SAUDI CLERICS LOVE OF JIHAD OR DEATH
Saudi Wahhabis are Unique Muslims
Dr. Sami Alrabaa
Family Security Matters
February 9, 2009
Unless you are an Arab, or someone who speaks Arabic very well and have lived in Saudi Arabia for a while, you might not be aware of the following facts and practices from Saudi Arabia and Wahhabi communities across the globe.
Even the majority of expatriates who live in Saudi Arabia, some of them for years, do not speak Arabic, have hardly any contact with the local population, and consequently know very little about what is really going on in Saudi Arabia.
Foreign reporters who want to report from Saudi Arabia are carefully selected. Friendly reporters are preferred. After they arrive in Saudi Arabia, they are accompanied by Saudi officials from the Ministry of Information. These reporters are shown what the Saudis want them to see.
First of all, Saudi Arabia, the cradle of Islam, does not have a codified criminal law and modern courts do not exist. Usually it is a cleric or the police who pass verdicts against criminals. Besides, the King and his clan are the law. They rule whimsically, supported by Wahhabism, a stone-age Islamic version of Islam.
The daily Al Madeena reported on January 8, 2009, “The head of Najran’s city council (unelected) issued the following verdicts: A man who beat his wife until she died receives one and a half year prison sentence and 200 flogs. Two young men who stole a sheep receive a sentence of three years and 2,000 flogs.”
A Saudi practicing Muslim does not shake hands with a woman. Touching her hand stirs his sexual lust and that is haram (sinful).
Also, a Saudi practicing Muslim never uses his left hand to eat, drink, or give somebody something with it. It is unhygienic. He uses it to wash his buttocks after defecating.
Women in Saudi Arabia must veil themselves from head to toe in public. Also, a woman must be accompanied by a close relative in public, otherwise she is branded as a prostitute and very often is snapped by the Mutawas (Morality police) and detained. Saudi women are forced to wear a niqab (face veil).
Further, a Saudi woman is not allowed to perform any public transaction: economic, financial, or administrative, without the approval of a male relative – husband, father, or brother.
The Saudi Sheikh Saleh Al-Lehadan, head of the Supreme Judiciary Council, told Al Watan Daily, (December 2, 2008) “Women who are raped by men are themselves to blame. They provoke men by the way they dress or walk.”
Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where men can marry several women or divorce them in their absence. All a man needs to marry a woman is the two witnesses of his choice. To divorce a woman, he simply needs to go to the highest religious authority in his district. For more details, check out the book Karin in Saudi Arabia.
Almost every Saudi household has at least one maid from the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and India. The majority of them are cheap labor and are often abused sexually by their male employers. They are forced to work for 24 hours, seven days a week for meager $60-$70 a month. Many of them never see any money for years. After that, or after getting pregnant, they are deported to their home countries.
Prince Salman, the Governor of Riyadh, told Al Madeena Daily (November 20, 2008), “It is a minority that abuse housemaids.” This, however, contradicts the latest report of the International Labor Organization (ILO) in Geneva, Switzerland, (2008), which says that over 80% of Saudi families abuse maids and treat them like slaves.
Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that teaches hatred, violence, and bigotry against non-Muslims at its schools. School textbooks are filed with texts that are politically and socially incorrect. Even mathematics books teach these things. Here is a Saudi school quiz: 19 Muslims kill 2,979 infidels (with reference to 9/11). How many did each of them kill? Check out “Saudi Textbooks Incite to Hatred and Violence.”
The same books are printed and funded by Saudis for schools in Pakistan, Indonesia, and madrassas in Deoband (in India) and elsewhere.
Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that does not allow followers of other faiths to have their own temples. Even wearing the Christian cross in a necklace is forbidden. Its owner may be charged with proselytizing and could face flogging or deportation. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia has funded the erection of mosques all over the world, and spends billion of dollars on Islamic centers across the world.
For example, King Fahd Academy, which was funded and opened in Bonn, Germany in 1995 and cost $20 million, was recently closed because it was teaching violence and hatred by staff from Saudi Arabia. However, the “House of Islam” near Frankfurt, which is also funded by the Saudis, is still teaching a Saudi curriculum.
Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that obliges non-Muslim women who marry a Muslim man to first convert to Islam. Muslim women are not allowed at all to marry a non-Muslim, unless he also converts to Islam.
