4 thoughts on “Arab parliaments”

  1. A small pedantic point. Kuwait’s Parliament may not decide the fate of the government (does the US Congress?) but it is pretty fairly elected and makes life very difficult for arbitrary or even necessary decisions to be implemented (another US analogy?). No two GCC members are identical, though of course your generalization about traditional Shaikhly rule is broadly valid.

  2. I would add to this perceptive comment that a senior Saudi official once explained to me that for a devout Muslim a ruling authority incorporates a measure of divine endorsement (the ‘baraka’ accorded to the Moroccan Alaoui dynasty affords a contemporary example). It follows that the western parliamentary concept of a political opposition (whether ‘loyal’ or not) runs counter to this understanding. An outlet for individual or group complaint or protest is instead afforded through the ’shura’ system, whether institutional or personal, and to which the leadership is obliged to pay heed (the late King Fahd was won’t to define this as ‘Islamic democracy’).

    1. I am sure that Sir Alan reports the remarks of the senior Sa’udi official accurately, but those remarks do not reflect Islam in its entirety. In particular, the remarks omit the doctrine of the Zaydis, who hold it not merely a possibility, but a religious duty, to oppose an unjust ruler.
      The ovine characteristic that the Sa’udi official describes is one theory suggested to explain why Ali Abdallah Salih encouraged Salafi proselytism in northern Yemen, a policy enthusiastically carried out by the Salafised Gen Ali Muhsin al-Qadhi, and resisted first politically then violently by many Zaydis to whom Salafism represents an existential threat. (http://www.merip.org/mer/mer204/clash-fundamentalisms)
      The independent streak of Zaydis is one theory put forward to explain why Sa’udi intervened to prevent the Huthis securing Yemen. It also undermines the claim that the Huthis are Iranian clients, for such a democratic principle undermines the doctrine of wilayat al-faqih.
      The official’s remarks also clash with Thesiger’s account of meeting some Rawashid returning from visiting Ibn Sa’ud. When Thesiger queried whether they had called him Your Majesty, the badu countered that ‘We are Bedu. We have no king but God.’ (https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=5gZu35V46CMC&pg=PT94&lpg=PT94&dq=thesiger+no+king+but+god&source=bl&ots=-630ykzxcN&sig=Quf24f5ovyfmgXTwkNiUn4hLtG0&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjtpsb259fLAhWGtxQKHcVCAYgQ6AEIMzAD#v=onepage&q=thesiger%20no%20king%20but%20god&f=false)

  3. Patrick Theros

    A very well constructed article. It illustrates the problem of imposing Western imports on societies structured differently. The problem is not limited to the Middle East but to any society structured differently than the class stratified societies of western Europe. In fact, I can argue that Greece, the Mother of Europe, suffers today because its intelligentsia bought into the idea that western European norms can be applied to a society which has developed so differently.
    I am looking forward to an equally well-written article suggesting how such societies can achieve government with the consent of the governed and how such a structure might work.

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top

Access provided by the Bodleian Libraries of the University of Oxford