Saudi Arabia’s illiberal views on liquor are a good reason for staying away from condolence ceremony

It looks likely to be a more effective deterrent than home detention.

It looks likely to be a more effective deterrent than home detention.

Alf is somewhat bemused to learn the Governor-General will represent New Zealand at the funeral of the Saudi King Abdullah.

Frankly, he wouldn’t bother sending anybody if he was calling the shots.

But if somebody must go – well, he is pleased the job hasn’t been given to him.

Accordingly he is pleased that Sir Jerry Mateparae will travel to Saudi Arabia for the ceremony of condolences for King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who died on Friday, aged 90.

Some world leaders have already arrived there.

But what sort of place have they gone to and how many plaudits should be heaped on the late King?


According to reports such as this one:

King Abdullah was a powerful US ally, who fought against al Qaeda and sought to modernise the ultraconservative Muslim kingdom.

But he didn’t too much modernising, perhaps because he was busy on other fronts: he had more than 30 children from about a dozen wives.

Nor was he a reformer. Check this out: 

Saudi Arabia’s deceased King Abdullah, according to just about every obituary in major Western publications, was a reformer. The New York Times, Washington Post, BBC, and NPRall describe Abdullah as a ruler committed to reforming Saudi Arabia’s notoriously repressive practices. Sen. John McCain called Abdullah an advocate for peace; IMF head Christine Lagarde called him a “strong advocate for women.”

But Abdullah did not, in fact, make any fundamental reforms to the Saudi state, which remains one of the most oppressive and inhumane on earth. It punishes dissidents, including currently with multiple rounds of publicly lashing a blogger, amputates hands and legs for robbery, and enforces a system of gender restrictions that make women not just second-class citizens, but in many ways the property of men.

Abdullah’s reputation as a reformer comes from some relatively limited policy shifts he made. Praising Abdullah as a reformer, in addition to being misleading, seems to imply that Saudi Arabia should be held to a lesser standard than the rest of humanity, and that its citizens should be somehow grateful for Abdullah’s minor adjustments to a system that remains cruelly unjust.

Political dissent is strictly forbidden.

If New Zealand adopted rules of the sort in force there, Alf would be quickly silenced in the event – unlikely in the foreseeable future – that NZ opted for a leftie or greenie government.

A blogger by name of Raif Badawi has been sentenced to 1000 lashes and 10 years in jail for the “crime” of defending atheists.

Mind you, the Saudis are sufficiently liberal to dish out the lashings in several sessions. The errant blogger has so far been lashed 50 times and hence has some way to go before the lashing bit of the sentence has been completed.

But the lash is used in criminal cases, too.

A Saudi court some eight years ago sentenced a rape victim to 90 lashes because she was in a car with a man she wasn’t related to. When she spoke to the media about her case, her sentence was doubled.

King Abdullah did not attempt to fundamentally reform these practices or the system underlying them.

But Alf’s constituents should not get the idea he disapproves of the late king’s failure to radically reform his country.

As an advocate of a tough approach to law and order he reckons we could learn a trick or two from Saudi Arabia’s  use of corporal punishment which includes amputations of hands and feet for robbery, and flogging for lesser crimes such as “sexual deviance”.

Moreover, women are not permitted to drive vehicles or ride bicycles, which looks likely to make the roads much safer than here.

Saudi Arabia does not shun capital punishment, either, and the public can enjoy the spectacle of executions by beheading.

According to Wikipeida, the death penalty can be imposed for a wide range of offences including murder, rape, armed robbery, repeated drug use, apostasy, adultery, witchcraft and sorcery and can be carried out by beheading with a sword, stoning or firing squad, followed by crucifixion.

Saudi Arabia has other laws that don’t unduly trouble Alf.

On 25 September 2011, King Abdullah announced that Saudi women would gain the right to vote (and to be candidates) in municipal elections, following the next round of these elections. However, a male guardian’s permission is required in order to vote.

But Alf became seriously disinclined to go to the condolence ceremony on learning that:

Possession of alcohol may result in imprisonment and corporal punishment. Travellers have been detained on arrival in Saudi Arabia when police have detected the smell of alcohol on their breath.

The trade thing is important, of course, and presumably has been a factor in deciding whether NZ should be represented at the funeral and who should to the representing.

Saudi Arabia is New Zealand’s 15th largest export market and largest export destination in the Middle East.

It is our largest supplier of fertiliser and a significant supplier of crude oil.

Our exports were worth $754 million in the 12 months to November 30, up 34 per cent from the comparable period of 2012/13.

Dunno how many whips were included in those exports but obviously there is a good market there for that particular item.

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