Monday, 25 January 2016

Stop Bringing Cultural Appropriation into Israel/Palestine

"You can take our land, you can take our women 
but you'lll never take our hummus, falafel and Sahlab!"


Cultural appropriation as a concept should viewed with skepticism and suspicion especially in todays internet rage culture. Occasionally it can be valid but often times it misses the point and is taken way too far.

This will make me unpopular and bring me many haters but I dislike it when the Palestinian cause and the Israel/Palestine conflict in general is reduced to "cultural appropriation". Israelis often get alot of flak from leftists and pro-Palestine activists for unfairly staking claims to foods that are really the cultural property of Palestinian Arabs.
 
A popular argument you often hear among pro-Palestine activists is, part of the Zionist colonial project in Palestine is not just stealing land from Palestinians and evicting them, but also a deliberate, systematic, effort to culturally colonise Palestine. According to them, Israelis appropriate "indigenous" culture and cuisine. So, they will take foods like falafel, Shakshuka, olives, Shawamma, hummus (of course). Even fashion apparently.

In my view, food and culture are not the ownership of one specific ethnic or racial group. Cultures are fluid. It mixes, evolves and changes over time. Palestinian cuisine is no different. Over centuries it has had Persian and Turkish influences just like the broader Levantine cuisine in the Middle East of which Palestinian and Israeli foods derive from. Technically, these specific foods I mentioned are Israeli, Palestinian, Lebanese and Syrian. What is also often ignored is the fact that Israel has a significant population of Jews who are of Arab descent who will share similar a cuisine to their Palestinian Arab counterparts. Is anyone going to accuse them of "cultural appropriating" their own culture?

I worry the current debates on cultural appropriation will have the effect of poisioning issues with purile identity politics. In all honesty, there is a creepy, yet subtle  totalitarianism to these "cultural appropriation crazes". It effectively tells people according to their race or ethnicity what they can eat, what they wear, what hairstyle they can sport, what music you can listen to. This is a want to control and police an individual's behavior, when it is clearly not harming anyone. It is dissappointing when I hear this reactionary, provincialist nonsense mostly coming from people who would label themselves leftists, internationalists and progressives.

This isn't to say culture isn't important for the Palestinian people and their cause. Of course it is. Culture is important for any cause or movement especially the arts and cinema. But if cultural appropriation is the dominant kind of political rhetoric of which the Palestinian solidarity movement has to offer, then it just shows how tepid it has now become and how little credibility they will have.

These pointless, hysterical debates on "cultural appropriation" gives people a "safe option", it helps them ignore the difficult problems and the real struggle since you're soothing your conscience by buying politically correct olive oil. They are also a distraction from the real problems in regards to Israel/Palestine like settlements, the occupation, harsh Israeli policy, the authoritarianism of Hamas and The Palestinian authority and the detiriorating humanitarian condition of the Gaza strip. Instead of addressing these problems, you scream about a Jew enjoying some hummus since allegedly that is cultural imperialism.

No one cares where hummus comes from or whom it "belongs" to. All that matters is that it tastes good! In my ever so humble opinion anyone should eat whatever the fuck they want, but hey that's just me.

Monday, 18 January 2016

The Narcisissm of The Gadfather


“Great men are not born great, they grow great . . .”
― Mario Puzo,
The Godfather


The first time I encountered The Gadfather (Gad Saad) was right after the Ben Affleck-Sam Harris debacle on Real Time with Bill Maher. He was on the David Pakman show for an interview. He was very reasonable in his analysis of the debate by making a clear distinction between criticising ideas and bigotry towards people. His points were clear, conscise and rational. Gad really destroyed the regressiveness of Ben Affleck and was a real voice of reason.

I then started to watch more of his interviews and his other on Youtube especially his "SAAD Truth" series on his Youtube channel. They were quite interesting especially his expertise in Evolutionary Psychology and how he applied it to his critique of Religion, Social Justice Warriors (SJW's), Feminism etc.

However, no one is perfect or infallible, even The Gadfather.

