The Arabs' archaic, despotic, clan-based, social structure finally found itself under sufficient pressure from the maturing Arab middle classes who needed outlets for their investment capital, just as the autonomous individual made its presence felt by elevating apostasy from Islam to an undeniable social phenomenon. This volatile cocktail ignited at 11:30 on the morning of 17 December 2010, when, in faraway Tunis, penniless street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi, after a lifetime of police abuse, finally struck a match that set himself ablaze leading to his tragic death some two weeks later, setting off a string of events we now know as the "Arab Spring."
Naturally, the Muslim Brotherhood tried to make as much capital out of the Arab Spring as it could. They had misread reality, for if the Arab Spring showed anything, it was that Islam’s days are numbered. Social pressure had built for a different kind of reality: one in which people are free to be human, and money is free to be capital. Not many have directly connected Mohamed Bouazizi and Donald Trump. Bouazizi, the destitute street vendor immolating himself when he failed to get his scales back, is at one end of a social transformation enabling process that, ten years later, multi-billionaire businessman Donald Trump, at the other end, completed with his Abraham Accords.
In different ways, the autonomous individual announced its arrival all over the Arab world, from Morocco to Iraq. Whatever forms the various breaks for freedom took, they were at the expense of Islam, and, either directly or indirectly, at the expense of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Palestinians. Some focussed on the lack of freedom and human rights, others focussed on the lack of circuits for their capital. Most did not say it in so many words, many did not even realise it at all, but Islam had to go.
It does not matter how many people leave Islam, nor does it matter whether they become atheists (most of them do), adopt “a vaguely defined God while parting ways with the Islamic faith,” or convert to another religion. The very idea that Muslims can do such a thing is nothing short of revolutionary. Apostasy had been unthinkable for 1400 years. That genie is well and truly out of the bottle. Those who talk of “Islamic reformation” are completely off the mark, as are those who see in these developments a kind of Christian renaissance.
While the Palestinians prosecuted their May 2021 round of jihad attacks on Israel, and the streets of Western capitals filled with the strains of “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” their Arab brethren were seeing the Abraham Accords for what they are: an open door into a better world. Nothing exposed the hopeless nihilism of the Palestinians better than their hopeless response to the Accords. In the eyes of the Palestinians, to suggest to an Arab nation that they should sign up to the Abraham Accords was the same as suggesting to a Muslim to leave Islam. Those fateful eleven days in May 2021 did nothing to disabuse their Arab detractors of the idea that the Palestinians are a lost cause. Many feared that the war would break the Abraham Accords. Such concern only betrayed the limits of appreciation of the significance of that initiative. Far from the Accords breaking, they received a massive boost from that war. The break with the Palestinians had been long in the making.
The Palestinians’ history of entitlement vis-à-vis their fellow Arabs, stemming from, “our first duty as Muslims is to crush Zionism,” ranges from arrogating unto themselves the right to dictate other countries’ foreign policies, destabilising their host countries one after the other, openly siding with the enemies of their hosts, all the way down to trampling on Emirati flags and spitting on Saudis visiting the Temple Mount. They had finally crossed the line and the open abandoning of the “Palestinian cause” became, as they say in common parlance, a thing.
To the Palestinians, conceived in the womb of Islam, Muslims abandoning them registers as apostasy, and draws reactions befitting that sin. Moreover, to embrace Israel is to "stab the Palestinians in the back." This, too, draws the same emotional response as apostasy. That the Arab investors all wish for their capital to flow through the Palestinian economy simply adds insult to injury. They will not be bribed into accepting an accommodation with Zionism any more than they can be bribed to improve their dire condition in this life. Their nihilism drives them to fight on till "from the river to the sea, Palestine is free," and be patient for the Akhirah, the next life.
