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Saudi Arabia prepares for the annual Muslim hajj pilgrimage

Muslim pilgrims touch the Kaaba stone, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, as they pray ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Friday, Aug. 17, 2018. The annual Islamic pilgrimage draws millions of visitors each year, making it the largest yearly gathering of people in the world. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)

The rulers of Saudi Arabia are doing exactly what Islam says not to do.

The Quran says, "Whoever kills a person, it is as though he has killed all mankind and whoever saves a life, it is as though he had saved all mankind." (Quran, 5:32).

On Aug. 9, a Saudi-led airstrike using U.S.-supplied weapons killed 40 children ages 6-11 on a school bus in Yemen. According to the most recent report by the U.N. High Commission for Human Rights, there have been 17,062 civil casualties in Yemen since 2015, including 6,592 dead and 10,470 injured. Most of these casualties — 10,471 — were because of air strikes carried out by the Saudi-led coalition.

According to Amnesty International, the Saudi-led coalition continues to commit serious violations of international law in Yemen.

The 2017-18 Amnesty International report also suggests the rulers of Saudi Arabia are not following the word of our Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) in their own country. During his last sermon, Mohammed said: "O People, regard the life and property of every Muslim as a sacred trust; hurt no one so that no one may hurt you; you have certain rights with regards to your women, but they have rights over you; treat your women well and be kind to them; an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab have any superiority over an Arab; white has no superiority over black, nor does a black have any superiority over white; none have superiority over another except by piety and good actions; remember one day you will appear before God and answer for your deeds; and I leave behind two things: the Quran and my example, the Sunnah, and if you follow these, you will never go astray.”

The Amnesty International report says authorities in Saudi Arabia have restricted freedom of expression, association and assembly; detained many human rights defenders and critics and sentenced some to lengthy prison terms after unfair trials; and executed many Shia Muslim rights activists. Torture and ill-treatment of detainees remained common. Despite limited reforms, women faced systematic discrimination. 

In 2018, the population of Saudi Arabia reached 33.6 million, of which over 9 million are foreign workers. A person who is not an Arab will likely be subjected to exploitation and abuse (lower wages, disrespect, etc.), unless they are an American citizen with white skin. For the same job, white Americans are generally offered two to three times the salary of non-white, non-American workers.

I have heard about some of these abuses in my travels to Saudi Arabia. Several friends told me they were in Saudi Arabia simply to earn money to support their families back home in their countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia, and that they tolerate exploitation because they don't have a choice. Last year at the Jeddah airport, I witnessed clear discrimination between Arabs and non-Arabs at the check-in counters.

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An American friend who is an Islamic scholar was offered a job as imam at a mosque in Saudi Arabia. He refused it, telling them he didn't want his Friday sermons to be controlled by Saudi authorities. In America, he said, “I have full freedom to say what is right and what is wrong even if it is against the U.S. president.”

I wish Saudi rulers would follow the teachings of our Prophet Mohammed. He excelled as prophet, ruler, orator, soldier, husband, friend, father, uncle, nephew, and grandfather. He was a man of love, patience, courage, wisdom, generosity, intelligence, and magnitude who inspired millions throughout the world. Although the prophet has left this world, his words of wisdom and teaching will remain with us until the day of judgment.

As rulers of the prophet’s country, the leaders of Saudi Arabia have huge responsibility. I am afraid that if they continue on the path they are currently on, they will not be able to answer for their deeds on the day of judgment. I urge them to please listen to the prophet's last sermon and follow his teachings. They would then be a role model for other countries in the region. May God guide the rulers of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Masood Akhtar of Middleton is founder of We Are Many: United Against Hate Movement (www.united-against-hate.org/)

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