Some may not like what I am going to write about Gad especially those who would call themselves secular, Atheists, Anti-theist because I am criticising someone who they admire since they agree with what he says on Islam, Regressive Left, Feminism, Social Justice Warriors (SJW's). 

No doubt I would agree with some of what he says on those topics and he is a very intelligent man but I do believe in self-criticism even of supposed "leaders". I dont do this with any malice nor do I intend to just defame The Gadfather.

 

 Gad Saad's timeline

The problem with The Gadfather is he is abit self obsessed. He wants to be the next Atheist  
superstar on the internet. Initially, I did not have a problem with his self appreciation and his knack for coining terms based on play ons of his name like "The Gadfather", in fact I actually found it amusing though cheesy. But there comes a point where it gets a bit too much. If you look on his timeline all he does is either engage in self appreciation or use old jokes or the same satirical techniques to mock feminists and SJW's.

I will share with you a few examples of what I am talking about. I can't share everything otherwise it will take forever.


Yay! Let's spread reason, 
by making me popular and bringing me more subscribers!



 He could simply have said "please share" but "let's make this go viral"...FUCK OFF! He is begging for attention and popularity. I am not giving that to him.

His plea to the "Gadfellas" to "make this go viral" completely backfired, as you see below it only got five retweets! (well nine but still an underachievement for The Gadfather).




"Saadomized...No, just NO!"


Fuck me! This is nauseating.

He also doesn't seem to realise when a joke turns stale.


















I think you get the joke. Yes, we get it Gadfather, trigger warnings are a ridiculous idea but when you use the same exact joke over and over again, it does get stale.

Gad seems to have a low tolerance for taking criticism which is ironic since he lambasts SJW's for running away from debate and criticism by retreating into their safe spaces. 










Awww, look at poor Gad all "triggered", 
retreating into his "safe space"

According to him I am an "obnoxious troll" when my tweets aimed at him were very tame.

Here is another instance of his pettiness.





Remember Gad is someone who is not afraid to be scathing in his critcism towards regressives and SJW's but when someone has the audacity to criticise him back he goes into ultra defense mode where he will call you a "troll" and threaten to block you. He is willing to dish it out insults but unwilling to take it back without retreating into his safe space.


Another thing that disappointed me about Gad was when had Anne Marie Waters of Sharia Watch on his Youtube show. What bothered me wasn't the fact he interviewed Waters, I am for. But it was him giving her such an easy ride. She simply repeated, and was unchallenged in doing so, a load of UKIP propaganda. If she had been espousing "feminism" I'm sure he would have challenged her, to back up her claims. But since she attacks Islam and bashes the left therefore he'll gloss over the awkward stuff around her like advocating muslims be deported as a solution to Islamic extremism.







Again, he is trying to get himself more views and subscribers on his Youtube channel. This time by placating to right wing nutjobs like James Woods and Roseanne Barr. The people he mentions are right wing nutjobs, of course they aren't going to be regressive left.

The way he defends himself when he gets criticised is rather confusing and incoherent.









Boy does he drone on! I admire people who are contrarians but just because you "challenge orthodoxy" or bash the "regressives" doesn't always mean people have to take you seriously. James Woods is a nutcase who tweets crazy nonsense. For the sake of getting more Youtube subscribers and pushing his obscure catchphrases  Gad is just sucking onto right wing nuts who he is not going to be critical towards because they have a common enemy. I do hope that when he does have his interview with James Woods or Roseanne Barr that it is actually an interesting conversation where they both challenge each other and not yet another session of bash SJW's and Feminist because in all honesty that it is getting quite stale. Maybe I watch too much of The Gadfather.

Perhaps the most embarrassing thing about our lovely Gadfather is his campaign on Twitter to popularise his newly coined hashtag "#TheOstrichBrigade". This term is basically synonymous with "Regressive Left". Gad seemingly inspired by how popular the term "Regressive Left" has become wants to create his own term in order to boost his hits on social media.

"The Ostrich Brigade" is so cheesy, cringeworthy and rather Saad! I always see people in academia and politics who have this urge to coin new terms even if it's bad or makes no sense. This reeks of arrogance and self eng It's the type of thing that I would come up with not a Professor of Evolutionary Psychology.

