Proscribing Travel

The Saudi Arabian journalist Tariq A. Al Maeena, in his May 10, 2014 column published in the Gulf News, reports that a Saudi Arabian preacher Shaikh Abdullah Al Suwailem speaking to the UK-based Arabic Al-Hayat daily early May, declared that “whoever dies in the land of infidels could go to hell.” Effectively, he proscribes travel to countries that are not governed by Islamic laws. He also declared that “[T]raveling to the land of infidels for the sake of doing business or studies is forbidden except in extreme necessity.”

Interestingly, the shaikh is a member of the kingdom’s Munasaha program that reprograms and rehabilitates Saudis — serving time in prison — who had previously been lured by Al Qaida’s doctrine.

The shaikh singles out “land of Infidels” but this becomes problematic, especially after the collapse of communist countries, because Islam introduced the concept “People of the Book.” The Qur’an refers to followers of monotheistic Abrahamic religions that are older than Islam. This includes all Christians, all Children of Israel, the Sabians. And some scholars also include Zoroastrianism which was founded between 1000 BCE and 600 BCE, making it older than Christianity and Islam.

So can the shaikh explain that who are “infidels” and which are their lands? Perhaps, he foresaw that India would in days come under the rule of Hindu extremists.

Saudi columnist Badria al-al-Bishr, PhD, a lecturer at King Saud University, in op-ed published by al-Hayat, wrote that al-Suwailem’s comments — especially relating to education overseas — are part of a “systematic attack on the King Abdullah’s scholarship program” that sends thousands of students every year to complete their higher education in the West.

At best, al-Bishr’s speculation seems far-fetched because in Saudi Arabia no one can dare oppose the ruling family — rather a tribe of its own, courtesy founder Ibn al-Saud’s 100 progeny, because they control all sources of income. And not to forget, the shaikh is in-charge of de-programming the rulers’ opponents.

While can only imagine what sort of de-programming such minds are doing, it seems that the shaikh’s perhaps may be his concern Saudis often behave badly when abroad. Instead of discouraging  better respond to such concern could be creating a better moral education, and offering programs and opportunities that would lead to level headed citizenry. 

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