I support the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement for several reasons. In the absence of any effort by world powers to end the apartheid and economic constraints forced on Palestinians, civil society has the right to innovate its own embargo.
While BDS is unlikely to exert any significant economic pressure, the cultural and academic boycott component is already producing results. The intent of BDS is not to punish all Israelis but to impel the rejection of state persecution of Palestinians.
An overlooked expediency of BDS is that it also creates a non-violent means for supporters of the Palestinian cause to express anger and indignation. To block all peaceful avenues of protest is to invite the advocacy of violence.
Which brings me to the other contemporary state terrorism being assisted by almost all major Western powers: Saudi involvement in the Yemeni civil war. America, England, France and Australia continue to supply the Saudi monarchy with weapons and logistical help despite clear and manifest evidence of war crimes including civilian massacres and a blockade that has put 8.4 million Yemenis at risk of starvation. No major sanctions have been imposed on Saudi Arabia by any nation and Germany is the only country that has banned the sale of arms to the kingdom.
While we are helpless when it comes to Western nations abetting Saudi atrocities, there is another major source of Saudi influence and global power that is within our reach. Over 2 million Muslims travel to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj and an average of 5 million perform Umrah every year.
The Saudi King is known as the “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques” which is a singular privilege within the Muslim world. Apart from reinforcing the influence of the Al Saud monarchy and As Sheikh dynasty of Saudi clergy, these pilgrimages also bring in billions of dollars in tourism revenue. Last year the estimated revenue from Hajj alone was $4.2 billion dollars.As one of the five mandatory practices in Islam (popularly known as its “pillars”) Hajj is the yearning of every observant Muslim. It symbolizes unity and equality among followers of Islam and is considered the quintessential spiritual event in the lives of those fortunate enough to embark on it.
Hajj is a religious duty and a spiritual milestone; of that there is no doubt. The question is whether that duty is currently outweighed by the moral implications of empowering the Saudi monarchy and clergy. I believe it to be so.
The horror in Yemen is not the only iniquity the house of Al Saud has inflicted on Muslims. Through a relentless diplomatic campaign against Iran and massive funding of mosques and seminaries throughout the Muslim world, it has been the foremost architect of the contemporary Sunni-Shia schism. It continues to lobby Western powers to go to war against Iran just as it encouraged the First Gulf War.
Going to Hajj and Umrah under the auspices of the Al Saud dynasty is tantamount to aiding a brutal regime that has wrought havoc in the Muslim world through its political intrigues and the brand of faith it peddles throughout the world. It fills the coffers and enhances the religious authority of the house of Al Saud.
Truth be told, it contributes to the perpetuation of evil.
What use is our stoning the Jamaraat when our pilgrimage is empowering a clear and manifest evil? What good are our rituals if they do nothing to ease the suffering of our brothers and sisters in faith?
Remote as the possibility of a successful boycott of the Hajj and Umrah is-considering the zeal of those who save up all their lives for the opportunity-this is a cry worth making loud and clear. The alternative is to stay silent while our professions of piety empower a regime that maligns and perverts the faith.