In summary, Gad Saad for all his intelligence which I admire desperately wants to be original and increase his subscriber base but he says the same things as others just with different words and will uncrtically placate to right wing nutjobs for the sake of popularity. If you challenge him on anything he gets all "triggered", then blocks you in order to retreat into his safe space and echo chamber. Again, I'm not trying to be an "obnoxious troll", Gad certainly has valid opinions but unfortunately of late he's starting sound like a narcisisst and a broken record playing the same song in the same exact way and he doesn't seem to realise it at all.

I invite our dear Gadfather (and his Gadfellas) to consider some of the issues I raise. I think it will be an offer he can't refuse. ;)






  

Friday, 8 January 2016

The Nightmare of Cologne: Denialism and Bigotry are not the only choices we have.



Writing this article will be like walking through a minefield because this is a very sensitive issue. As it touches on sexual violence, multiculturalism, immigration and integration, which are not easy subjects to talk about.

Let me make one thing VERY clear from the start: I am not interested in spreading propaganda or spreading hatred and bigotry towards people. Nor am I interested in endorsing far-right narratives about immigrants, muslims or whatever group they wish to persecute. However, I believe we must have a serious and scrupulous discussion about this, as for too long now this issue has been swept under the rug, deflected and dodged. We cannot remain silent on this.

What happened?

In Cologne, there were reports of shocking sexual assaults taking place during the New Years celebrations prompting 90 legal complaints by women to the police. Dozens of young women in Cologne were groped: and in one case raped, by hundreds of men described in testimonies as having a “a North African or Arabic” appearance.

The attackers are believed to have organized themselves into gangs then stalked, molested and eventually mug women as they were enjoying New Years celebrations. The accounts of these assaults seem very reminiscent of the sexual molestation -with the intent to intimidate women- that went on in Tahir Square during protests that brought down President Mubarak and Morsi respectively in Egypt in 2011 and 2013.

Similar attacks were reported in Hamburg, Frankfurt, Dusseldorf and Stuttgart on the same night. In a seperate incident a gang rape of two teenage girls in the southern German town of Weil am Rhein on New Year's Eve is believed to have occured. Police have arrested four Syrians, aged between 14 and 21, as suspects.

Shocked German authorities called these assaults "unprecedented in nature" saying "hundreds of young men appeared to have participated".

 Who did it?

The identification through testimony of the attackers in Cologne as "North African or Arab men" will inevitably raise the question of whether they were refugees from Syria and Iraq or recent migrants from North Africa. As of now, we are not sure all the attackers were recent migrants into Europe, but it is clear that at least some will be if we go by suspects currently detained by German authorities.

German police initially claimed there was no evidence that asylum seekers were involved in the violence, only for it to emerge that they had in fact detained several (mainly from Syria) on the night.

This does not mean there have not been cases of sexual assault committed by migrants in Germany, never mind in other European countries and amongst refugee women also. We are seeing a growing number of anecdotal cases where this is happening. I stole my anecdotes from this piece.

In November a club in Bavaria started turning refugees away after a string of complaints of sexual harassment from female clients.

In Baden-W├╝rttemberg at least one hospital has hired guards to protect nurses who feel intimidated by the refugees they treat.

The Woman’s Council in Hesse claimed in an open letter to the state parliament in September that they have substantial evidence of sexual abuse, including forced prostitution, in refugee shelters.

In August a regional paper in North Rhine-Westphalia also reported police covering up a serious sexual crime. After hearing about the rape of a 13-year-old girl by a refugee, the paper enquired with police as to what crimes they knew of in the refugee shelters.

There have been other reported cases in Sweden, Switzerland, Austria, Denmark, Norway, Finland  and within refugee camps and shelters. This is a full blown European problem.

Why?

