Was the hajj disaster fate?
It is wrong to assume the Saudi regime does not care about hajj security, that it does not use modern technology and leaves the business to fate; it is also wrong to clear the Saudis of all wrong and say, “Such things happen in every country.”
The incident is not black and white; it is complicated. The authoritarian culture and the authoritarian regime are a significant issue all by themselves.
The head of the committee organizing hajj affairs in Saudi Arabia is the Crown Prince Mohammad bin Naif, who is also the interior minister. The visiting Saudi chief, Mufti Abdulaziz bin Abdullah, has told the prince, “The stampede is an incident beyond human control. You are not responsible. Fate and destiny cannot be prevented.”
Iranian religious leader Ayatollah Hamaney, on the other hand, accused the Saudis. While the Saudi Chief Mufti acquits the Saudi regime with his statements, the Imam of the Shiite Iran blames Saudi Arabia. The two countries also fight geopolitically.
These stances are a tiny example of religion, sect and political perceptions in the Middle East.
The Guardian newspaper wrote that the number of pilgrims in the 1920s was around 58,000. With the development of air travel, in 2013, 3 million Muslims went to on hajj. This year, even though this figure has been decreased to 2 million, disaster happened.
Thus, the only reason cannot be “the crowd.”
The British paper quoted Professor Ian Reader’s views: Emergency measures were not adequate. The professional capacity of the officers was inadequate. Emergency measures and professional capacity are technical terms. When you regard the situation from these points of view, you would take measures but when you say “fate,” then there is nothing to do.
I do not know how much Saudis pay attention to “legal responsibility” but they will do a technical research.
It is possible to explain in many pages that there is no “fatalism” in Islam and that human will has great significance. However, this is all book information. What is widely believed in the Middle East is the fate concept of the chief mufti.
In these many centuries, while it was not allowed for the individual to use and develop his or her own initiatives, fatalism culture became dominant and it is continuing to a great extent.
Researchers point out the opposing mass movements that were named the “Arab Spring” did not occur in Saudi Arabia. One researcher, Toby C. Jones, stated that between 2008 and 2010, Saudi Arabia had $500 billion oil revenue. This income is totally under the control of the Saudi family. There is a patronage system from top to bottom in the country because of this.
According to another researcher, 90 percent of the business in Saudi Arabia is under control of the Saudi family.
Such a control of economic resources reinforces political dominance. As Fareed Zakaria said, oil has not created an independent entrepreneurial middle class demanding freedom in the Middle East; on the contrary, it has created a new feudality.
Thanks to this, education and health services are free. There is welfare guaranteed by oil. In Arabia where tribal identities are still strong, welfare and stability depend on the Saudi family.
Did you say freedom? It may bring chaos, i.e. like in Syria; the best is to obey.
Thus the religious doctrine is fatalist, obedient and strictly close to new practices.
Saudi Arabia is a successful country in education. Its rate of women in higher education is ahead of Europe; however, women are to work in professions allocated for women and will not be able to drive.
Those disdainful jobs that are not suitable for them will be done by foreign workers.
Is this system sustainable? As long as oil is there, it can be sustainable.
I say our late former President Turgut Özal was right when he said, “I’m glad we are not an oil-rich country. We must do business, produce and sell.”