October 30, 2012 · 9:01 am
I have never traveled across the great deserts of Saudi Arabia, the heart of Muslim country and home of their major shrines. The prophet Mohammed is buried in Mecca and the country considered sacred. A resolutely devoted Muslim world, the Saudis have maintained rigid enforcement of their religious principles while rolling in oil income that has made the ruling family among the richest in the world. Of course, this means women cannot even drive a car. Until recently…
The solid foundation of social values now has a crack in it. What shifting international ideals and values have not changed Arabia, the computer and the internet have penetrated the shield. Twitter has revealed frustration and a rejection of how the male dominated country is run. Recently a tweet to Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud (heir apparent to the throne) sent this audacious message. “Remember that we have no medical insurance, no jobs. Prince Salman has billions of dollars and don’t forget all the fenced-in land belonging to the royal family.” Wow! That’s a wake up call indeed!
In fact, the computer has become a new major factor in how the world is run. Even used as an instrument of war, the internet has opened channels that cannot be easily closed. It is widely accepted that America and Israel knocked out Iran’s centrifuges through a cyber attack via the computer. In turn, Iran has intensified their efforts to return the blow. In mid-October Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned that his department is now concerned the Iran may be the first country to launch cyberterrorism. Such an attack recently devastated computer systems in Persian Gulf oil and gas companies. Not unlike the Cold War, hidden espionage and assault continue to go on behind closed doors. Always an unpredictable enemy, national security experts know Iran is more than willing to use sophisticated computer-based methods of attack.
While nothing so vicious in mind, the Saudis are now waking up to how computer messages might affect their country. They did not experience the so-called Arab Spring, but the Twitter-type messages are still spreading a revolution. Prominent judges and lawyers have issued public criticism of large-scale government corruption and social neglect. Women fire away at the clerics who limit their freedoms and self-expression. Even criticisms have been leveled at the king. Unheard of!
A recent study revealed that Twitter has 2.9 million users in Saudi Arabia. While a person could remain anonymous or use a fictitious name, most of the Twitter messages come signed. One of the surprising twists in this revolution is that the internet has turned into a parliament of sorts: A true people’s forum.
One of the unexpected aspects of these messages is the depth of anger toward the royal family. Observers are now recognizing that without serious reforms, the placid Saudi society could erupt into violent change. A mysterious unknown writer name Mujtahidd (which means studious) has made sensational and detailed assaults on the royal family. With 660,000 followers, Mujtahidd is not likely to be easily shut down.
Iran and Saudi Arabia stand at opposite ends of the political spectrum but both reveal how radical the times are changing. The Saudis must take a long, hard second look at their society and we will do the same with Iran. Computers are not to be scoffed at!
Question: Want to Tweet the King in Arabia? You can. What would you tell him?
May 17, 2012 · 12:01 am
The media has not said much about the “Arab Spring” lately. Could be that
summer’s coming and the world is waiting for hot news to explode from Iran. Whatever.
During the lull, we should take a look at Egypt and see what’s unfolding. All is not quiet on the Western front!
The Muslim Brotherhood’s political gains have provided a worrisome trend
that could be a factor in causing more instability in the Persian Gulf region. Unending demonstrations in Egypt remain a factor in creating unrest. Recently, Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador and shut down their diplomatic mission because of protests over the detention of an Egyptian lawyer. The Saudi’s position was that the lawyer was arrested on suspicion of smuggling drugs. Street protestors in Egypt disagreed and started demonstrations that threatened Saudi staff member.
The incident doesn’t amount to much but demonstrates the unsettledness that still
has a major impact on Egyptian affairs. Moslems continue to dominate; Copic Christians remain frightened. A state of conflict between the emerging culture and what had existed under Mubarak continues. In the midst of this turmoil, Egyptians will have a national election on May 23.
How’s that in a country that has virtually never embraced democracy?
The Egyptian man-on-the-street isn’t sure what to think. Former government
officials have faced off against newcomers in a battle over who wasn’t Mubarak’s big
buddy. Until the upheaval, the ruler of the country sat in an exceptionally high place
overseeing the state and politics. Mubarak and Sadat before him were like pharaohs
embodying divine and earthly rule. A ruler’s health and wealth could not even be
examined in the press. One journalist who tried to approach Mubarak about his wealth ended up in jail for even speculating about it. Today the candidates take jabs at each other about every possible subject. The debate leaves people confused. Political respectability is going down the drain.
The citizens have never seen such attacks and don’t know how to respond.
The presidential race has turned into turmoil and confusion. As two of the prominent candidates debated, a simple question revealed the new landscape in Egypt. A moderator asked about the health condition and wealth of each man. Probably having a clue about what was coming, Abdel-Moneim Abolfotoh presented a copy of his medical records, revealing slight blood pressure and diabetes. Arm Moussa wasn’t as well prepared and claimed the entire issue was a smoke screen. And so the debate goes on with the audience mystified by such personal attacks and candor from their potential leader.
What will May 23 bring? A startled electorate certainly will not be electing
another pharaoh. Possibly the question of reopening the peace treaty with Israel will be somewhere in the mix. Egypt’s ruling military generals probably remain as concerned as any group in the country. The crisis from a year and a half ago may have eased some, but the revolution is far from over.
Keep your eye on Egypt. How the country votes may yet prove to be a
telling omen of what the Arab Spring now means.
Question : Do you think Egypt will come out of this chaos a stronger country?
Could we be entering another stage of confusion? Is there any light at the end of the
Filed under middle east, Nature, Peace, Prayer, Travels, Violence, World
Tagged as Arab, Copic Christians, Egypt, Isrea, Muslims, Persian Gulf, Saudi Arabia, War