is not seen a single clean bathroom or toilet between Mecca and Medina
If you go for umrah or hajj and travel by road from Mecca to Medina and you go to a bathroom because you are desperate to do wudu. From Jeddah to Median it is exactly the same story and the airports are just as bad.
Today a doctor was talking about it. He said his party waited for six hours because they could not get their passports stamped and there was no water or tea. The people are just staring at the officers. They cannot say anything because as soon as they say something they will throw their pen and will say go back. The people are afraid of this sort of attitude.
Then you have the issue with regard to the holy places and Muslim heritage that has been destroyed. You have to remember that the Prophet (pbuh) told the people of Mecca that if anybody comes for hajj you must be kind and hospitable. The people were given free food and accommodation. Today they have built towers where they charge between $300 and $500 a night. So it is commercialized. The money is then invested in New York, Brussels and London.
I don’t want to speak about London. It is all en suid because it doubles and triples. What they love is the power. In the House of Lords I have asked questions in relation to the human rights situation because all of us are appalled by what happens in Guantanamo Bay. There are 500 – 600 people, all of them Muslim who were not charged for years and years. We want them to be charged and put in front of a court. If they are not charged, they should be released.
In Saudi Arabia there are nine to ten thousand people who have been forgotten by the rest of the world. Eight thousand have never been charged. Some of them, both Sunnis and Shias have been there for ten years.
My assistant Bilal is here. He knows that we asked questions in relation to the Indonesian woman who was beheaded in public because of allegations. How many Saudi women are beheaded in public?
I have always had this issue in relation to the Saudis because of the way in which they treat the Asian workers. The pittance they pay them even in haram. I have my Christian friends here and I don’t like to talk about it. The people who clean in God’s house are paid less than 100 pounds a month. They sleep on the floor. There are six to ten people in one room. I have seen it. I have talked to these people and I have raised it again and again. This is why I am bringing it to public attention. This is how they treat people.
They talk about the West and they talk about Britain. They say the West is kafir or non believers, they are non Muslims. Praise the Lord. We have better laws in the UK in terms of equality than the whole of the Muslim world. In terms of justice and fairness for all citizens, in terms of the law we are all equal. Nobody is better just because they happen to have a stripped turban or a scarf or speak a particular language.
If I was given the same salary that my father received in Pakistan or Kashmir because that is what I received there I would be appalled. In Saudi Arabia that is what they do. They say because in India, in Bangladesh or in Pakistan you are on that salary you will get the same salary. If you are an Arab from Egypt you get a better salary. If you are a Saudi you will get a better salary and of course if you are white you get a better salary then all of them because you are the ones who will rescue us when we are in trouble.
Today the UK and the US and Europe is supporting the change that came about in Egypt. I am very glad of that. But can anyone remember when Hosni Mubarak was holding on to power King Abdullah, the great leader of the Muslims was calling President Obama and saying that President Mubarak must stay where he is. He was supporting Mubarak till the very last day.
Where did the President of Tunisia go? Or course to Saudi Arabia where he is living in one of the palaces. One of the Saudi princes tired to justify this by saying that Mecca and Medina have always been places of refuge for people who are persecuted around the world.
Will they let a persecuted Pakistani or a Bengali or somebody else from Nepal or another Muslim to stay in Saudi Arabia? Absolutely not. He would not be allowed to stay there.
The refuge is provided in Mecca and Medina. But the President of Tunisia is not in Mecca or Medina. He is in Jeddah or Taif or somewhere else in a cool place enjoying himself. So this is the reason why the dirty politics of the regime particularly in relation to Bahrain and Yemen are seen.
I have been privy to some of the discussions in the Foreign Office. Our government, the Europeans and the Americans would have been delighted to see the President of Yemen gone. When he was being treated in Saudi Arabia and wanted to go back our FCO tried to convince him not to go back.
People are dying for change. The are fighting. This is their choice. They want a genuine democracy. I do not see denominational differences in Bahrain. Seventy percent are Shia and thirty percent are Sunni. The majority whether they are Sunni, Shia or socialist want change and they want democracy and real change.
I told one of the Saudi princes that the concept of sheikhdoms and kingdoms is a new phenomenon in the Middle East. They have full protection from the US and UK because they serve them very well. They go to the US and the UK for holidays, they shop in Harrods, they go to Oxford Street and Edgware Road and do other wonderful things that I could not possibly talk about.
We talk to them, we know where they invest, where they put their money, how they run their business. One of my friends works for an American company. He is advising the ruler how to run the media campaign and rebut some of the atrocities that have been exposed on U-tube. This is very sad. The bloodshed we have seen in Bahrain is now not being reported on the tv channels. You only see what is happening in Libya. I am afraid what is happening in Libya. My worry is that if Qadhafi wins you will see a slaughter in the east. And if Tripoli is taken over you will see a slaughter of Qadhafi’s regime. And that is exactly what is happening.
This is not the end. Lorries full of gold and dollars have gone out and our friends from neighbouring countries who were already helping will come back and you will see another Afghanistan. Probably not as bad as Afghanistan but you will have a similar situation. I fear that because Libyans are my brothers and sisters whether they are from Benghazi or Tripoli, whether they are from the desert or from the coast. The same people are dying.