It is true refugees and migrants are no more likely to commit sex crimes or any other crimes than the local population. Sexual harrassment on the street is obviously not exclusive to Arabs and Muslims. In recent years India (last I checked it was a Hindu majority state) has had huge problems with sexual violence. However, there are certain truths that must be stated. This by no means discredits my previous points but it gives a more nuanced picture of this crisis. That is what is often missing from these debates- nuance.

One plausible reason why there is this sex crime phenomenon among migrants is because of a gender imbalance in favour of males among the migrants and refugees. According to the International Organization of Migration 66.26 percent of adult migrants registered through Italy and Greece over the past year were male. Many are young, unmarried, military aged males. Some are fleeing being coerced to join militias in Iraq and Syria, some have come from refugee camps in Turkey and hope to bring family members with them and others are simply fleeing the dangers of war.

Politico had a great article explaining why having such a massive gender imbalance is a problem. It argues a skewed gender imbalance in favour of males can lead to an increase in violence. It references the research of Valerie Hudson in her book which focused on China's surplus male population which found an imbalanced sex ratio can lead to more violence, crime, rape and danger for women.

"There are also clearly negative effects for women in male-dominated populations. Crimes such as rape and sexual harassment become more common in highly masculinized societies, and women’s ability to move about freely and without fear within society is curtailed. In addition, demand for prostitution soars; that would create a deeply ironic outcome for Sweden, which invented the path-breaking Swedish abolitionist approach to prostitution."

It is important to take this into account when dealing with the migrant and refugee crisis.
There is also a cultural dimension to this sadly.  Many of the men come from The Middle East and North Africa which are not exactly known for their exemplary treatment of women. I know this sounds like a racist thing for me to say, but it is absolutely true. 

In many of these countries arcane and backward ideas about women and sexuality are widespread. Women's bodies are shamed, women are taught as girls to revile their sexuality and to feel guilty if a man is "seduced" by their "fitna". This then leads to men feeling  they have the total right to sexually harass any woman who is not in a burqa or the "correct hijab" or anything that does not meet the "modesty" standard. They are all asking for it. Hell! even women in burqas get harrassed so women never get a break from this oppression. Sexual harrassment for women in the Middle East and North Africa is so much a part of daily life that, for example, the Cairo metro is gender segregated in a reactionary measure to try to address this.

While a cultural element does undoubtedly exist, one has to be careful of not exaggerating it to the point of evoking old stereotypes of dark-skinned, foreign men out to prey on white women. This struggle will not be won by sinking down to racism and collective punishment. Like I said before a nuanced understanding is what we need, not propaganda.

The responses

What I found particularly unhelpful was when the mayor of Cologne Henriette Reker was asked by journalists what women could do to protect themselves better from this. She said. “There’s always the possibility of keeping a certain distance of more than an arm’s length"and that she would soon be issuing a “code of conduct” for women “so that such things do not happen to them.”

Yeah...I intend to molest and mug a women, but shit! She’s an arm’s length away from me! therefore I can't do anything. Reker's comments reeks of utter stupidity. She is essentially saying "German women watch you behavior, dress modestly, dont look cheery and keep quiet". I can't believe I have to say this in 2016 but women are not to blame in any way for sexual assaults they expierience. The blame LIES exclusively WITH the creeps who violate a woman's bodily integrity and no one else.

This is the same backward and medieval mentality used to excuse sexual harassment of women all around the world whether in Egypt, Nigeria or India.




There are two responses one often sees in reaction to events like this, both are unhelpful and feed off each other.

The knee jerk reaction from immigration skeptics was "I told you so, you PC Liberals were wrong", therefore we should "shut the borders", as  "they cannot adapt to a civilised society".

Pegida and their likes will definitely be more mobilised as they have announced a protest on the 9th January where they will to spread their alarmism, bigotry and their Eurabia conspiracy theories which is very scary.



As you can see Pat Condell with his terrible shirts jumped with glee to "prove us all wrong" about "third world muslim men" invading Europe through sex Jihad of western women.

On the other hand, the extreme left wing spasm was "we do it too", "we are no better", embodied in articles such as this. This piece basically argues "white people also commit sex crimes", which is true. No one is saying the west is perfect when it comes to sexual harrassment but all of a sudden it is a problem if you point out sexual harrassment done by someone of a different culture.