Right at the confluence of apostasy from Islam and "betrayal" of the Palestinians stands the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, that under the young Muhammad bin Salman (MBS), has apostatised in all but name, although most might not see it yet. MBS is to Islam as Peter the Great is to Russia, Meiji is to Japan and Napoleon is to Europe. They faced up to the daunting task of dragging their peoples across centuries. In this epochal respect, MBS's people is not just the Saudis, but the entire ummah, the world's Muslims; the only ones kicking and screaming are the Palestinians. Along the way, such visionary transformers of peoples invariably end up having to do terrible things, and they all do. Such is the role that history has assigned to them.
In conversation with Montholon while in exile on St Helena, Napoleon remarked, “My true glory is not to have won forty battles ...Waterloo will erase the memory of so many victories. ...But what nothing will destroy, what will live forever, is my Civil Code." In words that seem to pop up in every review of Andrew Roberts’s Napoleon, a Life, the renowned biographer summed up Napoleon’s historic accomplishments as follows:
The ideas that underpin our modern world—meritocracy, equality before the law, property rights, religious toleration, modern secular education, sound finances, and so on—were championed, consolidated, codified and geographically extended by Napoleon. To them he added a rational and efficient local administration, an end to rural banditry, the encouragement of science and the arts, the abolition of feudalism and the greatest codification of laws since the fall of the Roman Empire.
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk had tried to do this on the back of a feeble empire barely out of feudalism and steeped in Muslim backwardness. There was only so far he was going to be able to go before Islam, hydra-like, resurges and restores things to their proper Muslim order. MBS is starting with vastly better odds. Still, he has to walk a fine line. Those who would wish him gone have Allah on their side:
Among those in charge of you after I am gone, will be men who extinguish the Sunnah and follow innovation. They will delay the prayer from its proper time.” I said: “O Messenger of Allah, if I live to see them, what should I do?” He said: “You ask me, O Ibn ‘Abd, what you should do? There is no obedience to one who disobeys Allah.” (Sunan Ibn Majah 2865. Emphasis, AP)
Whoever revives a Sunnah of mine, which people then act upon, will have a reward equivalent to that of those who act upon it, without that detracting from their reward in the slightest. And whoever introduces an innovation (Bid'ah) that is acted upon, will have a burden of sins equivalent to that of those who act upon it, without that detracting from the burden of those who act upon it in the slightest. (Sunan Ibn Majah 209)
The tenacity of Islam to resist reform lies in texts such as these. MBS has understood that the only way to overcome the future-proof safeguards of Islam, is to wean Muslims off the Afterlife. Central to his revolutionary programme are: one, boost this life; and two, liberate capital. To achieve instant buy-in to boosting this life, he hitched the social part of his modernisation programme directly to the younger generation, by getting them to drive the social revolution. The young want to have fun, so they start with tangible and immediate changes unequivocally grounded in this life: entertainment. It is exactly the shot in the arm that a desperately morose population needs.
To scoff at the Saudi opening to entertainment, as some do, is to fail to understand the connection between demographics and social revolution. Saudi population statistics are phenomenal. Consider the forty years from 1980 to 2020. Over this period, the total fertility rate dropped from 7.3 live births per woman to 2.3 live births per woman. Saudi women are no longer baby-making machines. Under-5 deaths per 1000 live births dropped from 79.68 to 6.2, while life expectancy rose from a combined 64.7 years to a combined 75.7 years. The annual population growth rate dropped from 6.06% to 1.59%. People are no longer as preoccupied with death as they once were. The urban:rural population ratio changed from 66:34 to 84:16. The population’s horizons are widening and their standards and expectations are rising.
The most significant statistic of all, in my opinion, is the imminent change in the population sex ratio. The 20-59 age range demonstrates the unnatural sex ratios of a population that heavily favours males over females. In 2020, the male:female ratio was more than 2:1 in age group 50-59, just under 2:1 in age group 40-49, and just over 1.5:1 in the age group 30-39. But below 20, the ratio is fractionally higher than 1:1, i.e., nominal. This is significant because most marriages take place between 20 and 30. This more natural ratio is about to move up the pyramid over the next forty years until it reaches the 60-69 age group (when men have a higher death rate than women), after which the population will display the pyramid of a dynamic developed society.
