Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Saudi Version of X Rated

Last week, the MEMRI Blog reported that "a Saudi court has convicted five Muslim students for disrupting a university play that advocated moderation in Islam, said the lawyer of one of the defendants." In the words of one of the actors, the attack was carried out by "extremists who are trying to kill moderation".

That a Saudi court chose to take action against radical Islamists for attacking those expressing more moderate views is both a welcome and a remarkable development. Just how remarkable becomes apparent after reading Youssef Ibrahim's January 15th piece for the New York Sun. In his article, Ibrahim discusses another recent event that shows just how xenophobic and fanatical the intellectual climate in Saudi Arabia truly is. Apparently, senior Saudi clerics are considering banning the letter "X" due to its resemblance to the Christian cross:

The new development came with the issuing of another mind-bending fatwa, or religious edict, by the infamous Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice — the group of senior Islamic clergy that reigns supreme on all legal, civil, and governance matters in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The commission's damning of the letter "X" came in response to a Ministry of Trade query about whether it should grant trademark protection to a Saudi businessman for a new service carrying the English name "Explorer."

"No! Nein! Nyet!" was the commission's categorical answer.


Well, never mind that none of the so-called scholars manning the upper ranks of the religious outfit can speak or read a word of English. But their experts who examined the English word "explorer" were struck by how suspicious that "X" appeared. In a kingdom where Friday preachers routinely refer to Christians as pigs and infidel crusaders, even a twisted cross ranks as an abomination.

Saudi Arabia is the greatest single incubator of the Salafist variant of radical Islamism. Developments like this help explain why.


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