Sunday, September 4, 2011

HM Sultan Qaboos interview with US in 2005: On Women wearing Hijab, Free speech, Iran, and a whole heap more.

As I wrote when Wikileaks released the first few cables, one of the best parts of the material were the possibility of more interviews with HM Sultan Qaboos.

HM does not do many interviews, and getting to 'sit in' on a small discussion with His Majesty is a rare and wonderful honour. HM is one smart cookie, and his advise and observations are generally pretty spot on.

In this cable from 2005, just released, he gives a far ranging view of his opinions across the Middle East: Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi, and some domestic issues.

In the middle of the discussion is this, HM is reported to have discussed (* see disclaimer) the Hijab.


¶8. (C) Revealing much about his own views on religion, the Sultan observed that religion combines many features: fundamental pillars of belief, rules of interpersonal behavior, and a kind of social contract, among others. Islam, he said, strictly proscribes only a very narrow band of activities, such as drinking blood and eating pork; everything else is simply cultural interpretation.

He finds it ridiculous that some people claim women must wear a hijab as an article of faith, whereas the Quran makes no such requirement.


Wow. Once again, HM totally rocks. Take that creeping Wahabi-ism. Ladies, over to you! You are free to wear what you want - including the Hijab - but the reason you can wear a hijab is because it's up to you and your cultural traditions, NOT because someone has the right to tell you to wear it or force you to wear it under a religious threat. I guess it wasn't necessary to mention the Niqab.

Photo: Omani Hijab - not prescribed by Quran.

On freespeech and extremism:
Later, he talks about freedom of expression. As well as saying (when discussing Iraq) that "Ordinary people do not want religious or ethnic strife, but rather jobs and personal security", HM expanded on the importance of Arabs expressing their opinions more openly. :

¶15. (C) Asked to gauge the strength of terror groups today, the Sultan agreed with GEN Abizaid that they appear to be weaker, but that it is difficult to know what they may be organizing themselves for in the future. He felt extremist ideology has been discredited by its senseless violence.

The Sultan argued that freedom of conscience and speech were the best antidote to extremist ideology, and was encouraged that Arabs appear to be getting over their fear of speaking out and expressing their views. It is time, he said, to let the silent majority speak and exile extremists to the margins of society where they belong.

He also thought that couching harsh ideologies in religious cloaks was likewise losing its appeal, in part given the human nature of fearing eternal damnation for violating true religious tenets.


So HM also supports free speech, and cites the connection between free speech and its impact of suppressing extremism. People have always wondered how the Sablas and Forums and blogs remained on-line, now we know! It also speaks to HM's responses to the protests this year.

Advice on Iran:
Earlier, HM generously gives his visitor, the US CENTCOM General Abizaid, some really excellent advice on Iran:

Offering the unique perspective of an ancient state that has always bordered Iran, the Sultan cautioned the U.S. not to be fooled by the superficial patina of the "Islamic Republic of Iran." "You are dealing with Persia, not the 'Islamic Republic.'"

This is so true. Every Iranian I meet just wants a peaceful secure economy in Iran, and almost always they have relatives in the USA, and actually really don't mind the USA at all. I wish the new Republican presidential candidates could get that. That one observation contains a heap of deep strategic wisdom, IMHO.

He gives more advice on Iran to the General, detailed in a different cable here

Implications for Oman
I just wish HM would give more speeches and interviews of this nature, in public. In this way his views would have a more pervasive and perhaps longer lasting impact, as he is so sensible in his prescriptions. His arguments are so convincing and imbued with integrity. What a leader. He should show it off a lot more.

How can Omanis get a chance to share more directly in this leadership via the media? Can you imagine HM tweeting?

President Obama has a blog, website, tweeter account, photos, speeches, etc etc etc. Why doesn't HM bypass the MOI and get some young Omani on-line intelligensia to hook him up on the information superhighway?

Follow this link to see the whole interview. It's too big to post here in full.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: * These alleged confidential documents are more accurately "what wikileaks and their anonymous source purports to be what those representatives from the US State department chose to commit formally in writing (and after editing and review) to the US Secretary of State about what HM Sultan Qaboos was perceived by them to have probably said, or inferred, to them about what HM's opinions were, in an unstated context, and when knowingly shared by HM with official representatives of the US State Department in a non-121 meeting attended by other persons".

Gedit? Caveat Emptor indeed. We weren't there, so you don't know what really happened, right?

In this world, some (or most) of these cables may be official unoffical propaganda/black intel, from almost anyone. It's just the internet after all. So readers are advised that all this is for entertainment value only. Treat it as a novel. For god's sake don't go off and do anything silly based on these digital bits and bytes. And that advice applies to professionals and amateurs alike!