What needs to be explained is the steady nominalisation of Saudi sex ratios from the 40-44 age group down to the 20-24 age group. Herein, I believe, lies the real key to the Arabs', and especially Gulf Arabs', embrace of the Abraham Accords. A topic of much discussion in Saudi Arabia is the novel phenomenon of both men and women marrying much later than had formerly been the case. The total Saudi population in 2016 was 33,442,447 of whom 5.6 million (16.75%) "remain[ed] unmarried." According to an Al-Watan survey, "the average age of unmarried men in the Kingdom is 40 while unmarried women is 36." Their motivations for remaining unmarried, especially for women, are most instructive.
Raising the ceiling of demands was the main reason for spinsterhood among Saudi women, adding that some demands would have social, economic and psychological dimensions. ...Young men and women are looking for a suitable life partner and they will have their own dreams about future brides and bridegrooms. Most of them live in a virtual world due to the information revolution brought about by modern technology and social media.
"These women want to continue their studies abroad or in other Saudi cities and get employed to ensure their financial stability before marriage.” "Modern men and women give top priority to romance as they want to enjoy their lives to the maximum, unlike in the past when marriages were fixed by parents," reports Al-Watan. (Emphasis AP)
How does this explain the Saudi population pyramid cantilevering out on the male side when the population gets married? I do not know the answer to this question yet, but for what it's worth, I am prepared to offer my conjecture. I suspect that the abrupt spike in the male population once the pyramid crosses over into the married age groups might have something to do with multiple marriages, men being "guardians" over women, and the possible underreporting of the number of wives they have, potentially reducing the statistically existing female population by up to 75%, who only reappear back in the statistics when their husbands die, or perhaps when they get divorced. Whatever the no doubt complex reason, the same pyramid shape as that of Saudi Arabia shows up in the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman, except in these cases much more extreme.
Here, in a nutshell, is the reason for Muhammad bin Salman, the Abraham Accords and the end of Islam. Subordinate dependence, "when marriages were fixed by parents," is right before our eyes making way for individual autonomy, "modern men and women [who] ...want to enjoy their lives." And what is more, "most of them live in a virtual world due to the information revolution brought about by modern technology and social media." The two conditions without which Islam cannot survive: subordinate dependence and ignorance, are disappearing from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. Modernity is on the march along a wide front: individual autonomy advancing behind it; subordinate dependence retreating before it. Standing squarely in its path is Islam, to wit, its prohibition on innovation. Apostasy from Islam is "spreading like wildfire" for one reason alone: the autonomous individual.
The most advanced part of the Arab world enters a social and technological revolution that finally breaks the deathly stranglehold that it has been in for more than a thousand years. All in all, for Saudis, Emiratis, Omanis, Bahrainis, Qataris and Kuwaitis, ‘this life’ is supplanting 'the next life.' It is by no means a smooth run. Counter-tendencies hang on, but they know they are fighting a losing battle.
This is not to suggest that Arab, or Muslim, states can have no other motivations for joining the Abraham Accords. Donald Trump is a dealmaker, after all. 'Tell me what you want, what you really, really want.' Next thing you know, Morocco and Sudan, countries that both display normal population pyramids and are not threatened by Iran, sign up. The latter might even have involved a quick flash of the old thumbscrews. Still, Iran does constitute an existential threat to the Sunni Arab states (and Israel)! A threat from Iran is how you justify cosying-up to the Zionist enemy, a cover not available to, say, Indonesia, that also wants to sign up.
To make my point, Bahrain, one of the first signatories to the Accords, is 60% Shi'a and its demographics displays the same 'Gulf Pyramid', to coin a term, as Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf Arab states. The role of petrochemicals is that it allows them all to liberalise society while staying ahead of the tsunami. But the oil and gas will run out and Qatar, a demographics pressure cooker like the others Gulf states, for all its trouble-making, must also be seriously considering the Abraham Accords. Watch this space.
