This commentary was published in Asharq al-Awsat on 12/03/2010
As soon as the people of Saudi Arabian had concluded their Friday prayers, some of them returned to their homes, whilst others went back to work, this prompted the western media and some news agencies – both the neutral and the biased – to report that "calm had prevailed over the cities of Saudi Arabia." I was surprised at the use of term "calm", as if these cities had been experiencing chaos over the previous days!
The reality is that there was no chaos prior to Friday, but rather what we did see was a strong wave of incitement and confusion, and a desperate attempt by some – who have now been exposed – to promote a lie, namely the Saudi Arabian "day of rage." Everybody was surprised when this day of rage turned into a silent Bayaa [ceremony performed in Islamic societies where the public formally endorse the rule of a leader], which saw the Saudi public wordlessly express their support of their leadership. This was a day where it was made plain to the theorists, propagandists, and deceivers that Saudi Arabia is not Egypt, or Tunisia, or Libya, or Yemen…there are differences [between Saudi Arabia and these countries], and there are facts on the ground that no sane person can ignore. What is most striking is that some Americans, for example, were more aware of the nature of Saudi Arabia and its society than others who claim to well know this country.
The day before yesterday, Agence-France-Presse (AFP) quoted Christopher Boucek of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think-tank as saying that "for the most part, people who are upset at what's going on in the country [of Saudi Arabia] or the policies of the government…are not upset at the king." This represents a huge difference with regards to what is happening elsewhere in the Arab world, and Boucek added that the ordinary Saudi Arabians want more freedoms and transparency, but that "no-one is calling for a revolution."
This is no secret, and there is nothing controversial about this statement, for anybody monitoring the Saudi media, particularly with regards to what happened at the girls' school in Mecca more than 7 years ago, can plainly see that the Saudi press has left no stone unturned with regards to its discussion of the requirements of the Saudi citizens. There are discussions and dialogue taking place, most importantly the National Dialogue initiative launched by King Abdullah, which broke many taboos, and indeed many officials lost their positions due to their inability to implement this. All of this confirms that the wheel of reform is turning, and whilst some might complain about the pace of this, nobody can deny that it is moving, and so this issue is one that should not be subject to blatant incitement. Therefore, Friday represented a silent Bayaa, with the Saudi public wordlessly offering its support for the ruling regime in response to the inciters and skeptics.
However one might ask; does this mean that Saudi Arabia is not in need of reform? The answer to this, of course, is no, for Saudi Arabia is in urgent need of reorganizing all of its files. Saudi Arabia needs to take reformative measures and bring in new blood and implement new ideas with regards to how to deal with the surrounding region and its issues, particularly as this region has, and continues to witness change. The same applies to Saudi Arabia's internal affairs that require more development in order to create greater job opportunities etc. However, what we can certainly say is that none of this will take place via incitement, back-stabbing, and exposing Saudi Arabia and its capabilities to danger, and this is what Saudi Arabia – both its leadership and its public – announced clearly and explicitly on Friday.
Therefore, everybody has received the message loud and clear, and this is that Saudi Arabia is not the country that these instigators believe it is, but rather it is a unified and united country. On Friday, the people of Saudi Arabia, all of its people, without exception or distinction, told these instigators and troublemakers that this would not be a day of rage, but rather a silent Bayaa [in support of the regime].