This wasn't the only absurd reaction.



 Laurie Penny I am afraid to say does have a whisk of a point here. Of course, anti muslim bigots like PEGIDA will faux concern for women so that they can exploit this in order to attack muslims. However, it is dangerous to imply that anyone who explores the plausible cultural phenomena behind sex crimes done by muslim immigrants is automatically a bigot.

Conspiracy theories like this certainly do not help. This is pure denialism and a refusal to face up to reality. A very common trope among the left these days.

Then we have this from The Independent which instead of blaming the specific people responsible for the crime, it blames all men and says to point out the "difference" is to play into the far right narrative. The problem is not about race. While gender is part of the problem there is also a cultural one. Cultures can have specific ideas within them that are harmful and can be changed for the better. It is not "racist" or "bigoted" to point that out as the slimy writer implies.

This piece in the Guardian by Gaby Hinsliff was marginally better than the various tepid responses from Liberals but still it veered into apologetics.

Again, we have this refusal to give the attackers any sense of autonomy and free will. Gaby is arguing these attacks happened as a result of German women being materially better off than their attackers. In fact many of the refugees have I Phones and the latest Samsung devices, even if they did not have them that is not excuse or an "explanation" for their action. There are many people around the world who are much poorer than the refugees from the Middle East who are capable of moral restraint. This is moral bankruptcy.

Maajid Nawaz's take in the Daily Beast was so much better. His argument is we should take a level headed, sensible approach to this grounded in data and facts which does not stigmatize all refugees but also doesn't pretend there is not a problem. For example, creating citizenship and employment courses to help these refugees integrate better into European societies.

What was quite worrying about the Cologne case was how reluctant authorities were to give out information. This sparked accusations of a cover up done by the police which has lead to the Cologne police chief announcing his resignation.

Even the German public broadcaster, ZDF, on Wednesday apologised for delays in reporting on the wave of sexual assaults and for deciding to postpone a news segment until Tuesday.

This discrepancy will inevitably be noticed by right wing media outlets who will use it to feed their narrative that the mainstream media and the multicultural Liberals are liars who are not interested in protecting European citizens but rather in appeasing the "Islamic invasion of Europe" that will destroy western civilisation.

We are right to fear the far-right who will exploit this for their own despicable agenda. If you follow the faces of the "Counter-Jihad" movement like Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller, Tommy Robinson or Pat Condell on Twitter you will notice they had a field day with this story

In saying that, I do not think the response should be that we are held hostage by what the far-right may or may not do and just ignore the problem or not say anything about it in order to maintain the PC, so called "multi-cultural" status quo. I certainly do not think there should be any censorship under any circumstance. We should know the truth even if it is uncomfortable to us.

Germany is now at a stage where we want to be so sensitive that they will arrest people for hate speech against migrants. You can arrest as many people as you want for saying things you don't like but it is not going make the sex attacks done by Arabs magically dissappear. This enforcement of political correctness using state coercion will backfire as it will just breed defiance; because you cannot punish people for simply having opinions.

Silence and suppression will only embolden racists, fascists and anti-immigrant/refugee propagandists. Their legitimacy only comes from the fact that they claim to "speak the truth" on the supposedly rapid "Islamization of the west". As with all propaganda there are certain grains of truth to what they say and if Pat Condell or Anne Marie Waters is the only person you hear speaking on this then do not be surprised if considerable numbers of people sympathise with them even if it is only a little bit with their views.

What is to be done?

I don't have all the answers but I am skeptical the anti-immigrant response of "keep out the muslims" will actually do anything. It doesn't solve the problem, it just transports it somewhere else. It essentially says you can rape or harass "your women over there" and amongst "your people" but just dont bring it to "our women over here". Of course, I am not suggesting we take all of them in, as that is impractical. But it is also wrong to have a "shut the borders" policy, not only is it impractical, it is plainly immoral as it punishes those who desperately need refuge from war, fascism, theocracy and anarchy.