Where on earth would the police prevent rescuing school girls who were caught by fire because they were not covered by their own clothes from head to toe? In Mecca, July 2002, the Saudi morality police blocked rescuing girls whose school was in flames. And why? The girls could be photographed “half-naked.”
Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that enforces gender apartheid in all walks of life.
Saudi TV teaches children to hate the Jews. On a program for children (October 12, 2008), the presenter of the program asked a seven-year old girl if she hates the Jews. The girl, veiled from head to toe, said, “Yes, I do.” “Why?” The girl said, “Because the Jews fought our prophet Muhammad. Even Allah hates them.”
Interest earned on money is also haram (sinful) in Islam. It is riba (usury). To bypass this, the so-called Islamic banks use the word murabaha (shared profit). In practice, it is the same as ordinary interests, but it is packed in a harmless Islamic term. Check out “Conservative Muslims and Die Hard Socialists Feel Vindicated by the International Financial Crisis.”
Saudi Arabia has the highest military expenditures in the Middle East. According to United States' Central Intelligence Agency's World Factbook, Saudi Arabia spent $ 31,050,000,000 on arms purchase in 2008. Israel, the mightiest military power in the Middle East, on the other hand, spent $13,300,000,000.
Luckily, Saudi Arabia does not use its military arsenal to fight Israel – not because it does not want to do so, but because it does not have the qualified manpower. Military experts believe the weapons remain unpacked and rust in the desert. With its generous military purchases, the Saudi regime pleases the arms industry in the West, which in return rallies support for the Saudi regime among influential Western politicians.
As a corruption case was disclosed, related to an arms deal (of $20 billion) for Saudi Arabia in which Bandar, the son of the Saudi Crown Prince Sultan was implicated, Tony Blair did everything possible to cover up the case, namely, “for national interests.” Check out BBC for more details.
Saudi Fatwas (religious edicts):
Ali Al Khudhair, a Saudi Imam in Riyadh approved of telling lies if that helps advancing Islam in a Friday preach (April 4, 2008).
The imam of Mecca, Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais said on June 6, 2008, “Perfume is forbidden in Islam. Neither men nor women should use it. Perfume attracts the devil that makes you commit sins.”
Abullah Al Najdi, another Saudi imam, told Al Riyadh Daily (July 14, 2008), “Football is haram, (sinful) in Islam. It is an infidels’ fad. Fighting for a ball and later celebrating a victory is senseless.”
According to the religious establishment in Saudi Arabia, the voice of a woman is also a sexual organ. She is not allowed to talk directly to non-relative males. Therefore, when a woman calls the Saudi radio to take part in a talk show, she is not dialogued by a man, but by a woman.
Sheikh Saleh Al-Lehadan also promulgated that “learning a language other than Arabic, the language of the holy Koran, is un-Islamic. It is an insult to our religion. It is obvious that those children who learn English, for example, grow up liking non-Muslims, and this is a grave mistake. You know that we should minimize our contacts with non-Muslims to the lowest limit possible. That is what our Prophet, peace be upon him, and the holy Koran teach us.”
Sheikh Saleh Al Fozan, another Saudi influential cleric has said on different occasions that it is haram (sinful) for a Muslim to visit an infidel country, for any reason. “These countries are decadent and filled with devils which seduce men and women.” He said this on Saudi TV (June 6, 2008).
At any rate, some Saudi families spend their vacations in Arab countries like Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and Syria – especially in the summer, fleeing the heat of their own country. Women usually go shopping, and men sit down in cafes and gaze at women. Interest in culture does not exist.
The majority of Saudi men who travel to the West spend most of their time and money on chasing prostitutes.
According to the majority of Saudi clerics, music, dancing, and poetry are haram (sinful). The only book Muslims must read is the Koran. And the only “music” they must listen to is recitations of the Koran.
A hatred-inciting education system and lack of contact with the secular world in terms of books and culture have generated a fanatic population. The majority of Saudi dissidents are more fanatic than the Al Saud regime. There are very few secular Saudi dissidents, like Ali Alyami, Ali Al Ahemd, and Mai Al Yamani.
Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that applies the Sharia law – a combination of Koran and Hadeeth – as long as it suits the regime. It must be stressed here that the Sharia law is a repressive, hate- and violence-inciting, and discriminatory doctrine. For more details, click here.
