The flag of Saudi Arabia flies over The Mall in London today as a major state visit by the Saudi dynasty begins. The Mall, which leads up to Buckingham Palace, is carrying a flag that declares: "There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his Messenger".
The freedom that Britain rightly affords to Muslims to profess their faith is not given to other faith traditions by the Saudi authorities. In recent years the US Commission on International Religious Freedom has heavily criticised the treatment of Christians and other believers in the 'desert kingdom'.
The Independent newspaper (which lazily and underhandedly reprinted a Foreign and Commonwealth Office briefing two weeks ago) won't have renewed any friendships at the FCO with its coverage today of the Saudi visit.
These are the highlights from a page one comment piece by Johann Hari:
- A quotation from Amnesty International: "Fear and secrecy permeate every aspect of life. Every day the most fundamental human rights of people in Saudi Arabia are being violated."
- Neither Gordon Brown nor David Cameron will commit to even mention human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia when they meet King Abdullah al-Saud.
- King Abdullah al-Saud "will ride in a golden carriage with the Queen, and be guest of honour at a Buckingham Palace banquet. It is the start of a three-day state visit, funded by the British taxpayer."
- "While King Abdullah is cheered by our political leaders, many of his victims will be protesting outside. Sandy Mitchell, 52, went to Saudi Arabia to work as an anaesthetic technician at a hospital in Riyadh more than a decade ago – and got a rare outsider's glimpse into how the king maintains his power. He explains: "One day in 2000 I was getting out of my car at the hospital when I was pounced on. I was battered to the ground, a hood was put over my head, and they manacled my hands and feet. I thought – I'm being kidnapped." He woke up in the Madhethe interrogation centre, where the Saudi police demanded he confess to being a British spy ordered to plant bombs in the country. He told then the bombs were obviously the work of Saudi Islamists – a view now accepted to be true – so they hung him upside down and began to beat his feet and buttocks with an axe handle for eight days. All the while, he could hear his friend Bill Sampson being gang-raped in the next room."
- Saudi women are "banned from driving, from leaving the house without a male guardian, even in a medical emergency, or from holding a passport."
- "As the dissident ex-CIA agent Robert Baer says: "Never forget that it is the al-Saud who sign the cheques for these extreme mosque schools all over the world. It's hush money to divert Muslims' attention from the [activities of] the al-Saud [royal family]." The Saudi dictatorship is slowly poisoning global Islam, ensuring the most austere and fanatical desert vision liquidates the softer, more mystical strands – and we are already seeing this backfire on to the streets of London and New York."
Protesting at the suppression of women, suffocation of religious freedom, suspected corruption as evidenced by the aborted BAe probe and for its subsidy of extremist Muslim ideologies, Vince Cable, the acting LibDem leader is boycotting the Buckingham Palace banquet. Also in The Independent, Cable writes:
"A cynic would argue that the institution of the British state visit has been hopelessly devalued. Past invitations to such appalling characters as President Mobutu of Congo and President Ceausescu of Romania reduced its value. I had hoped that Gordon Brown's government would have higher standards. It seems not."
This morning the Saudi monarch spoke to the BBC and accused the British Government of failing to do enough on terrorism. This from a nation which is a leading funder of Wahhabism. He repeated a claim that Saudi Arabia had passed intelligence to Britain before 7/7 that might have averted the London bombings. A parliamentary investigation has already repudiated that claim.
A leader in The Independent concludes with these words:
"Domestic discontent is rife. And history teaches us that dissent cannot be suppressed forever. The apparent inability of the Saudi regime to tolerate even minimal reform indicates that the final reckoning, when it comes, could be bloody. Britain is not only honouring a corrupt and oppressive regime this week. It could be honouring a doomed one."
Coming on top of yesterday's news that up to sixty Iranian students are attending courses at UK universities on nuclear physics and other "proliferation sensitive" subjects, one has to wonder at Britain's seriousness about combating future threats to its security.