We must firstly, affirm without excuse or exception the right of women to their bodily integrity and their right to public safety. Secondly, confront and refute these backward, medieval ideas about women, honour and shame that lies under these crimes. Thirdly, urgently address integration, citizenship and social cohesion. Until we do that, then this problem will fester which will lead to more racism, more hostility towards migrants and refugees and the bolstering of reactionary forces within Europe.

In Norway which has went through similar problems is now offering newly arrived migrants classes on sexual violence. You may think this isn't perfect but it is certainly better than silence. I would suggest we make them compulsory for all refugees and migrants. In addition, we should have comprehensive citizenship and integration programs for these people to improve social cohesion.

I would also propose that we should prioritise families in particular women and children in order to achieve a gender equilibrium like Canada has done with its own refugee policy. This to me is a fair and balanced policy as we are able to help the very vulnerable fleeing the Middle East, not have an absolutist rejectionist stance but keep things under control.

We must be sensible, level headed and calm without giving in to populism and demagoguery . Denialism and bigotry are not the only choices we have.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Thoughts on the execution Ayatollah Nimr Al-Nimr




On January 2nd Saudi Arabia executed 47 people on charges of "terrorism" in what was a plainly unfair trial. Among them was a prominent and very outspoken Shia cleric Ayatollah Nimr Al-Nimr.  Ayatollah Nimr became prominent for his role in the 2011 Shia protests in Saudi Arabia in the wake of the Arab spring. The specific charges he was convicted for included "disobeying the ruler", "inciting sectarian strife", "encouraging, leading & participating in protests". In order words he was liquidated through state sponsored murder for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of speech.

Aside from him and 3 other Shia youth activists, all others executed were convicted of being involved with Al-Qaeda including Adel al-Dhubaiti, who shot and paralyzed Frank Gardner of the BBC in 2004 and Faris Al-Zahrani Al Qaeda's top religious authority in Saudi Arabia. Seeing as Nimr did not have access to prepare his defence and did not have a lawyer to represent him, it is very difficult to take the Saudi "justice" system seriously.

These unjust executions have brought about widespread condemnations from human rights groups to Ayatollah Sistani to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and has inspired many protests around the world.

However, there does seem to be some confusion in regards to the man himself, with anti-Shia bigots and Saudi government apologists throwing charges of "terrorism", "Iranian agent" and "extremist" at him.  So I will try to make clear some of the controversies surrounding Nimr.

Is he a terrrorist?

This is the easiest one to answer. Eventhough the Saudi state have tried to paint Nimr as a terrorist and he was convicted in the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC). A court dedicated to counter-terrorism. As far as we know Nimr had no connections to any terrorist cell or organisation and has not engaged in any violent activities directed toward the Saudi government or Saudi civilians. So the question of terrorism is pretty much void.

Is he an Iranian shill?

It is true that Iran has piggybacked on Nimr's struggles in Saudi Arabia and will co-opt his death to achieve political capital, both to deflect from its own human rights violations against Iranian citizens and its participation in the destruction of Syria, supporting and facilitating sectarianism in the Middle East.

Iran wants to portray itself as the guardian of the rights of the global Shia muslim community. What better way acheive this than showing solidarity with the Saudi Shia community and their most vocal leader who are oppressed by the Wahhabi state.

However it is incorrect to assume he is simply an Iranian puppet because he is on record as criticising the Assad wishing for its downfall. A murderous regime which the Iranians are supporting to the tilt.

In a khutbah (sermon) given in 2012 Nimr described how Saudi Shia uprisings predated the 1979 Iranian revolution. He says “We have no ties with Iran or any other country. We are connected to our values, and we will defend them, even if your media continues with its distortions.

Nimr was not a sectarian agitator either. He called for Sunnis and Shias to unite against oppressors regardless of sects.

Not something a mere Iranian puppet would say.

Is he a "Liberal reformer"?

