As you may have seen the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman (often called MBS) has been on an investment tour of Asia. The tour kicked off to an optimistic start in Pakistan where deals worth $20 billion were signed, raising hopes for Pakistan’s struggling economy. The tour continued smoothly to Pakistan’s regional rival, India, where once again huge public support welcomed Saudi investment. With no hiccups in sight, MBS continued to China.
The anti-Saudi media kept their reporting of his ground breaking tour to a minimum. From Al Jazeera to The Wall Street Journal, nothing sensational was reported, that was until they found a misconstrued statement to twist.
There was plenty to report. Pakistan’s populist Prime Minister Imran Khan personally drove MBS from the airport and the body language between them showed they were kindling a close friendship, dare I say “a bromance”. At their press conference, MBS announced “consider me an ambassador of Pakistan in Saudi Arabia” and Imran Khan’s heartfelt pleas for Pakistani prisoners in Saudi were not only heard, but immediately acted upon by the Saudi government.
Saudi Arabia gave Pakistan a bail out of $3 billion last year when it was in dire need. This wasn’t the first time Saudi Arabia had single-handedly saved Pakistan’s economy, in 2008 Saudi Arabia gave Pakistan a $15 billion bail out and then another $15 billion in 2013 and then a $1.5 billion bail out in 2014.
This time Saudi was not bailing Pakistan out, instead they were looking to invest. Analysts had initially believed MBS would oversee the signing of $10 billion worth of deals but by the time dinner was served, the figure was revealed to be $20 billion!
While some worried the terrorist attack in Pulwama would cause problems, the tour instead continued smoothly to India where Indian Prime Minister Modi broke protocol to personally receive MBS at the airport. Despite the Indian government blaming the Pulwama attack on its regional enemy Pakistan where MBS had shown such generosity, this did nothing to dampen his welcome in India.
With such positive regional news, one would imagine if Al Jazeera and the anti-Saudi media had a shred of journalistic honour, they would report this with the same valour they report anti-Saudi news.
After MBS became Crown Prince, Saudi Arabia launched a huge operation by creating the “World Center for Countering Extremist Thought”. Here Saudi Arabia plans on eradicating extremism from its root by combating the ideology which leads to extremism.
Saudi Arabia represents conservative Sunni Islam. As such the finger is often pointed at Saudi Arabia in response to terrorist attacks for not doing enough. With the “World Center for Countering Extremist Thought” Saudi Arabia showed the world it means business against extremism. This coupled with MBS’s recent reforms, such as allowing women to drive, reassured the world that Saudi Arabia continued to be a force for peace in the world.
On his tour of Asia, MBS stressed Saudi Arabia’s stance against terrorism in Pakistan, India and China. He showed off the achievements of “World Center for Countering Extremist Thought” and in China among many other things said that China “has the right to take anti-terrorism and anti-extremism measures to safeguard national security.” He went on to say “Saudi Arabia respects and supports it and is willing to strengthen cooperation with China.”
And that was it. The anti-Saudi media found its moment and claimed that these words were not meant generally as they were said in India and Pakistan, but instead they claimed he was defending the genocide against the Uighurs. Despite not mentioning the Uighurs nor being asked about them, this statement was misconstrued as a justification for genocide.
How does one make the logical leap from a general statement showing off the “World Center for Countering Extremist Thought”, into a defence of the genocide of Muslims in China?
The answer to that may lie in the fact that anti-Saudi news outlets wait around for Saudi Arabia to do anything which could be twisted into showing Saudi Arabia to be an enemy of the Muslims. Oftentimes the news outlet is either one backed by an anti-Saudi government such as Press TV or Al Jazeera, whereas sometimes they are proponents of the extremist ideology which Saudi Arabia has been gearing up to oppose.