A new word is being used by the UAE and Saudi Arabia. They refer to the ‘moderate camp of the Middle East’. It is run by Saudi Arabia with the help of the UAE to save the kingdoms of Jordan and Morocco. (Morocco has not joined). Bahrain, Kuwait and I think there are one or two others. This is the moderate camp. What they are saying to us is that if you do not support us you will get Al Qaeda supported by the Iranians. Now you have to worry. If you have democracy you will get the extremists who will take over. This is what we heard after 9/11.
I have no doubt about the atrocities that were committed on 9/11. Three thousand people died. Who did it? I don ‘t know. Nobody has ever been convicted. What I do know is that because of 9/11 six or seven hundred thousand Iraqis have been slaughtered along with 150,000 thousand Afghans. Weapons of mass destruction were a lie. Pakistan has lost 35,000 innocent civilians. Pakistan did not have the Taliban and now they are there.
Pakistan has lost $65bn due to loss of earnings and they have lost 5,000 soldiers. The war will continue for another ten, 15 or 20 years. None of those responsible for 9/11 were Afghanis or Pakistanis. The majority were Saudis and I never saw any forces going into Saudi Arabia. In fact all of them were from the Arab countries: Saudi Arabia, UAE, Jordan and one Lebanese. None were Pakistan, Iraq, Iran or Afghanistan.
So my worry is the politics they are playing today because this moderate camp is now lobbying in the West in political circles. I can tell you the truth hand on heart. I met a minister in the UAE for whom I had the greatest respect. I was talking about what is happening to the Palestinians. I was just about to tell him I am going to Gaza and he replied that what is happening to the Israelis is horrible. They have to live in fear from terrorism. I was appalled. I asked him whether he had ever been to Gaza and whether he had seen the largest prison in the world. Have you seen what is happening to the children when they run out of milk, even powdered milk when they don’t get it? Have you seen the gunships that go and kill them.
I had the honour of going from Cyprus to Gaza on the ship when were intimidated by the Israeli navy. Have you ever been there and talked to the people. When I was in America I said that when we support democracy in the world we only want the democracy that is good for us. The democracy of Saudi Arabia is great but we do not like the democracy of the Palestinians because they have elected Hamas. We do not like democracy in Lebanon because Hamas got elected and is in power. Those people may not be the people we want.
As far as certain countries are concerned they do not want to see that change. But I can tell you honestly I believe that change is something which cannot be stopped. The Americans did not want a change in Egypt. I remember watching live the press briefing that President Obama gave. Everyone thought he would say that he is going to withdraw his support from President Mubarak. He said that we have advised our friends and the government of Egypt that they should listen to their people. They have been saying that for a very long time. Listen to your people.
It is the people that brought about the change. We have a duty to support that change. That change is essential. It is what the people want in Bahrain, in Yemen, in Syria. I am a staunch supporter of people deciding their own future in the whole of the Middle East from Morocco, to Algeria to Sudan.
I have a very good relationship with President Bashir. But if the people want to change him then the change has to come. This is what the people want. And the people do not want to see their rulers in power because they have been there for too long – some of them are too old. Our great friend the ruler of the Muslim world, King Abdullah is just not there. There was a great hope. I really thought that King Abdullah could bring about a change because of the way in which he supported the Palestinians. He wanted the 1967 borders and a two state solution. He said he wanted to support the Palestinians.
If Saudi Arabia gave one day’s earnings from oil to Darfur the whole problem of the resources in Darfur would be resolved. They would drill lots of wells and bring up the water. The greenery would return and the people would not fight over water and resources.
If one day’s oil earnings were given to Gaza problems would be solved. What have they given to Somalia which is just across the water. Even if they just gave one day’s interest. Do not think of it as sadaka – it would just be money for the poor and then you would see poverty reducing. Poverty would be reduced. The people would have some respect for them.
It is criminal that the princes in Saudi Arabia can have a quota for 100m, 500m a billion dollars worth of oil every year and the poor people just round the corner are dying in Somalia and Ethiopia because they don’t even have a piece of bread.
There is poverty in Saudi Arabia but not to that extent. The point I am trying to make that what they do is very sad. People talk about human rights everywhere else but they do not talk about human rights in Saudi Arabia.
We the Muslims talk about what is happening in Abu Ghraib and Gunatanamo Bay but nobody is talking about the nine thousand who are locked up in Saudi Arabia. They have never been charged or convicted. We are talking about people being beheaded and stoned to death elsewhere but we do not talk about it in Saudi Arabia.
We talk about the influence of Europe and the USA. Let us take Europe out of it because I am a British parliamentarian. The influence of the Americans is all co-ordinated. Sometimes America does not want to do it themselves. They get Saudi Arabia to do it. They get the UAE to do it.
In Pakistan all politics are played by Saudi Arabia and the UAE. A junior official in the State Department just calls them. I go to America quite often. My assistant has been trying to get a visa for the last six weeks. He has still not got it even though he is British. He has got a funny name and he works with a funny person.
I think I have spoken for half an hour. Thank you so much.