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Saudi liberal to Al Arabiya: Preachers reinforce hostility toward modernity

Saudi writer Abdullah bin Bakheet talks to Al Arabiya on terrorism, liberalism and women's rights

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Saudi liberal writer and novelist Abdullah bin Bakheet has accused Islamic clerics and preachers for the role in spreading terrorism during a recent exclusive interview with AlArabiya.net.

Bakheet said the phenomenon of terrorism is due to several factors such as extremism, marginalizing the arts, forbidding women’s rights and commented on the role of preachers in spreading terrorism saying the existence of the preacher’s job made the naive hope for pursuing extremist activities and establishing the caliphate.

“The preacher’s job has done worse than that as it has reinforced hostility towards modern civilization and sanctified this enmity, thus destroying Arabs’ nascent modernity,” he said, adding that preachers do not only promote terrorism but have also created the Islamic Awkening and taught young people in the process to despise women.

Bakheet said the roles such preachers play in society constitute the biggest cultural, moral and religious challenges facing Muslims in our modern day lives, noting that the job cannot be traced back to Islamic culture.

“Name one preacher from the Abbasid or the Ummayid or the Ayyubid era...name one person from the history of Islam and whose name is linked to the word ‘preacher.’ This preacher’s job has no conditions, and it was created in Egypt and has later taken root in the Saudi kingdom due to the rise of Afghani jihad,” the liberal author told AlArabiya.net.

Having lived in abroad for many years, particularly Canada, Bakheet commended the freedoms and rule of law afforded to western citizens.

“It’s by freedom that you eliminate corruption, economy’s and development’s worst enemy, and hatred and terrorism, man’s worst enemy,” Bakheet said, adding that according to him all shortcoming in the Islamic world happened due to the lack freedom and absence of rule of law.

Specifying the Saudi liberal role

The author of Street of Affections novel commented on the progress of western countries in comparison to the Arab world saying: “If Saudi journalism in the 1980’s and 1990’s enjoyed the freedom it currently enjoys, we would not have witnessed the disaster of the (emergence of the Islamic) Awakening.”

Bakheet commented on recent developments slamming conspiracy theories saying he does not believe in them.

“Conspiracy theories are the conspiracy of fate. In the past, when people suffered from an infectious disease which they did not understand and did not have the knowledge to deal with, they used to just cry and pray and accuse the gods of evil of being behind it. Most people from third world countries still adopt this legend to explain phenomena (they cannot understand). Conspiracy theories are the modern version,” Bakheet explained.

Bakheet also addressed women-related affairs in the Saudi kingdom and voiced hope that they will get to enjoy more freedoms such as traveling and going to a restaurant without the need for a male guardian, wearing whatever they want or making a living by opening a small grocery shop.

Commenting on statements that liberals do not have specific agendas and have done nothing but struggle with the religious police in Saudi Arabia, Bakheet responded saying what’s important in the end is that liberals do not operate as a party but express the points of views which the nation has been deprived from for years, adding that if people want to be fair, they must recall that liberals changed the essence of life and awareness in the Saudi society.

“Who defends women’s rights, workers’ rights and modernity other than the liberals?” he asked, adding that he is currently working on research that he hopes can specify the role of liberals in Saudi society.

*A complete transcript of this exclusive interview can be read in Arabic on AlArabiya.net.