  1. "Photo: Omani Hijab - not prescribed by Quran. "
    could you please change it to .. not prescribed by HM. because it is prescribed in the Quran.

  2. Famywamy

    list your source! Here's one that states it is not:

  3. HM is an amazing a naturalized Omani my families fortunes started when they moved to Oman on HM's coming to power. He is farsighted and a thoughtful leader. My only sadness is that there is no one in Oman capable of filling his shoes when he is gone. At that point I see a leader who will not be able to control the forces of tribal rivalry and religious extremism which will come to the fore.
    That is one of the reasons I ended up leaving the country for my children, who would be second class citizens after HM's rule

  4. Islam does not solely depend on the Quran, it depends on the teachings of the Prophet (PPBUH) as much!
    And the prophet many times stressed the importance of the Hijab and that it must be worn, and that the woman must cover everything except her hands and face.

    And as with the Iranians, I've met many who are 100% with the government. I don't deny there are some who wants reforms, but try to be unbiased.

  5. Oh my God! I'm soooooo happy!! HM doesn't believe in hijab!! <3

  6. I think the Hijab is one of the reasons women here still find it difficult to work with men. The hijab makes the gap between men and women bigger. I think a western man for example would think of his female workmate as a HUMAN doing her job, but here to a man she is always a WOMAN even at work.

    I'm sorry but I really dislike the Hijab and I don't think God wants us to wear it.

    Sorry for my poor English.

  7. Wow! People posting that HM is wrong in what he says. just hope the ISS isn't listening in :)

    As for HM's future replacement, candidate now seems to be 1HH; no doubt he'll feature in your next post.

    PS are Wikileaks blocked in Oman?


  8. Indian born in Oman-1981 left oman -1999September 5, 2011 at 7:01 PM

    Wish we had people like Sultan Qaboos to rule India...India has all the freedom in the world but wuts the use if you dont know how to use that freedom responsibly and no honest leader to enforce wuts right. The art of a true leader or politician is to use oneself as an example to guide the country in the right direction which HM has done for the Omanis...long Live Sultan Qaboos...

  9. There have been two posts stating that a Hijab must be worn - but unhelpfully they didnt include a reference - presumably there will be a person number three making a similar post - please post a link to an authoritative source - thanks

  10. Dragon,

    HM is not a refrence in Isalmic teaching. It is his personal opinion which he expressed based on what he want to believe about quran.

    I dont know if you are following up with all recent developments in Oman but HM rule in past 40 so years isnt perfect. Oman is not arabian lala land ruled by the ever so wise ruler who knows it all! image you always try to sell.

    I ask you as a britsh want to go back to rule of queen and abolish your parliment ? Queen seems nice person. how many will vote for it ?


  11. Ahmed,

    Queen Elizabeth inherited a kingdom (queendom ?) already ruled by democratic parliament, running itself effectively without need for a monarch to keep the peace. Sultan Qaboos rose to the throne of a very different country, ruled by competing and sometimes warring tribes. Indeed the tribal system persists to this day. It's simply not possible to flip a switch and introduce democracy. Maybe when all Omanis think of themselves as Omani rather than Al-Whatever, it might be possible.

  12. Freedom of speech? *cough*

  13. Yeah freedom of speech?

    Some Omani writers have been taken to court because of some religious views that annoyed some Omani mutawwa's (=Omanis with long beards). I don't know if it's different today.

    It's unfair that His Majesty has such an interesting religious opinion while he knows that there are some Omanis who fear voicing their beliefs and lets them get arrested.

    I had to remove two posts in my blog today. My sister told me to -_- I was too excited. Please don't believe what you have read there.

    Joking. But I have removed them.

    His majesty is really mysterious. I have mixed emotions towards him. I love him. I love him not. I love him. I love him not. I love him... I don't know!

  14. Ahmed,
    If you are a non Omani you could be forgiven for your stupid ignorant rant....but if you are an Omani you truly are a thankless human being,
    HM has done more than anyone else to give Omanis what they have place is perfect but given the primitive country he inherited as well as the challenges of the middle east, he has done a remarkable job ....and no I am not some western guy...but a full blooded Omani who loves HM and his country

  15. No doubt someone in the US embassy is busy monitoring Muscat Confidential so that they can write a report.
    So, to whoever is reading this:
    Good to see that you know where the caps lock is, unlike some of your colleagues.
    Use of alliteration (eg Constitution, Colonialism, and Cacophony) gets rather repetitive
    How much do you get paid to read online blogs, discussion forums?
    Do you actually believe all that stuff that you read online???

