Islam Times Exclusive:

British foreign policy and selective morality

17 Dec 2011 12:01

Author : Zermina Awan

Islam Times - All too often we hear British and American politicians defending the right, of peoples of various nations, to democracy. This was just one of the many excuses employed to justify the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and more recently the NATO strikes on Libya ...

Islam Times: This championing of democracy may have been acceptable or even praiseworthy had it been done with the interest of the particular population in mind and had it been done with with friend and foe alike. After the anti-government disturbances in Iran last year, British Foreign Secretary, William Hague was quick to mention that the demonstrators had a right to protest and criticised the government’s use of force. The EU even considered sanctions against Iran for human rights violations, while Tony Blair began dreaming of a new Iranian government.

Similarly last month, the UK increased its contacts with the Syrian “opposition” forces while urging President Assad to step aside and pressed for sanctions against his government.

Taking the moral high-ground is fine, it would even have been commendable if the same stance were taken irrelevant of the transgressor. But here lies the problem, this morality, somewhat conveniently, seems to come and go.

For example, the Saudi regime is responsible for an extremely high number of violations of basic human rights. Minorities regularly complain of discrimination and unlawful detention, women are denied freedom of movement and banned from driving. Additionally earlier this year Saudi forces entered the Kingdom of Bahrain to suppress pro-democracy demonstrators, in the process killing unarmed civilians and injuring many more. However, surprisingly (or maybe not) the morality on show elsewhere is no where to be seen in this case.

Not only is there no condemnation of the Kingdom’s appalling human rights record but in fact, Britain currently has more than 200 joint ventures with Saudi companies, worth billions of pounds. Despite the oppressive nature of the regime there are no calls for sanctions, no defence of the protesters and certainly no suggestions of regime change.

Earlier this week Mr Cameron met with King Hamad Al-Khalifa, of Bahrain, to discuss “reforms” and in the process offered the monarch UK support. Cameron commended the king for his commitment to reforming the police and judiciary, all this while only a day earlier a 5-day old baby died due to inhalation of tear gas fired by riot police in a residential area. According to witnesses the village had been tear gassed for three consecutive days.

Last month a report concluded that government forces had used “excessive force” against the pro-democracy protesters. It found many detainees had been subjected to “physical and psychological torture” including, being blindfolded, whipped, given electric shocks and threatened with rape in order to extract confessions.

So it would seem, British moral judgement is reserved for enemies while displaying a willingness to “support” allies in suppressing their people. Britain will continue to be accused of this hypocrisy until it either gives up this facade of morality or embraces it entirely. If it decides on the latter, then a good place to start would be with friends.
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