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.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Another Memo 

From: Royal Press Secretary
To: His Majesty
Date: 4th February 2006

Subject: Cartoons

I was perhaps too pessimistic at the end of my previous memo. Things have in fact turned out better than we might have expected.

As I reported, a number of other European newspapers did publish the cartoons. In two of those cases, the owners of those papers sacked the offending editors, thus demonstrating that jobs are at risk when we Muslims are offended! This, I am sure, is a lesson that will not have been lost on other editors. It is noticeable now that with a few striking exceptions, such as those very aggressive Germans, newspapers and broadcasters are very reluctant to show them further, and they appear not to have been shown at all in the USA.

What is also very gratifying is that officials in the West are not only accepting our right to be offended at whatever we choose, but they are also saying that the Western media should work to our standards, not theirs. It is striking how soon they forget about their self-professed "freedoms" when they witness a little righteous Muslim anger. Thus UK Foreign Secretary Straw's comment....

Mr Straw said the decision by some European newspapers to print the cartoons was "disrespectful" and he added that freedom of speech did not mean an "open season" on religious taboos.

....or to paraphrase him, "having a freedom does not mean that you have the right to use it". We could not have put it better ourselves; perhaps we should ask Mr Straw to write editorials for the "Arab News"! The US State Department, on the other hand, persists in proclaiming kuffar values....

Our response is to say that while we certainly don’t agree with, support, or in some cases, we condemn the views that are aired in public that are published in media organizations around the world, we, at the same time, defend the right of those individuals to express their views.

....however the US is overall becoming a bit of a problem to which I shall refer later.

Generally, active Muslims around the world have reacted well to our lead. As well as the unemployed "usual suspects" in Palestine and Indonesia, some British Muslims gave a particularly impressive display yesterday.

The official reaction of British officialdom - precisely nothing! - illustrates how successful we have been over the years in getting them to accept the "Principle of Asymmetry". In other words, we use their sense of "fair play", "multiculturalism", "democratic values", and of course their guilt feelings, against them, so that they restrict their own freedom of action, but are very lax when dealing with the Muslim, for fear of offense or violent reaction. This of course confuses and demoralizes the ordinary person-in-the-street, and weakens their resistance to the onward march of the Ummah.

May I just say, Your Majesty, how these events have demonstrated the wisdom of your decision to remind people about those old cartoons. The story has now developed a momentum of its own, it will run and run, and who remembers those pilgrims in Makkah? What pilgrims? Exactly! Not only that, but the Egyptians' poor maritime standards mean that a much larger death toll will now remain in the public eye.

Your Majesty, could I just ask you to have a word with your brother Naif, and restrain his "initiative" while you are away on state visits? He seems to have taken it upon himself to try to move us up to MOL Condition Red, and get an apology from the Pope.*

Saudi Interior Minister Prince Naif called on international religious institutions, especially the Vatican, to step into the developing row between Muslims and the European press over the publication of cartoons insulting the Prophet and condemn these actions.

This was premature and ill-judged, particularly as Pope Benedict has an unfortunate reputation for following his own counsel, is not a known admirer of Islam, and was unlikely to respond. This necessitated some panic behind the scenes to get a Vatican response.

A Vatican cardinal Friday condemned the cartoons in European newspapers, saying satire that offended groups and their most sacred symbols was abusive.
Cardinal Achille Silvestrini, a retired Vatican diplomat who has had many dealings with Arab countries, told an Italian newspaper that Western culture had to know its limits. Freedom is a great virtue but it must be shared and it must not be unilateral, said Silvestrini.

But as the "Saudi Gazette" is forced to admit, he is in fact retired, being aged over 80 he was too old to elect the current Pope, and therefore his opinions carry as much official weight as those of a Rome taxi-driver. But such are the problems of finding spokesmen when Prince Naif goes off on his own without consulting this office.

Another problem of course with going to Condition Red, is that President Bush is showing excessive independence these days. His recent speech about reducing the US's "Addiction to Oil" suggested that he would like to dissociate the US from us as quickly as technology will permit. This would be very bad for Saudi morale and we have suppressed reporting of this in the Saudi newspapers. Instead we have focussed on his predictable call for "Political reform", whatever that is, and generally ridiculed it.

SAUDI political analysts have described the US President George W. Bush's call to Egypt and Saudi Arabia to expand political reform in his State of the Union address as personal and motivated by political objectives.

Unfortunately the "Saudi Gazette" chose to quote some lecturer in Advanced Interrogation Techniques from our Police College.

His speech about reform is nothing but a pressure tactic in an ambitious attempt for more political gains at a time when his popularity is dwindling, said Muhammad Al-Obaid, a professor at Naif Arab University of Security Studies.

I have spoken to the SG about their poor choice of "expert". However, in spite of better quotes like this from two of your own appointees....

Members of the Shoura Council like Mohammad Al-Zulfa and Mohammad Ibrahim Al-Hulwah were quoted by agencies as saying that the Kingdom was initiating reforms of its own volition and Bush should stop acting as if he were the sole agent for reform in the world.

....we are nevertheless "treading on thin ice" when we talk about our reforms. Sooner or later someone is going to ask exactly what they are. Rather than change the subject at that time, I would rather take the initiative now and put pressure on the US. Therefore I would change my recommendation from my previous Memo. Rather than go after Belgium, I propose that we put them on "hold", and instead "suddenly discover" the blasphemous "South Park" "Super Best Friends" episode. Can I have Your Majesty's approval for this course of action?

A. M. Al Shegri
Press Secretary
Royal Palace

* Thanks "Peter".

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