A reign of terror has descended on the 33 million citizens and foreigners in Saudi Arabia following the widely-believed murder of the Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi inside the kingdom's Istanbul consulate.
The news of the murder and the dismembering of his body has horrified not just the world, but has also stunned a large segment of the Saudi population, who despite having become accustomed to seeing heads being chopped off in public squares and dissidents crucified in full view of the citizenry, were unprepared for what Turkish officials describe as the kidnapping, murder, and dismembering of Khashoggi.
No sooner did news appear of the horrific dismembering, the Saudi public prosecution eerily reiterated "fake news" laws on the books: "Sharing or spreading rumours or fake news that might affect public order and security is considered cybercrime punishable by 5-year imprisonment and 3 million SAR [C$1 million] fine."
The order published in the daily Saudi Gazette stated punishment would be handed down to those "who produce or spread or share electronically anything that breaches public order, religious values, public morals, and privacy. The same penalty will apply if such materials are prepared or sent electronically or stored on computer and in social media networks."
The feeling of Saudi dissidents was best voiced by Manal Al-Sharif who is best known for her protests against the ban on women driving cars. She tweeted: "For the first time in my life I am hopeless about a better Saudi Arabia. I lost my youth to radicalism, I lost my career to driving a car, I lost my child to pre-historic judicial system, I lost my homeland to have freedom of expression."
While threatening its own population with dire consequences, the Saudi government unleashed threats against the rest of the world, saying those who interfere will do so at their own peril. The front page headline of the October 15 issue of the Saudi daily Okaz said: "Don't Test Our Patience" in Arabic and English, and was accompanied by an illustration of a clenched fist.
The same day, Turki Al-Dakhil, director general of the Al-Arabiya TV channel, posted an op-ed on the channel's website warning America that Saudi Arabia's response to U.S. sanctions will bring a "disaster" upon the U.S. economy.
The challenge for the West is to recognize that 70 years of coddling the worst regime on earth has only contributed to world instability. In fact, the West has fallen into a trap of its own making. With Saudi Arabia in the crosshairs, the other tyrant in the region, President Erdogan of Turkey, is positioning himself as the next Caliph of Islam.
On Monday, while Saudi King Salam struggled to find a way out of his country's universal pariah status, Erdogan exulted in triumph, declaring that Turkey is the only country that can lead the Muslim world. Yeah right. Just ask the country's Kurds and the countless Turkish journalists thrown in prisons and convicted by kangaroo courts for multiple lifetime prison sentences.
These tin pot dictators will only respond to serious economic and military sanctions. Playing one against the other won't work, because they are all on the same side, playing the West, which seems only too happy to bend over backwards for a few billion pennies thrown at their feet.
As for Muslim groups in the West, the fact none of these self-styled Islamic leaders in America, U.K., Canada, France or Germany have protested outside the Saudi or Turkish embassies tells us a lot about who runs their store.
Perhaps, the Khashoggi murder may be the straw that breaks the Saudi camel's back. But as we Muslims say, "Allah knows best."
Tarek Fatah, a founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress and columnist at the Toronto Sun, is a Robert J. and Abby B. Levine Fellow at the Middle East Forum.