The world has been festering in anger, disgust, shock, and revulsion since the unchecked cruelty of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) went mainstream in the west with the beheading of journalist James Foley. Mass decapitations of Christians, shootings of Shia Muslims, throwing gay men off the roofs of tall buildings and burning a Jordanian pilot alive are the prime examples that illustrate the utter lack of humanity of the group. It also serves as the charges that earned the group well deserved, near universal condemnation from nations across the Middle East and the world. The idea that Sunni Muslims have a responsibility to purge the region of people, religions, and ideas that are not consistent with their own faith and interpretation of a moral existence is commonplace with most extremist groups, including Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, and Al-Shabab.
This idea has been given the name “Islamic Fundamentalism,” or, in the Arab world, “Wahhabism.” Wahabi Muslims can be described as being ultra-conservative, trying to return the Muslim world back to a state similar to that of the time of the Prophet Muhammad, when strict interpretation of Sharia Law was the law of the land. Much of Sharia law, which governs all aspects of life, does not allow for much diversity in lifestyle choices due to the thought that all people must live virtuous lives under threat of some kind of archaic penalty.
We rightfully condemn Wahhabism in the west as being a force that stands to destabilize the Middle East and pose a national security threat to modern Western nations. However, this ideology does not exclusively enjoy the support of terror groups alone, in fact, one of the most influential nations in the region adopts Wahhabism as an influential force in its political, legal, and social life. That nation just so happens to be one of the key allies of the U.S. in the region. That nation is Saudi Arabia.
We in western countries see sexual infidelity in a marriage as being morally reprehensible. However, I would shutter to think anyone in the States or Europe would advocate for the death penalty for cheating on one’s spouse, simply for the reason that the punishment does not fit the crime. Death is the prescribed punishment for sex outside a marriage under Wahabi interpretations of Sharia Law. It is also the law in Saudi Arabia. This is also the case for sodomy, a sex act between homosexuals, as well as apostasy, the crime of leaving the Islamic religion. The same victimless crimes punished by death by ISIL are punished the same way in the Saudi Kingdom, the very same government that we in the U.S. call our allies. Saudi blogger Raif Badawi was facing 1,000 lashes for the terrible, awful, horrifying crime of criticizing Islam. Now, he faces the death penalty for apostasy. The evidence presented against him in a court of law to prove this horrible crime? Facebook records that show he “liked” a page entitled “Arab Christians.”
The U.S. Government needs to ask itself why it is that the Saudi Arabian government is so different from ISIL when they behave in the exact same manner? The behavior in question was commonplace in medieval Arabia. The behavior in question should stay in medieval Arabia. The behavior in question does not belong on CNN; it belongs in the history books, where it can’t hurt us anymore.