Perhaps the fact that fifteen of the nineteen suicide
bombers in the September 11 attack against the World Trade Center and the
Pentagon are not coincidences after all?
The following is an anonymous email: Well written!
Saudi Arabian officials released a statement on December
27 that as many as 25,000 Saudi nationals may have received training at
the al Qai'da terrorist camps in Afghanistan.
By and large Americans have a grossly oversimplified
image of Islam -- unaware of the huge doctrinal divisions that exist among
the religion's dozens of sects and wide range of perspectives on the
world. Strangely enough, when most Americans think of what a Muslim looks
like, they think of the Saudis (perhaps these images result in part from
the high media profile fueled by the Saudis' oil wealth). Similarly, most
Americans would probably list the Saudis as among the "good"
Muslims. Aside from bin Laden, there is a general absence of Saudi's in
stock terrorist footage, and Americans also recall the role played by
Saudis as American Allies in the Gulf War.
Nonetheless, the Saudis have in the
past and continue today to play a central role in the development of
fundamentalist Islam. This role has largely been overlooked by American
media and, perhaps, policy makers. The Saudi ruling family rose to power
as proponents of both Wahabi Islam and the Hanbali school of Islamic
Jurisprudence, a system of thought which stresses an extremely literalist
interpretation of the Qur'an and Sunna (sayings and actions of the Prophet
Muhammad) as the only guide for human action. While most Muslims think of
"Hard" Shari'a (including punishments such as amputation for
petty theft) as primative and barbaric, the Saudis have made it standard
practice. In recent decades the Saudi's have used their newfound oil
wealth to fund huge campaigns not only to convert non-Muslims to Islam,
but also to convert other Muslims to Wahabi thought. Further, control over
the Pilgrimage to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina has aided the
Saudi's in spreading their extremely puritanical ideology throughout the
Muslim World. Not only does the Pilgrimage bring millions of Muslims to
Saudi Arabia every year, but the Saudi's wealth is interpreted by some as
a reward for piety. Imagine poor Muslims from Indonesia or Nigeria
traveling to Mecca and seeing Saudi wealth for the first time. Because the
Pilgrimage is often subsidized, for millions of Muslims a trip to Saudi
Arabia is the only international experience they will ever have.
In many other ways, the Saudis have
been a major force in spreading conservative Islam. Harsh restrictions on
Women's roles and behavior are characteristic of Wahabi Islam and were
previously atypical elsewhere. Similarly, it has been the Saudi's who have
encouraged Muslims to implement a harsher form of the Shari'a. For
example, the move to implement "Hard" shari'a in Nigeria's north
-- resulting in the much publicized caning of a 17-year old girl for
premaritual sex and numerous clashes with Nigerian Christians this past
year -- has been backed by the Saudi's, who offered "training"
for new Islamic judges. Remarkably, there has been little commentary on
these first steps to replace West Africa's centuries-old (and rather
liberal) Maliki system of Islamic law with harsher Hanbali jurisprudence.
Ironically, one reason the Saudi's
helped aid the US against Saddam Hussain in the Gulf War was precisely
because the Saudis consider the Baath party in Iraq to be secularist and
un-Islamic. Saddam is no Muslim Fundamentalist, and in the Islamic world
his calls for "Holy War" against the West were a joke.
the US cannot attack the Saudis merely for what they think and believe.
Terrorism is not a "thought crime", and we must make it clear
that it is the actions, not beliefs, of certain fanatical Muslims that are
unacceptable. Our actions must be tempered, however, by the political
reality that fundamentalists are not always the enemies, sometimes they
are already our allies.