Waris Husain Editorial- Mullahs or Monarchs: Tyrants by Different Names

Pearl Square before and after demolition.

Bamiyan Buddah Statutes after being destroyed by Taliban.


I am not surprised to see Pearl Square, the symbol of Bahrain’s democratic movement like Tahrir Square in Egypt, destroyed after the Saudis invaded the country. Under the auspices of their Saudi benefactors, the Bahraini authorities have dismantled the Pearl Monument that was the centerpiece of Square, in hopes of quelling protests. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has not only defended brutal monarchies across the Arab world, but has spread a vicious form of Islam which is advocated by groups like the Taliban. The Saudi sponsored act of destroying a cultural artifact that unites people is exactly what occurred when the Taliban destroyed the Bamiyan Buddha statutes in Afghanistan during their brutal rule. Both the Pearl Monument and the Buddha statutes have been demolished in order to uphold tyranny whether through Taliban Mullahs or Arab Monarchs, all stemming from Saudi Arabia.

The interest of the Saudi Arabians in Bahrain is of utmost importance due to the composition of the revolutionaries, which speaks volumes to the domestic politics of most Arab monarchies.  Much of the opposition has come from the Shiite minority who have long-complained about second-class treatment they receive in Bahrain, ruled by a Sunni royal family, the al-Khalifas. The same vocal minority of Shiites exists in Saudi Arabia, and due to the winds of change sweeping the Middle East, it is safe to say that the Saudis have much invested in the outcome of the Bahraini protests.

This helps to explain why Saudi Arabia has now sent 2000 troops to assist the Bahraini government in quelling protests, whether by force or other means. However, one should not blindly assume that these protests are exclusively a sectarian issue as the Saudis would like to paint it. Rather, the protestors that amassed at Pearl Square shared a common purpose beyond merely the interest of a specific minority. People came out in droves merely to express themselves; a right that was though not to exist for decades under despotic rule.

 These protestors want a voice in who will rule them, rather than being forced to defer to an 86 year old king and his royal family. It was this common purpose that most challenged the king’s ability to rule the nation unbridled by the needs and rights of its people. Further, this common purpose flies in the face of monarchies across the Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia, who expose their people to brutal treatment and disregard the rights of minorities and women.

And in the face of these existential threats to both domestic and regional interests, the Bahraini forces are cracking down hard on the opposition. Rather than accepting the calls of his people, the king of Bahrain has decided to destroy the monument at Pearl Square, hoping to eradicate the calls for change by erasing the symbols of it. However, the spirit that has been awoken among the people through protests cannot be eradicated merely by dismantling a few pieces of steel, despite the hopes of the Saudi family.

This is not the first time the Saudis have been involved in manipulating politics of other nations. The Wahabbi ideology was exported by scholars and sheiks in Saudi Arabia to madrassas across Pakistan and Afghanistan. The spread of this violent and intolerant form of Islam through the Taliban created the same tyrannical rule as the kings of the Arab World. This is because Taliban commanders attempted to pass themselves off as the exclusive spiritual guardians of the people, whose word was infallible as they derived their power from Allah, not the people.

These same commanders, when ruling Afghanistan in the 1990’s, wanted to begin erasing any history that existed before the importation of Wahabiism starting in the 1970’s. The Buddha Statues of Bamiyan stood as symbols of Afghanistan’s rich spiritual history extending before the Taliban and its program of eradicating all “non-believers.” These statutes represented the Buddhist religion, but more importantly challenged the notion that somehow hateful intolerance preached by the Taliban was a natural state of the Afghan people. In fact, it was a foreign imposition by the Saudis alongside Pakistan and the United States during the Afghan-Soviet War. These statutes reminded people that there was an alternative narrative and spiritual guide outside Wahabiism, which is clearly why the Mullahs decided to order the Statute’s destruction.

And even though the Taliban was successful in defacing Afghanistan’s culture and history, their efforts were all for naught. Most importantly, there are still Afghans who exhibit tolerance of other cultures as they realize the diversity of their own lineage and history. The physical destruction of the Bamiyan Statutes did nothing to quell their thirst for knowledge and interest in learning from the religions and cultures of their fellow man.

Interestingly, in 2008 after the Afghanistan invasion, a new massive statute of Buddha was discovered beneath the destroyed statutes in Bamiyan. This act of Allah or lack of attention to detail by the Taliban destructors shows that the shared history and culture of a people is not easily destroyed. This should serve as a lesson to the Bahraini authorities that they will not be able to stop calls for democracy and power for the people merely by destroying the vestiges of the movement.

In looking to the Spring of Revolutions and what form it could take in Pakistan, one must realize that tyranny in several forms has been spread and defended by Saudi Arabia. The oppression most felt by Pakistanis does not come at the hand of corrupt elected individuals, but from this hateful and foreign imposition of Wahabiism by the hands of the Saudis. It is groups like the Taliban who should face the wrath of the protestors in Pakistan and Afghanistan, as they have exposed the common man to brutal punishments and suicide attacks. The tyranny shared by mullahs and monarchs should help illuminate the hidden hand behind the destruction of symbols of hope, like the Bamiyan Buddhas and Pearl Monument.

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