The first, better known moment was self-induced. Upon meeting the late King Abdullah in 2009, the newly-minted American president, apparently forgetful of his office, couldn’t help but bow to the guardian of Islam’s two holiest sites.
In this second incident, new Saudi King Salman may have had this subservient image of Obama in mind, for he showed the U.S. president the sort of deference a magnanimous superior would show to an acknowledged inferior—and all in the context (or pretext) of Islamic requirements.
At least that’s what several Arabic world media and social networks have been saying. They point to the video clip below. In it, Obama and first lady Michelle have just landed in Saudi Arabia and are standing by the king according to protocol as the U.S. president shakes hands with various people.
Then a Saudi man hurriedly approaches them. Obama raises hands to shake, but the man completely ignores him, addressing the king instead. Obama brings his arm down. The king says a parting word to Obama and without hesitation turns his back and leaves—followed by his entire entourage—leaving Obama somewhat “hanging” for a moment (see around the :40-45 second mark). With no Saudis remaining with him, Obama turns to a nearby Western diplomat and strikes up what must have been a perfunctory conversation.
Why the king and all his men left Obama may be even more important than the act itself. Several Arabic media and observers say the king interrupted the welcoming protocol for the U.S. president because it was prayer time.
Here is a good time to “connect the dots”: performing prayers is ultimately a product of Islamic law. But if the king and Saudis take prayer so seriously, what of Sharia’s other injunctions — the ones the West dismisses as “radical” — such as killing apostates, banning religious freedom, having enmity for non-Muslims, etc.?
Is it not safe to assume that the Muslim who meticulously follows the prayer rule — because Sharia tells him to — will also uphold or at the very least agree to Sharia’s other teachings, especially when they’re less demanding and even more “fulfilling” (in a perverse sense)? Killing a “traitorous” apostate; deceiving, exploiting, and even enslaving non-Muslims (or “infidels”); banning the building of churches and other non-Muslim places of worship; believing in one’s “superiority” compared to “infidels”—these are all potentially easier to do (and even more “fun”) than praying five times a day, every single day. And they are just as much a part of Sharia as prayer is.
Weeks earlier, for example, a woman had her head hacked off in the streets of Mecca (graphic video here) — not by the Islamic State, Boko Haram, or Al Shabaab, but by the Saudi government itself.
Either way, what some are referring to as a “snub” may well have been the new king’s way of showing—including to the Muslim world—that Islam always comes first.
Besides, he probably figured Obama — “son of Islam” — would surely understand.
Watch the video:
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