    Can your next report be titled "online community question value of embassy staff reading blogs"

    US tax payer

  16. All,

    It is not prescribed in Quran, I know it for sure, In quran it is said to cover yourself up, that could be with loose clothing, not necessarily hijab,

    Trust this clarifies

  17. When H.M mentions that Iran is Persia, he might not reiterate that its common people are peace loving.
    He might stress that it's rulers strive for an Iran within the boundaries of the old Persian empire, extending up to the gates of Athens, but in any case dominating the Middle East.
    In my experience, most common people from every belief and nation, have a desire for peace, relative wealth and a secure place for their kids to grow up in. Their rulers not necessarily share that desire.

  18. And I wonder what he thinks about drinking alcohol. Those who think of hijab this way must have been thinking about alcohol as well, because it all depends on how you choose to interpret the quranic verses, not how you simply read them. Meaning: Islam didn't clearly forbid alcohol.

    The alcohol issue is not important though. But I guess it's better for some people out there to get drunk instead of killing innocent people and telling everyone that they're going to hell. I mean that's kind of ironic. Killing people shouldn't be better than alcohol, lol.

  19. Dragon,

    Interesting article, everything about HM is interesting as we rarely see or hear anything of him! However I don't like making conclusions from just parts taken out of the interview so I guess I'll leave my full opinion after I read the whole interview...

    HOWEVER, in terms of Hijab in Islam, Dragon you dissappoint me! Out of all I thought you were the objective one. I don't care if you believe in it or not, but you're not in place to say whether it is an obligation in Islam or not!! You should look at the experts in the matter, not any random website that says so and so. For the sake of bringing a reference:

    with more explanation here:

    And from a prominent scholar that explains more than just the literal words of the Quraan in this matter:

    And the list can go on and on if you just google it with an objective mind rather than a biased one!

    An issue like that shouldn't be explained by only "modern" scholars or the minority of scholars in Islam who I do realise do not believe in Hijab's obligation. It should come from well known islamic experts, and from the majority of them. It should be explained through Quran, Sunnah, Qiyas and Ijmaa (those are the 4 methods/sources of any decision in Islam - not ONLY the Quran as modern scholars like to repeat).

    Making a fatwa (saying whether something is obligatory or haram) in Islam is a long process which required knowledge, experience and deep analysis. I urge you not only to respect our fatwa-making methodology, but also read more about it and see how it was the basis of all "referencing" and "decisions based on scientific-evidence" that is commonly used now in the West.

  20. Agreed with Famywamy but for those who cannot read Arabic or the Qu'ran: "Hijab" is not the Arabic word used for the headscarf in the Qu'ran so one could argue the "hijab" is not precribed in the Qu'ran----but the Qu'ran DOES prescribe the "khimar" which is the Arabic word for headcovering. It says the believing Muslim woman must wear it in a certain manner (so that it covers her breasts) in Chapter/Surah 24, verse/Ayah 31 [if you want the reference]. What people you'd label "Wahabi extremists" not really knowing what that means either [no offense, I DO love Muscat Confidential but you aren't an Islamic scholar or historian and don't know all our political terms and alot of Muslims don't either] is that the choice for being obedient to this verse is between a Muslim woman and God, and can't be decided by anyone but her. If it is enforced by a government or her family it doesn't count anymore as the Qu'ran also says that "there is no compulsion in religion". Hijab/khimar is not a subject that has any punishment or reward on earth for doing or not doing.

  21. M (If someone wants to have a serious talk I can reveal my name and contact)December 14, 2011 at 4:24 PM

    I see so many posts each one claiming one thing or another.

    First, those who claim that there ae sources that are better than Quran the word of Allah - Do you realise that it is like saying that Allah has not done a good job in giving his message in the Quran. I will never be the one (insha'Allah) who would disrespecct Allah in the way some of the Muslim do. They are simply misguided and I believe haven't spent time to think about the implications of their speech.

  22. M (If someone wants to have a serious talk I can reveal my name and contact)December 14, 2011 at 4:25 PM

    Examples from Quran that are important to understand.

    Surah Al-Ankaboot 29:68 "And who is more unjust than one who forges a lie against Allah, or gives the lie to the truth when it has come to him? Will not in hell be the abode of the unbelievers?"

