Friday, June 27, 2003

# Posted 11:22 PM by Patrick Belton  

SAUDI ARABIA LECTURES THE WEST ON HUMAN RIGHTS: From the Saudi Kingdom and its embassy in London, we now have a set of Questions and Answers about Human Rights. Occasionally, we in the west may get confused on questions of human rights - which, after all, are thorny and complex. Fortunately, we have the house of Sa'ud to explain all these knotty issues to us: (This via MEMRI)

Q: "Why is Saudi Arabia often criticized in the media for violating human rights?"

A: "Human rights, as a concept, did not suddenly [come into] the world in the form of a sacred revelation. The theory of human rights evolved slowly and is still evolving. A century ago, it was difficult to recognize in Europe anything like the human rights of modern Europe. Saudi Arabia does not see fit to accept the latest version of the West's version of human rights. Saudi Arabia has its own vision.

Q: "Why can women not travel freely and alone within Saudi Arabia?"

A: "This phenomenon is not limited to Saudi Arabia. This custom prevails in many Muslim countries. There is a religious basis for it: the Prophet Mohammad said that no women should travel for more than one night without her husband or a Mahram, for example, her father, son, or uncle. Some Muslim scholars believe that the Prophet's instruction was based on the unsafe travel conditions of the time. They argue that as travel is no longer risky, that injunction does not apply. However, religious scholars in Saudi Arabia do not accept this interpretation, and neither do the majority of the Saudi people. This is not a matter of government decree; it is a matter of deep personal belief."

Q: "....Now that you mention Islam, why is it that Saudi Arabia does not allow the followers of other religions the freedom to practice their faiths in Saudi Arabia?"

A: "Anyone in Saudi Arabia is entitled to his own beliefs and practices. But Saudi Arabia cannot allow the public practice of any religion which contradicts Islam. Saudi Arabia is a special place: it is the cradle of Islam and the Prophet Mohammad declared it a preserve of Islam. A lot of the so-called dissidents want all non-Muslims thrown out of Saudi Arabia. But the government takes a far more moderate stance.

Q: "....But Saudi Arabia's courts lack the basic minimum standards of justice."

A: "Britain is only familiar with the Western system of justice and cannot envisage any other. The West's judicial system is the result of its own historic evolution and so is Saudi Arabia's. According to Saudi tradition there are no juries, nor are there likely to be in the future. Lawyers are not an integral part of the system. One can bring a lawyer but that is optional. We don't consider the presence of lawyers a prerequisite for the delivery of justice."

Q: "But without a jury and a lawyer what guarantee to a fair trial does the accused have?"

A: "A good question. In Saudi Arabia the judge acts, in effect, as the defendant's lawyer. He challenges every piece of evidence presented by the prosecution. Unlike judges in the West who simply act as umpires leaving the prosecution team and the defense team to influence the jury, our judges consider themselves personally accountable to God for every judgment they make. If a judge condemns to death a man who is innocent – the judge faces eternal divine punishment and he knows that. Among God-fearing men this is a mighty safeguard."
I'm convinced. Dunno about you.
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