Oppression As Usual

(Göteborgs-Posten, 16 August, 2011)

Saudi Arabia is financing mosques from Sarajevo to Gothenburg. Needless to say, this has nothing to do with philantropy; it is an ideological offensive.

What is Saudi Arabia? It is a dictatorship that violates every paragraph in the UN declaration on human rights. It is a religious state with superstitious legislation. It is an apartheid state that separates the sexes and stresses that women are of less value.

Why is this country befriended by others? The Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs advises against ”not necessary visits”, but obviously indispensable are the business trips that last year helped increase Sweden’s export to Saudi Arabia to an all-time high.

In everyday life we all tend to be sensitive about right-wing extremism; we repudiate it, grant tax money to fight it, rightly regard it as a threat to democracy, freedom of speech and universal equality.

Still we seem unable to recognize it when it appears in other guises than the usual suits or bomber jackets. Why are we so incapable of identifying the perverted outlook on mankind canvassed by regimes such as the Saudi and the Iranian for what it is, namely right-wing extremist? Perhaps because it would mean that we would have to equate these states with South Africa under apartheid, with the consequences of such an understanding.

On the contrary, the benevolence that meets this internationalized right-wing extremism is rather great. The Swedish National Board for Youth Affairs has granted support for several anti-democratic, sexually segregated activities with an Islamist profile. The City of Malmö, governed by a left-leaning coalition, was recently engaged in a school exchange program with the Saudi regime.

Human rights activist Wajeha al-Huwaider talks in an interview in The Nation magazine about the way brutality in Saudia Arabia effects everyone, but first and foremost suppresses and spreads fear among women: ”This is the most effective way of controlling an entire society.”

No local Swedish school directors accepted invitations from Pretoria to send students there to learn about tolerance for other cultures. No left-wing politician would have considered a collaboration with apartheid South Africa ”a non-political issue”. Who today would accept that black people were viewed as minors, who could not vote and had to wear certain clothes? Everybody would agree that apartheid was loathsome. Judging people on the basis of their skin color is disgusting.

Structural suppression of women on the other hand, apartheid based on gender, has become so normalized that it is only viewed as one cultural expression among others. This right-wing extremism is not even seen as extreme, but just as something a little different.