Iran as justification for normalisation with Israel loses its necessity as Palestinians themselves antagonise and repel their fellow Arabs. They look at the balance sheet and see that by officially ditching the costly and undeserving Palestinians, that they can avoid further instability (Iraq, Lebanon), reduce their regional vulnerability (Morocco), come in from the diplomatic cold (Sudan) or even stem their own decline (Syria). The Palestinians have very little to do with it and are rapidly destroying even that. They had rejected the Peace to Prosperity plan without ever looking at it!
These Saudi population developments defy all the Islamic injunctions about marriage and gender relations, about innovation, about obedience, about Jews, about Jihad and about so much besides. They are codified in Shari’a, and it is Shari’a that MBS and his fellow modernising Arab Muslim leaders must vanquish. They are yet to be collectively identified, but each is riding a tiger, as did Emperor Meiji, Emperor Peter the Great and Emperor Napoleon.
MBS placing the youth, the age group with a 1:1 sex ratio, in charge of social modernisation is an ingenious move, not only strategically — should the clergy act on the above hadiths, or any of the Royal Family get any ideas, they will be up against an entire generation that is the driving force behind showing Saudis what it means to be alive, but also practically — those who will defy the transformations will have to undo the most visible impact on the female half the country's population, and this generation is the tech-savvy cadre on which MBS relies for his country’s Vision2030 economic revolution. In this way, the economic revolution and the social revolution are one.
Entertainment plus Vision2030 is innovation writ large, is modernity shouted from the rooftops. It is the proverbial two-fingers to the country's theocratic establishment and, by extension, the Muslim Brotherhood, and by further extension, the Palestinians. The generation that will move to ‘smart city’ NEOM, the flagship of Vision2030, will be young people, the people most vocal in their anger towards the Palestinians and most vehement in their rejection of the “Palestinian cause”. Conspicuous freedom, gender equality, prosperity and enjoyment are directly connected in people’s minds with rejection of the Palestinians.
From NEOM, the bricks and mortar of Vision2030, the Israeli city of Eilat is but 160Km away. The envisaged population of NEOM is exactly the kind of people that will seize the opportunities such proximity to the innovation nation presents. Between NEOM and Eilat lies the Jordanian city of Aqaba, while 70Km away across the narrow Straits of Tiran buzzes the Egyptian resort city of Sharm el-Shaykh. The Gulf of Aqaba is about to become the world's biggest oasis, with a ready-made engine at its northern tip. It would take an Arab leader of monumental incompetence and irresponsibility to not take advantage of the presence of Israel right in their midst, when Israel is exactly what their populations need more than anything. And Iran even obliges with the perfect cover.
What will the young Saudis do when they disembark a future overnight ferry in Eilat? Instead of their “brother Palestinians,” they will seek out young Israelis, such as Roy Eliyahu, the twenty-seven year old CEO of Salt Security, who exemplifies the Israeli innovation spirit:
When you innovate, you open more exposures to data. So if you cannot balance that with security, security will hold you down. ...If you cannot secure APIs, you stop innovation. But with SALT, you can enable innovation...
The Gulf Arabs' role in the double death of the Palestinians is not to be underestimated. As the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and the host of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, Saudi Arabia is far and away the most important Muslim country. To date, the Saudi government has allowed its population wide freedom of speech when it comes to the Palestinians. On social media, their preferred platform, they have not been mincing words. If anything, the government has been stoking the flames with its own forthright opinion pieces via the local media. Saudi Arabia allows Israeli aircraft to traverse its airspace on their way to the UAE. They have all been in secret and semi-secret talks with Israel for a long time. Saudi Arabia is, for all intents and purposes, the first member Arab of the Abraham Accords.