    Surah Al-Baqarah 02:166-167 "When those who were followed disown those who followed, and they see the punishment and the bonds between them will be cut asunder! And those who followed would say, "We wish there be a return for us, so that we may disown them as they have disowned us." Thus Allah makes them see their deeds as remorse for them. And they are not to come out from the Fire"

    Sura Al-Hijr 15:01 "Alif Lam Ra. These are the verses of th Book and the Quran that is clear (or a Quran that makes (things) clear)"

    Sura A'Shuaraa 26:02 "These are the verses of the Clear Book"

    Sura Al-Qasas 28:02 " These are the verses of the Clear Book"

    Sura Al-Bayyina 98:04 "And those who were given thee Book did not become divided except after clear evidence had come to them"

    I think I have quoted enoguh from the Quran to clarify that Quran is clear in it's intent. Quran is the only word of Allah (Other than the original Books that Allah revealed earlier). The followers of misguided scholars/leaders will not have an excuse for simply follwoing some scholar/leader. What's the answer... Since Quran is a clear book from Allah... take your time and study it. There is no excuse in front of Allah for not learning the truth.

  23. M (If someone wants to have a serious talk I can reveal my name and contact)December 14, 2011 at 4:27 PM

    Since Quran is a clear book from Allah... take your time and study it. There is no excuse in front of Allah for not learning the truth.

    Now coming to the issue of Hijab. There are two verses in the Quran that talk about womens dressing. None of them talks about covering the head.

    Surah A'Noor 24:31 "And say to the believing women that they cast down their looks and guard their private parts and do not display their ornaments except what appears thereof, and let them wear their coverings over their bosoms, and not display their ornaments except to their husbands or their fathers, or the fathers of their husbands, or their sons, or the sons of their husbands, or their brothers, or their brothers' sons, or their sisters' sons, or their women, or those whom their right hands possess, or the male servants not having need (of women), or the children who have not attained knowledge of what is hidden of women; and let them not strike their feet so that what they hide of their ornaments may be known; and turn to Allah all of you, O believers! so that you may be successful."

    The Arabic word "Bikhumurihinna" meaning "with their (female) coverings or veils" has the root Kh M R ... clearly refering to covering this is not neceserily a head covering. Even if it is it doesn't matter because the verse tell to use this covering whatever it may be to cover "Juyubihinna" that is "their breasts / bosoms"

    I don't think it can be more clear. The Quran is surely a clear book. Also I don't think anyone is saying that women should not cover their bosoms. Is anyone saying that ???

  24. M (If someone wants to have a serious talk I can reveal my name and contact)December 14, 2011 at 4:27 PM

    Sura Al-Ahzab 33:59 "O Prophet! say to your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers that they let down upon them their over-garments; this will be more proper, that they may be known, and thus they will not be given trouble; and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful."

    The Arabic word "yudnaina" meaning "lower down / pull down / lower / bring closer" in no way of my understanding refers to covering the head. When any one lowers a covering it would rather reveal more. This verse is also interesting in that it advises for clear identification. The verse orders women to make it clear and appaarent who they are personnally in the society so that they are not molested or harressed. The Arabic word 'jalabibihinna" means a "covering" The root J L B has other meanings as well however the most clearly relavant meaning is to clad and to cover oneself. Hence from the same root the noun "jalabibihinna" refers to "their coverings"

    Ok so can anyone explain me how does this verse talk about covering the head? To me it is an advise to lower a covering so as t be recognised so as to be safe from harrassment". Recognition is the key intention of this verse. The arabic word "yarafna" mean "they (female) are/will be recognised".

    With all this I have stated the meanings of the verses as they are clear to me from Kitaab Al Mubeen - The clear book Quran.

    Finally if these verses are subject to interpretation and are not clear then they fall under the category of verses that do not carry any explicit order an are not worth talking about. As such if anyone says that the clear meaning of these verses is not the real meaning then the whole conversation is over and no one can pass any ruling on head covering based on the following verse of Quran.

    Sura Aal-e-Imran 3:07 "He it is Who has revealed the Book to you; some of its verses are decisive, they are the basis of the Book, and others are allegorical; then as for those in whose hearts there is perversity they follow the part of it which is allegorical, seeking to mislead and seeking to give it (their own) interpretation. but none knows its interpretation except Allah, and those who are firmly rooted in knowledge say: We believe in it, it is all from our Lord; and none do mind except those having understanding."

    Kindly help me if you think I have said something wrong. Best regards, M

  25. Hello,

    Previously I was working in UAE and I am one of the job loser during the crisis happened. However, I have got a good offer in Jebel ali unfortunately my sponsor asked me to leave from dubai and come back with the new visa due to their policy with labor law. Hence I agreed and my dubai residence visa has been cancelled, but when I have been in my home country I met fatal accident and I could not able to return to dubai most probably I lost half of my life for few months. With the blessings of Almighty that I have been recovered completely and I have got the same offer in oman. Meantime what I heard that I got debt case filed in dubai against me for (credit card and personal loan balance). I heard that collection dept agent has threatened my family members in my home town.. what my question is the same law has applicable in oman if I enter?? I will be pay by back all my pending debts..


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