Jon Snow Makes Cameron Squirm on Saudi Human Rights Deal

Have I Got News For You last night showed this segment from Channel 4 news, in which Jon Snow makes David Cameron squirm about Britain’s support for Saudi Arabia joining the UN Human Rights Commission.

The whole notion of Saudi Arabia and universal human rights is an oxymoron, considering the brutal nature of the Saudi’s judicial system and the harsh and intolerant nature of Wahhabi Islam. Snow in particular talks about the Saudi’s continuing arrest of Mohamed el Nimr, a 17 year old boy, who was arrested when he was only 14. El Nimr has been sentenced to death simply for watching something on the internet.

After trying desperately not to answer the question, Cameron finally says that its because the Saudis give us information about potential terrorist attacks. In the full interview, not shown here, Cameron claims that a terrorist plot to set off a bomb in London was foiled due to information from the Saudis. He also claimed that they had a very good record in deradicalising terrorists and terrorist supporters.

That may be so, but as Jon Snow points out, elements of the Saudi regime are involving in exporting and aiding terrorism. As for deradicalisation, you do wonder how far this goes, given the total ban on non-Wahhabi religions and sects. This includes not only those of different, non-Muslim religions, such as Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism and so on, but also of Shi’a Islam, whose members are a heavily discriminated against minority. In many ways, Saudi Arabia is far more repressive and intolerant than Iran.

One African academic a year or two ago on BBC radio argued that instead of relying on Israel and Saudi Arabia to secure stability in the Middle East, the West should look instead to Turkey and Iran. In many ways, that would make far more sense. Turkey is a secular republic with Islam as its majority religion. Iran is an extremely repressive state, but it has a democratic component. It used to be the most westernised and industrially advanced of the Middle Eastern nations. Saudi Arabia, unfortunately, has the majority of the regions oil, and so possesses a vast economic clout that gives them immense global influence, quite apart from the fact that it has two of the very holiest sites in Islam, Mecca and Medina.

I’ve no doubt we do rely on information given to us by the Saudis to protect ourselves from attack from al-Qaeda or ISIS. But at the same time, elements of the Saudi regime have fostered and promoted these organisations, and the form of Islam the Saudis promote is aggressive and bitterly intolerant. We might be allies, but we should not fool ourselves about their ambivalent nature, or convince ourselves that their presence on a the Human Rights council is anything but a travesty.

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