Elayne Riggs' Journal (for Leah)

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Who Stands To Gain?

That's one of the first questions I always ask myself when faced with trying to make sense of a daunting political situation. In the case of the rioting over the Danish cartoons, obviously the radical Muslim clerics egging on their followers have as much to gain as the radical Christian clerics do in this country when they foment phony Wars on Christmas and the like. But then why didn't they whip up their base months ago when the cartoons were first published? Barbara O'Brien finds one answer, via Flogging the Simian, a weblog that I thought had stopped publishing so I took Romanian-based Soj off my list of Where the Women Bloggers Are. She seems to hit the nail on the head with this post.

In a nutshell, the Saudi government planned poorly once again for the January hajj, and 350 pilgrims were killed in stampedes. "Even the most objective news stories were suddenly casting Saudi Arabia in a very bad light and they decided to do something about it. Their plan was to go on a major offensive against the Danish cartoons. The 350 pilgrims were killed on January 12 and soon after, Saudi newspapers (which are all controlled by the state) began running up to 4 articles per day condemning the Danish cartoons. The Saudi government asked for a formal apology from Denmark. When that was not forthcoming, they began calling for world-wide protests." And the rest is history, although no longer mystery.

The paragraph I found most instructive:
Saudi Arabia's influence on the Sunni Muslim world is incalculable. The sermons from high-ranking Muslim clerics are read and studied by Muslims around the world, who in turn give sermons to their local congregations. While the Saudis do not have direct control of the world's Sunni flocks, their influence is similar somewhat to the Pope's pronouncements and the sermons that Catholic priests give to their flocks the following Sundays. Saudi Arabia also finances a number of Muslim "study centers", where all the literature and material is provided by the Saudi government, filled with hatred for Jews and other extremely racist material. For them to promote an idea based on religion, including "outrage" at some cartoons published months earlier, is standard operating procedure.
Good stuff, read the whole thing. Soj's post also links to Alhamedi's blog The Religious Policeman, "the diary of a Saudi man, currently living in the United Kingdom, where the Religious Police no longer trouble him for the moment," which I found fascinating as well. And Soj follows up with this post to her Daily Kos diary.

Update: Curiouser and curiouser. Tristero says the inflammation is not just due to the Saudis, but to secular Egyptians as well. And others have reported that the right-wing papers Jyllands-Posten, which first published the Muhammed cartoons, had rejected cartoons lampooning Jesus for fear of offending readers. So much for the concept of free speech and freedom of the press!