ON January 23rd last, following the death of the second-worst dictator of recent times, our Taoiseach Enda Kenny ordered that the Irish tricolour be flown at half-mast above Arás an Uachtaráin and other Government buildings.
The signal honour was for the deceased King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, whose subjects are responsible for exporting Sunni Salafi jihadism and for funneling support to terrorist factions, such as ISIS (the savages who burn prisoners alive), Al-Qaida, the Taliban and other barbaric groups like Nigeria’s Boko Haram and Somalia’s al-Shabab.
In an uncharacteristic frank admission, Hilary Clinton admitted in 2009 that Saudi Arabia constituted the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist networks worldwide.
Nevertheless, the Irish nation publicly mourned the Saudi tyrant who turned a blind eye to the activities of religious-fascist murderers, despite the fact that in a properly-functioning civilised society he would have spent his days securely detained in an asylum.
In honouring the despot’s memory, Kenny was fully aware of the torture being inflicted on Saudi blogger, Raif Badawi, who had just received the first 50 of 1,000 lashes for running a website promoting the freedom of speech; and that four days earlier a Burmese woman, Layla bint Abdul Mateleb Bassini, was dragged screaming through the streets of the holy Muslim city of Mecca to where King Abdullah’s executioner was waiting to hack off her head.
Beheadings, as well as crucifixions, stoning, amputations and torture are central to Saudi Arabia’s notion of ‘justice’. Last August, Kenny’s chum approved the decapitation of 22 people in the space of 18 days. Some of those executed had been convicted of minor ‘offences’ such as adultery, apostasy and witchcraft.
It is not difficult to make a comparison between Saudi cruelty and the ISIS killing of innocent hostages, especially when Saudi religious ideology, Saudi money and Saudi support contribute to the growth of ISIS. Indeed, about 2,500 Saudi terrorists are active in the killing fields of Syria and in Raqqa, the Syrian town that is the ISIS capital, all 12 judges who run the Sharia law court system are Saudis.
Perhaps Kenny’s reason for paying homage to the ruler of a cesspool had something to do with his controversial trade mission to the Saudi capital Riyadh during which he praised King Abdullah for his ‘leadership in terms of moderation’? Certainly, it did not cross the Taoiseach’s mind that there might be something out of kilter in the old reprobate’s (he had 30 wives) ideology of hate towards Christians, Jews, Shi’ites, and other Muslims who did not embrace his Wahhabi interpretation of Islam!
Or maybe Kenny was confused by the duplicitous role played by Saudi Arabia. On the one hand, the country bankrolls terrorism abroad, particularly ISIS, while on the other, it officially denounces ISIS as the country’s public enemy number one.
The West tolerates the deceit because of the importance of Saudi oil and because the kingdom is a key purchaser of US and British weapons. Saudi is a hugely important market for the British arms industry.
Last year Britain exported £1.6 billion of military hardware, while 200 joint ventures between the UK and Saudi companies were worth .5bn. In 2011, the U.S made the biggest arms sale in its history to Saudi Arabia. It was worth .5 billion.
Je suis hypocrite
And who can forget Kenny’s Paris attendance at the ‘Je suis Charlie’ rally in defence of freedom and tolerance? Beside him trotted Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to France, Mohammed bin Ismail Al-Sheikh, whose country was busy suppressing free speech. Was Kenny aware of the irony?
Whatever the answer, a moral dilemma remains for our Taoiseach and his government. It’s this: Britain and the US are reluctant to put pressure on the House of Saud to stamp out terrorism and, indeed, they may have strong realpolitik arguments to justify their cowardly and ignoble silence. But there is no obligation on the Irish government to keep its gob shut.
Ireland’s failure to speak out presents Kenny in a terrible light, and his government as an outfit that doesn’t stand for much.
Threat to Ireland?
Against such a background, it is hardly reassuring that there are 30 Irish jihadists currently fighting for ISIS. Some commentators suggest the figure could be double that.
In the light of these jihadists returning to Ireland, questions are being asked how domestic extremism is likely to be combated. The government says it will introduce new measures that will see 10-year jail sentences for anyone convicted of promoting Islamic terrorism in this country. In tandem with this hard-line approach, European countries (including Ireland) will share passenger information from all air and seaports.
Although Gardai believe the majority of Irish fighters will not come back as religious maniacs and are unlikely to bring their jihadist violence with them, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald is taking no chances. She recently revealed that Gardai were closely monitoring the activities of a small number of Islamists who ‘would try to facilitate extremism’.
The Gardai also intend putting in place a Danish model that allows officials to seek out Muslims disillusioned by the horrors of what they witnessed, and to help them reintegrate into society.
Psychological counselling and treatment for post-traumatic stress will be offered and, in conjunction with family members and local community leaders, scholars will help the ex-terrorists reinterpret Islam as a religion of tolerance.
The disillusionment of those who went to Syria to bring down the Assad regime springs from the degeneration of their ‘heroic summer war’ into a vicious sectarian dogfight – of Sunni Muslim against Shi’ite Muslim.
Complicating matters further is the clash between Isis and Jabhat al-Nusra. Although both were adherents of Salafi jihadist ideology, ISIS could not tolerate al Queda’s leadership and a bloody civil war broke out between the groups, resulting in the deaths (so far) of over 3,000 extremists.
An important duty
Two years ago Dr Ali Selim, a theologian at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland, in Clonskeagh, made a grotesque comparison between those going to fight in Syria’s civil war and the Irish Republicans who joined the International Brigade during the Spanish Civil War. The Irish Times (February 27, 2013) quoted him as follows: ‘Many of them (the Irish Jihadists), before they leave here, say “Make prayers for me; I want to be martyred,” because they understand that, in Islam, martyrdom is the way to eternal life. If they die as martyrs, they will be held in high esteem.
‘If they survive and come back, they will also be held in high regard, because they performed a very important duty.’ His comments shocked Ireland.
An enormous amount of blood has flowed under the bridge since then and it is debatable if such an opinion remains in vogue, even at the Clonskeagh Islamic Cultural Centre. Which is for the better!