ISIS and Saudi Arabia: How much difference?

It’s an awkward question. Of course, the Saudis are officially our allies, not to mention guardians of oil market stability. And barely disguised, they are supporters of Israel against Hamas and the threat of the Iranian nuclear arsenal. But these are matters of self-preservation for the Saud family regime, nothing rooted in religion or ideology (in Islam, the two are virtually the same thing).

Tim Stanley of the Telegraph notes a number of the similarities:

Human Rights Watch reports that Saudi Arabia has beheaded 19 people since the beginning of August. Some confessions may have been gained under torture and one poor defendant was found guilty of sorcery. Yep, sorcery. (snip)

 Ed West recently produced a masterful blog post asking why the Saudis were so worried about Isil given that the warlords of Iraq have an awful lot in common with the princes of the Kingdom. Ed suggests that:

The Saudi hostility to Isil could… be described in Freudian terms as the narcissism of small differences. Isil is dangerous to them because for those raised in the Saudi version of Islam the Islamic State’s even more extreme interpretation is not a huge leap.

Stanley notes that small differences often lead to the bitterest conflicts, and this has been true many times -- Mao’s China versus the USSR, Irish Protestants versus Catholics and many other examples – and this may be true of ISIS and the Saudis. But ultimately, I think it is a matter of who gets to reap the power and the money.

Islam, which unites the political and the spiritual, is friendly to absolutism, and the dream of the global caliphate is the ultimate representation of the drive to force everyone to conform to a vision of (someone’s version of) orthodox Islam.

It’s an awkward question. Of course, the Saudis are officially our allies, not to mention guardians of oil market stability. And barely disguised, they are supporters of Israel against Hamas and the threat of the Iranian nuclear arsenal. But these are matters of self-preservation for the Saud family regime, nothing rooted in religion or ideology (in Islam, the two are virtually the same thing).

Tim Stanley of the Telegraph notes a number of the similarities:

Human Rights Watch reports that Saudi Arabia has beheaded 19 people since the beginning of August. Some confessions may have been gained under torture and one poor defendant was found guilty of sorcery. Yep, sorcery. (snip)

 Ed West recently produced a masterful blog post asking why the Saudis were so worried about Isil given that the warlords of Iraq have an awful lot in common with the princes of the Kingdom. Ed suggests that:

The Saudi hostility to Isil could… be described in Freudian terms as the narcissism of small differences. Isil is dangerous to them because for those raised in the Saudi version of Islam the Islamic State’s even more extreme interpretation is not a huge leap.

Stanley notes that small differences often lead to the bitterest conflicts, and this has been true many times -- Mao’s China versus the USSR, Irish Protestants versus Catholics and many other examples – and this may be true of ISIS and the Saudis. But ultimately, I think it is a matter of who gets to reap the power and the money.

Islam, which unites the political and the spiritual, is friendly to absolutism, and the dream of the global caliphate is the ultimate representation of the drive to force everyone to conform to a vision of (someone’s version of) orthodox Islam.

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