As the most important Muslim country, its official membership is highly coveted. But, also as would befit the most important Muslim country, its public signing of the Abraham Accords will be a grand event. If the Saudis wished to finish off the Palestinians once and for all, what better way to do so than to open their embassy in Jerusalem to great pomp and ceremony in the full glare of the world’s media? For other Muslim countries, the Israeli capital is still a step too far. But once the Saudis have done it, it will set off a chain reaction. Muslim countries that are at the moment still coy about admitting to contact with Israel for fear of local backlash, will suddenly fear even more getting left behind, and then all bets will be off. The change will be even more swift than the collapse of the Soviet bloc. Donald Trump has done a great deal more for Muslims than most would even countenance, and history will vindicate him because his role in the Abraham Accords runs far deeper than that of a mere "dealmaker," as glib journalism would have it.
In a cruel twist of fate, the Arab League, formed in 1945 specifically to pursue a single, unitary Arab state, and in September 1967 vowed, “no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it....”, this same Arab League failed to pass a resolution condemning Arab states that have joined the Abraham Accords, with the Palestinians holding the rotating chairmanship. They had to preside over the supreme humiliation of more than half the "Arab nation" abandoning them right there. The Arab states see Israel and they see the opportunity cost of the "Palestinian cause." If ever the writing was on the wall...
What is left for the Palestinians? Wedged between their Muslim duty to crush Zionism and their Palestinian duty to “free Palestine,” this sorry nation is left with no room for manoeuvre. The result is a people for whom “life is not precious,” in the words of a young Palestinian mother who proudly boasted to an Israeli journalist that her baby boy will grow up to be a suicide bomber in Jerusalem, an aspiration to kill Jews, free Palestine and safely reach the Hereafter, all with the push of a single button. The journalist had gone to extraordinary lengths to raise money in Israel for an operation for her son, an operation that he could not get in Gaza, an operation that had just saved his life.
What is left for the Palestinians but to recognise that the Arab nation never wanted them in the first place? Keeping up the pretence has become too costly. The Palestinians' own behaviour convinced them of that. In the Middle East, their mother, Islam, is being thrown out onto the street. She just doesn't know it yet. In Moscow, their father doesn't want to know.
What is left for the Palestinians? Dead end or l'chaim. Whether they will learn how to choose remains to be seen. If they cannot even see that their urgent priority should be to publicly apologise to the Saudis for spitting on them, then the matter is really quite simple.
- One who explained this relationship particularly clearly was Karl Marx in his Grundrisse der Kritik der politischen Ökonomie (Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy). Fourteenth-century political economist Muhammad ibn Khaldun does the same in his The Muqaddimah, albeit far less rigorously than Marx.
- From the beginning of Islam, until now, apostates from the religion have been vanishingly rare, in every sense of the word, the most famous being the 9th/10th-century atheist vegan Abul-’Ala al-Ma’arri from Syria.
- Quoted in Bernard Schwarz, The Code Napoleon and the Common-Law World, The Lawbook Exchange Ltd, Union, New Jersey, 1998, p102.
- Saudi Arabia Demographics 2020, Worldometer, https://www.worldometers.info/demographics/saudi-arabia-demographics/
- Saudi Arabia Population (LIVE), Worldometer, https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/saudi-arabia-population/
- Saudi Arabia 2020, Population Pyramids of the World from 1950 to 2100, https://www.populationpyramid.net/saudi-arabia/2020/
- The natural human sex ratio is 1.03-1.06:1 male:female.
- Al-Arabiya News, Over 5.6 million Saudis remain unmarried past marriage age, survey shows https://english.alarabiya.net/features/2017/01/13/Over-5-6-million-Saudis-remain-unmarried-past-marriage-age-survey-shows
- Presumed between 2016 and 2020, quoted in Al-Arabiya, above.
- Dr. Humaidi Al-Dhaidan, associate professor of psychology at Majmaa University, quoted in Al-Arabiya, above.
- Sociology professor Amani al-Harbi, quoted in Al-Arabiya, above.
- "Men are in charge of women." (Qur'an 4:34).