Tuesday, March 25, 2008

True Stories from an Unreported Land

By Sunil K Poolani

The western media, primarily American, have made us believe that ‘rogue’ Arab nations are countries like Afghanistan, Iraq and even Iran. Since ‘embedded’ journalists from these western countries have to respect the interests of their media barons, who eventually have to honour the respective governments they belong to, what you see in print, web or television is nothing but a set of concocted reportage.

If the Americans can create Osama bin Laden, which Bush & Co think has metamorphosed into a Frankenstein monster, anything is possible; the primary reason, anyone with a two-bit brain will tell you, is the western countries’ thirst for oil. If that is the case, why Saudi Arabia is spared, one might ask. The US and its allies will not touch the Saudis for the simple reason that not only does the country have vast resources of oil which can keep the whole world running for decades to come.

Joy C Raphael, 54, a veteran journalist who was a senior editor with Riyadh Daily for 14 years, has penned a book titled Omnipresent Osamas: True Stories, in which he has vividly and systematically investigated and analysed the unreported and unrecognised terror the muthvas (the Saudi religious police), with the silent blessings of the rulers, heap on millions of non-Muslim expatriates.

This book bears out a nosey scribe’s courage and conviction to venture into risky truths in a place like Saudi — especially at a time when religious fundamentalism, along with cold-blooded terrorism, is gathering momentum, destroying the very secular fabric of the whole universe. It also shows how the Americans can get away with practically anything that is forbidden to the Islamic culture in Saudi Arabia, but if a hapless labourer from Jakarta commits the slightest of a ‘crime’ s/he ends up decapitated.

Eventually, Raphael discovers that the Osama of the bin Laden dynasty is just one offspring of a perverted system that has bred a million Osamas. Excerpts from an interview:

What really prompted you to write this book?

When I went to Saudi Arabia in 1987, I was shocked by the stories of rights abuses. Countless workers were not getting paid for months together and were living in absolutely sordid conditions. Many were not allowed to go on vacation for years together. I met many of them and even took a few to the Indian Embassy. At the same time I heard of the muthvas and their atrocities. Terrible. And then I decided to record what I heard and saw and write a book some day. That is Omnipresent Osamas.

Were you, too, a victim of the muthvas reign of terror in Saudi Arabia?

I was not a victim of the muthvas. But I met several victims. I also met the relatives of some Christians who were arrested, tortured and detained. Omnipresent Osamas is full of their cases.

Can you, briefly, narrate a couple of first-hand observations in which the highhandedness of Islamic zealotry caused mental and physical damages to hapless expatriates?

Even Muslims were targets of these zealots. Once I met two of them who were tonsured for not going for evening prayers. The cases of mental and physical damages caused to the hapless expatriates can run into volumes…

If religious brutality is at its pinnacle, why doesn’t any country (which includes the ‘world policeman’ USA) object to it, and, in most cases, turns a blind eye towards Saudi Arabia? Is it because of the oil money power Saudi possesses or is it because America (read Bush) is in cohorts with the Saudi regime?

Many countries have taken up the matter. The Americans have their annual State Department report that has castigated the Saudis for their abysmal rights record for years. The lack of religious freedom has been highlighted by them. The Saudis don’t care for global opinion. Look at the protests during the recent state visit of Saudi King Abdullah to London. The Saudis do not care. They have enough oil money power. And the West needs their money.

And what stops the media, belonging to the western or eastern world, from reporting what is really happening in Saudi?

Certain responsible western media do report on what is happening in Saudi Arabia. But the muthvas and others care two hoots for these reports. The muthvas are a law unto themselves. They are omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient. Even the government is afraid of offending them and only goes after them when these zealots exceed all limits.

-- Deccan Herald

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