The other controversy is his views on politics and religion. Some people will assume he is a Vilyat e-Faqih ideologue. While it is true he was once a follower of Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Hussaini Shirazi who was an influential Islamist theorist sympathetic to the Islamic revolution in Iran. He devised the Hukumat al-Fuqaha' principle of theocratic rule which is very similar to Khomeini's Vilyat e-Faqih (Guardianship of the single jurist). Where they differ is one who gets to rule. Khomeini believed in the rule of a single jurist while Shirazi prefered a council of jurists to rule in governance. Nimr moved away from Shirazi and followed his nephew Grand Ayatollah Al-Modarresi another well known Shia Islamist.

According to this wikileaks (of all people) cable Ayatollah Nimr favored "something between" individual and council forms of guardianship of the Islamic Jurists as a form of government. So it is clear that he supported theocratic governance of some kind. This piece of information is often ignored by many people.

Despite this, his statements seem to be moderate and reform minded focused on defending the rights of a long oppressed and discriminated Shia muslim minority of Saudi Arabia. He was primarily concerned with the lack of political and economic rights Shia muslims had within Saudi Arabia which made him popular amongst the Shia proletariat and the youth. Criticism from Nimr was also strong towards the Saudi supported Sunni monarchy of Bahrain for its own human rights violations towads the majority Shia muslim community there.

This very interesting Wikileaks cable gives you more of an insight into the views of Al-Nimr. In it he criticises identity politics, spoke highly of elections and believed American ideals of liberty and justice were compatible with Shia Islam.


In summary, his key demands were "end sectarian discrimination,  release of political prisoners, greater representation of Shias and economic development. 

Make no mistake about this, whatever your view of Ayatollah Nimr his execution is a grave crime without excuse or justification. Not only because of the lack of a fair judicial process but it further demonstrates to dissidents that non-violent politics and peaceful resistance to oppression will not work as it will just get you killed. Shutting down any dissent by just killing people for holding opinions you dont like will inevitably lead others into more extreme politics as they dont have a peaceful avenue to express their grievances.

Implications of execution?

There is no doubt the Ayatollah's execution will increase sectarian tensions not just in Saudi Arabia but in the Middle East generally. We've already seen protests in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iraq and Bahrain by Shias angry at this crime. The Saudi embassy in Tehran was stormed by protestors and its consulate in Masfahan was torched  by rioters which was a stupid move as it allowed the Saudis to play the victim. In Saudi Arabia's eastern province young Shia protesters violently attacked police forces . In Iraq two Sunni mosques have been attacked.



Saudi Arabia has also cut ties with Iran, with Bahrain, Sudan and UAE following suit with statements of moral support from Egypt and Somalia. Therby raising the temperature in an already smouldering Middle East.

It seems the Saudis carried out these executions in order to firstly reassure the world that it is serious about fighting Sunni militancy hence the reason why most of those executed were convicted of being Al-Qaeda members. Let us not forget the Saudis fear an internal Salafist rebellion as much as Shia agitation. All the past threats to Al-Sauds rule from a 1920s tribal rebellion to riots in the 1960s, a siege at Mecca's Grand Mosque in 1979 and protests after the Gulf War in the 1990s, were caused by ultra-conservative Sunni anger at modernization or ties with the West.

Secondly, to prove to the Wahhabi hardliners particularly those potentially sympathetic to Jihadism that they will not buckle to Shia agitation. The Saudi regimes's legitimacy depends on their enourmous financial wealth and on being the sectarian Wahhabi "defender of the faith". Raising the sectarian bar by provoking a Shia reaction only helps the Saudis to rally the Wahhabi clerics and their followers to their side.

Thirdly, to send a message to the general public that dissent or criticism of any kind towards the kingdom or the status quo will not be tolerated and will be punished severeley.

What will happen next? I don't know but one thing is certain. This is just making official what has been unofficial since the Islamic Revolution in Iran. Iran and Saudi Arabia are at war. Sadly, the people of Yemen, Syria and Iraq will be the ones that will pay for this foolish escalation and cynical divide and rule sectarianism with their blood.

Nimr's execution is forcing Sunnis and Shias to pick a camp, Saudi Arabia or Iran. Just like the "ISIS or Assad" false choice in Syria. The moral and sane choice is to reject both.