By Jerry Alatalo
espite international urging to stop the death penalty sentence of peace activist and religious scholar Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, the Saudi government has taken the life of the 56-year old catalyst for democratic/political change in Saudi Arabia.
Essentially, the crime Sheikh Nimr became convicted of consisted of peaceful protesting against the Saudi monarchical system and calling for democratic reforms leading to the people of Saudi Arabia experiencing self-determination.
Sheikh Nimr’s “offenses” – upon which he was tragically subjected to beheading and crucifixion, or public display of his lifeless body – were actions carried out peacefully with words, ideas and the truth. He and others in Saudi Arabia engaged in political activism in recent years carried no weapons, committed no physical harm to others, but simply practiced free speech rights recognized around the world.
Sheikh Nimr, three teenage/fellow nonviolent political activists, and 43 other Saudi Arabians suffered death in a single day. The Saudi government’s actions have resulted in condemnations from human rights groups, national governments and concerned people around the Earth.
Beyond the international shock and disbelief resulting from Saudi Arabia’s choice to carry out the death sentence of Sheikh Nimr instead of changing course, questions about Saudi motivations are going through the minds of men and women aware of the years-long ongoing situation and who’ve pressed for Sheikh Nimr’s pardon – for his survival.
Surely Saudi Arabia’s king – whose approval of the executions were necessary before they went forward – must have been aware when giving the go-ahead of the tremendous opposition, societal unrest and condemnation which would come in Saudi Arabia, the Middle East and worldwide. Why did the Saudi king put Sheikh Nimr to death? The first, most plausible explanation which comes forward is that it was a desperate attempt to maintain the Saudi royal family’s decades-old grip on power.
Another, more worrisome, possible explanation is that the Saudi royal family seeks to intensify/expand the already ongoing regional war. Growing international awareness and exposure of Saudi Arabia’s central role in generating terrorism, along with greater moral opposition to its merciless military attacks on the people of Yemen since March 2015, has negatively transformed world perceptions of the Saudis.
The killing of religious scholar and peace activist Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr will go down in history as marking the beginning of great change in the Middle East. What has yet to become experienced and seen is whether that world-transforming change comes about through violent or nonviolent means.
With its Wahhabi/takfiri interpretation of Islam, the monarchy/royal family of Saudi Arabia chooses violent means for realizing its agenda of maintaining power in the Middle East – including a brutal medieval system of justice which suppresses free speech and dissent, direct military aggression – as seen against Yemen, and large-scale financing of terrorist groups currently wreaking war and destruction in Iraq, Syria and Libya.
The nonviolent interpretation of Islam were advocated by clerics like Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr of Saudi Arabia and Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky of Nigeria. Sheikh Nimr has left this world after suffering the extreme form of silencing at the hands of the Saudi royal family. Sheikh Zakzaky of Nigeria has yet to see his remaining family, friends, legal counsel or outside medical attention since taken into custody by the Nigerian military on December 12. It is unknown whether Sheikh Zakzaky is alive or dead.
It is important to note that Nimr al-Nimr was a practitioner of peaceful protesting of perceived injustice in Saudi Arabian society, and that Ibrahim Zakzaky conducted his life in the same peace-focused manner as related to social conditions in Nigeria.
There is a clear and profound contrast between the Saudi interpretation of Islam and the interpretation embraced by clerics like Nimr al-Nimr, Ibrahim Zakzaky and their followers. The Saudi interpretation – Wahhabism – accepts the use of extreme violence. The interpretation held by followers of Nimr al-Nimr, Ibrahim Zakzaky and other scholars rejects violence, instead relying on truth as the greatest tool for improving living conditions for people – not only in Saudi Arabia and Nigeria, but of any nation on Earth.
Unfortunately many people in the West, especially in America, have little to no awareness of the just-described contrasting interpretations of Islamic thought, so there now exists an epidemic of wrong perceptions. Most – due to intentional efforts by lying politicians and the media to falsely portray Islam as aligned with terrorism – have the idea that Islam is strictly of the Saudi Wahhabist/violent kind, therefore they see all Muslims erroneously as believers in violence. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Will there be tragic reliving of events in Nigeria on December 12 – where hundreds of unarmed men, women and children became massacred, while world leaders and media (still) remain silent – occurring in the days ahead in Saudi Arabia?
By joining together as one human family, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, and adherents of all spiritual/philosophical traditions have the power to end violent practices which should have ceased to exist centuries ago. The use of violence and military force to resolve differences is an out-dated concept which humanity has yet to rightly and fully move beyond.
May this new year 2016 become forever remembered as the time when the human race finally achieved that morally necessary, long-sought, truly enlightened evolution.
(Thank you to Press TV Documentaries)