The diary of a Saudi man, currently living in the United Kingdom, where the Religious Police no longer trouble him for the moment.

In Memory of the lives of 15 Makkah Schoolgirls, lost when their school burnt down on Monday, 11th March, 2002. The Religious Police would not allow them to leave the building, nor allow the Firemen to enter.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Prince Charles, Honorary Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques? 

Now to get myself in some hot water. But do they have hot running water in the Tower of London? Or would I even get that far, without being lynched by irate royalists in Britain? Let's see.

I'll set out my prejudices at the outset. I'm not a monarchist. I don't agree with monarchies in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, or anywhere else, certainly not in the UK. If there's one thing the UK needs, it's an elected President who can counteract the almost total power of a Prime Minister. And then, looking at the personalities involved, they are a very mixed bunch. I do have a lot of time for the Queen, who does a difficult job with grace and charm. I have a soft spot for Prince Philip, whose grumpy and politically-incorrect outbursts make a refreshing change from official-speak. But then you have Prince Edward and his wife, and Princess Michael of Kent, and Prince Harry in his Nazi uniform. And of course, you have Prince Charles.

I went completely off Prince Charles when his long-term adultery with Camilla was revealed. He should have married her at the outset, and not the unfortunate Diana who would then have to suffer all those overheard phone calls and glances in crowded rooms. The whole business was squalid, and the British people deserved better. He also lacked great judgement, in this world of electronic eavesdropping, to be heard on the "Camillagate" tape with the Worst Chat-up Line in the World. Then of course, there's the way he cosies up to the Saudi royal family. So I'm not a great fan of his.

I was therefore curious when I saw this in today's "Sunday Telegraph".

Prince Charles to plead Islam's cause to Bush

The Prince of Wales will try to persuade George W Bush and Americans of the merits of Islam this week because he thinks the United States has been too intolerant of the religion since September 11.

Now I'm no fan of George W Bush either, but I do believe that he has gone out of his way to reassure moderate Muslims of his motives, particularly within the US. And the US is far more tolerant of its Muslims than Egypt or Indonesia, to take two topical examples, are of their Christians. So what is he on about?

The Prince, who leaves on Tuesday for an eight-day tour of the US, has voiced private concerns over America's "confrontational" approach to Muslim countries and its failure to appreciate Islam's strengths.

Now hang on, that's something different. If people criticize Israel for something it does, that is not to criticize Judaism, only the policy of its government. We can criticize Norway and Japan for their dishonest "scientific whaling", but that's not a criticism of Lutherism or Shinto. So why can't Bush or anyone else criticize Muslim countries, when they are out of line? After all, you don't have to look far for things to criticize. Syria, delivering car bombs to "disobedient" politicians in other countries. Iran, threatening to wipe another country off the map. Saudi Arabia, where do we start? Since when did being a Muslim country grant some immunity from criticism? So where is Prince Charles coming from?

Perhaps the following gives a clue:

Prince Charles, who is about to embark on his first official foreign tour since his marriage to the Duchess of Cornwall, wants Americans - including Mr Bush - to share his fondness for Islam. He has agreed to attend a seminar on religions at Georgetown University, Washington, on Thursday: the only event where he will not be accompanied by the Duchess.

Brave guy. You won't find many non-Muslims expressing a fondness for Islam these days. But perhaps it's time to take out and dust down those old persistent rumors.

From the London Evening Standard, Oct. 15, 1996, quoted here

The idea of the Prince of Wales lugging around a prayer mat and turning to face Mecca five times a day sounds a tad unlikely - but, then again, so did confessing to adultery on prime-time television a couple of years ago. So perhaps no one should be shocked by the suggestion in a forthcoming book that Prince Charles has converted to Islam.

Or another quote from the same article

This claim was put forward by no less a personage than the grand mufti of Cyprus: "Did you know that Prince Charles has converted to Islam. Yes, yes. He is a Muslim. I can't say more. But it happened in Turkey. Oh, yes, he converted all right. When you get home check on how often he travels to Turkey. You'll find that your future king is a Muslim." "Nonsense," replied a Buckingham Palace spokesman, denying Charles's supposed conversion.

Tittle-tattle? Perhaps. But all this was pre-1991, when Islam wasn't so vilified, so there would have been other better weapons in those days if someone wanted to "get" Charles. There's more.

The future Charles III has made several strong public statements endorsing Islam as the solution to the spiritual and cultural ills of Britain and the West. His public advocacy of Islam appears to go back to 1989, when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued an edict (fatwa) against Salman Rushdie, a British citizen, for blaspheming the Prophet Muhammad in his novel The Satanic Verses. Rather than defend Rushdie's freedom of speech, Charles reacted to the death decree by reflecting on the positive features that Islam has to offer the spiritually empty lives of his countrymen.

Let's turn to Charles and Saudi Arabia, because it's here that my prejudices surface once more. I have always found Charles to be, for some reason, an apologist for Saudi Arabia. A quotation from him:

Our judgement of Islam has been grossly distorted by taking the extremes to the norm. . . . For example, people in this country frequently argue that the Sharia law of the Islamic world is cruel, barbaric and unjust. Our newspapers, above all, love to peddle those unthinking prejudices. The truth is, of course, different and always more complex. My own understanding is that extremes, like the cutting off of hands, are rarely practised. The guiding principle and spirit of Islamic law, taken straight from the Qur'an, should be those of equity and compassion.

Is he aware that the "more complex" truth is that these punishments, like stoning women, are rarely reported, not rarely practiced? When you run the newspapers, you can manage these things. How much does he actually know, as opposed to turning a blind eye? Or does it really not bother him that much, as long as he can rationalize that it's the exception, not the rule?

I've always been curious why he is such a frequent visitor to Saudi Arabia. In February last year


HRH The Prince of Wales visited Saudi Arabia between 9-13 February. This was the Prince of Wales’s eighth visit to the Kingdom....The Prince of Wales then attended a private discussion with a number of leading Saudi opinion formers, hosted by the British Ambassador, Mr Sherard Cowper-Coles.

Whose opinion was being formed? And why has he officially visited 8 times? I'll bet he's not been that many times to most of the Commonwealth countries, of which he may at some point in the future be King. These are, after all, official visits to Saudi, not private trips to see some polo-playing chum. So is he actually visiting what he feels to be his spiritual home? Did he make incognito trips to the Holy Mosques?

That's quite enough innuendo for one day, but sadly, I'm still disturbed by his motives. I personally have no problem with him being a Muslim, although the good people of Britain may think otherwise. But I'd want him to be a moderate Muslim, not some freaky crazed Wahabbi, and it's often the problem with converts that they are more zealous than the time-serving regulars. However I hear the footsteps of Beefeaters approaching, so I'd better finish. And I'll conclude with the time-honored ending of tabloid writers over here:

Prince Charles, what is the Truth? The British public deserve to be told!

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