CHARLOTTE, NC. There’s an old saying in sports that “you can’t tell the players without a scorecard.” That same adage applies to Middle East politics. For example, in Saudi Arabia, the English daily newspaper Arab News – or “The Green Flash” as it is called by ex-patriots because of its green-tinted cover pages – reports that the Royal Saudi Air Defense Forces “intercepted and destroyed two missiles launched from Yemen by Iran-aligned Houthi militias on Monday.” Reportedly the missiles were headed toward Mecca and Jeddah, resulting in massive condemnation and protests throughout the Islamic world.
Why did the Houthis attack Saudi Arabia during Ramadan?
Currently Muslims around the globe are in the midst of Ramadan, a month long Islamic observance which includes fasting, prayer, reflection and community. Ramadan takes place during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. It concludes around the third of June, depending upon one’s geographical location.
Comprehending the subtleties and nuances of the Middle East persists as one of the major stumbling blocks for Westerners. So understanding the reasoning behind the recent Yemen based Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia can prove overwhelming for the average Westerner, even in the best of situations.
One thing remains clear, however. The current violence directed at the Saudis by Yemeni Houthis offers the most powerful evidence yet that “Islamophobia,” as perceived by liberal Western Islamic apologists, is as phony as a three dollar bill.
Here’s why. Ramadan is supposedly a time of inward thinking and introspection for all Muslims. Yet all too often, it unfolds as one of the most violent periods in Muslim societies during any given year. The contradiction here seems irrelevant.
Why the constant back-and-forth between Yemen and Saudi Arabia?
Take this current example. Yemen is the poorest country in the Arabian Peninsula. It has been wracked by violence since the Houthis overran Sana’a, its capital city, in September 2014.
By March of he following year, following an escalation of hostilities, a coalition of Arab countries met in Saudi Arabia. They launched a huge bombing campaign against Yemen, designed to roll back Houthi advances.
In typical Islamic “playground” banter (“am-so, are-too, you-started-it”) both sides began blaming the other for commencing and / or escalating the conflict. The debate continues today. Thus, the ancient “eye-for-an-eye” mantra continues unabated into the 21st century. The reason? Because, as a spokesman for the Houthis claims, their attacks are “justified.” Justification is a primary source of validation for Muslims when it comes to providing solutions to problems.
Houthis then struck deeper than ever from Yemen into Saudia Arabian territory. They fired four missiles at military bases in the southern Saudi cities of Abha, Jizan and Najran late Sunday as part of the run-up to third anniversary of the war.
Anniversaries mean a lot in the Middle East. A lot of trouble.
As with 9/11, anniversaries play a significant role in Islamic retaliation. Since Ramadan occurs at different times during each year, this anniversary weighed more heavily in the Houthi rationalization process than the fact that it occurred during the Holy Month of the faith.
As for Mecca, Islam’s Holy City, Houthi militias fired on the city once before in July 2017. Attacking the holiest place in Islam is clearly no way win friends and influence people in the always-volatile Middle East.
Riyadh-based Saudi political analyst and international relations scholar, Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri emphasized this point.
“They care nothing for the sanctity of the holy month of Ramadan. What they did today, and what they did in the past, clearly reveal their sinister designs to strike at the heart of the Muslim world.”
The Middle East is a place where “stability” is a relative term. It really matters little who is “right” or who is “wrong.” This is a different world where conflict thrives regardless of war or peace. From ancient history to the present, this shows no sign of changing.
In the Middle East, things always tend to remain the same
Talk is cheap in the Middle East. So is life. As that old sports saying goes, finding the players without a scorecard is difficult. But, in the end, does it even really matter?
Putting out brushfires in the blazing inferno of the Arabian Peninsula stands out as the national pastime of the Middle East. The biggest day-to-day difference: At times the playground gets a little bit hotter than usual.
— Headline image: Al-Haram Mosque and the Kaaba. Image via Wikipedia entry on Mecca, CC 3.0 license.
About the Author:
Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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