All that being said, we should not wonder that 15 of the 9/11 terrorists were Saudis. To add insult to injury, the Saudi regime calls for interfaith dialogues with Christian and Jewish leaders. Check out: “Saudis Call for Interfaith Dialogue is Hypocritical.”
Sadly, and despite all the above and because of oil and Saudi Arabia’s geo-political significance during the Cold War and thereafter, the West has supported this country and still supports it.
While the West does not miss any opportunity to blast the abysmal human rights records of China, Russia, North Korea, and Zimbabwe, it ignores the atrocious human rights record of Saudi Arabia.
If Saudi Arabia did no have so much oil, the world community would perhaps ignore it like it ignores Somalia. But the regime in Riyadh cannot be ignored. It is filthy rich and dangerous. The Al Saud clan, for decades now, has funded and is still funding Islamic fanaticism across the globe.
The war on terror does not make sense in its present state and will remain futile unless the West combats the root causes of terrorism, namely, Saudi Arabia. The West is fighting the tip of the iceberg.
FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor Dr. Sami Alrabaa, an ex-Muslim, is a professor of Sociology and an Arab-Muslim culture specialist. Before moving to Germany he taught at Kuwait University, King Saud University, and Michigan State University.
Saudi clerics reportedly exporting jihad
Dissidents say religious leaders tell militants to go fight in Iraq
The Associated Press Jan. 24, 2005
LONDON - Fundamentalist Islamic leaders in Saudi Arabia are telling militants intent on fighting “infidels” to join the insurgency in Iraq instead of taking up Osama bin Laden’s call to oust the Saudi royal family at home, say Saudi dissidents who monitor theological edicts coming out of the kingdom.
Iraq as a battleground offers the solution to a quandary facing the Saudi clerics who have to both placate the kingdom’s rulers and keep their radical base happy.
“If they preach that there ought to be absolutely no jihad, they would lose credibility and support among their followers. So what they do is preach jihad — not in Saudi Arabia, but in Iraq,” said Abdul-Aziz Khamis, a Saudi human rights activist in London.
“To them, Iraq is the answer to their dilemma.”
Wahhabism on the march
The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 gave the Saudi government the opportunity to send men there to wage holy war against communism, supported by the United States.
It also opened the field for the Saudi regime to spread a rigid form of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism. The royal Al Saud family adheres to it, as do Saudi-born bin Laden and his followers.
Today, Iraq, more than anywhere else in the world, is where the future of political Islam is being shaped. It has become a free-for-all for extremists and anti-American movements.
Although there are reports that Saudis are among suicide bombers in Iraq, the most radical al-Qaida group isn’t heeding the clerics’ advice to give up the fight against the kingdom.
In the latest strike in Riyadh, the “al-Qaida in the Arabian peninsula” group claimed responsibility for a Dec. 29 attack in which five suicide bombers blew up two vehicles outside the Interior Ministry, wounding 17 police officers. The group said the intended targets were the interior minister, Prince Nayef bin Abdel Aziz Al Saud, and his son.
Bin Laden statement
In the weeks before the bombings, bin Laden issued a statement calling on his followers to focus attacks on the kingdom. Bin Laden accuses the West of seeking to destroy Islam and criticizes the Saudi royal family for its allegiance to the United States.
The al-Qaida branch operating in Saudi Arabia, known as the Jihadis, has been behind a string of bombings and shooting attacks in the kingdom that began in May 2003, killing dozens of foreigners where they live and work. Last June it kidnapped American contractor Paul Johnson and posted three photos on the Internet showing his body and severed head.
Following another series of attacks last May, several Saudi clerics promised the government not to wage jihad, or holy war, inside Saudi Arabia and to refrain from recruiting activists from the Jihadis group, say Saudi dissidents. Two of them, Salman al-Odeh and Safar al-Hawali, even agreed to fight the Jihadis, although they agree with their ideas, said Khamis.
“Al-Hawali and al-Salman still believe in the principles of jihad. But now they link it with the authority of the ruler,” said Khamis. “Al-Hawali finances and supports people who go to Iraq to fight there, but he is against fighting on Saudi soil.”
Saudis among the insurgents
In Iraq, the Ansar al-Sunnah Army — a group that follows Wahhabism, claimed responsibility for a Dec. 21 suicide bombing at a U.S. base in Mosul, Iraq, that purportedly involved a young Saudi. The bombing killed 22 people, mostly American troops, and was one of the worst attacks since the war started in March 2003.
While Ansar al-Sunnah indicated the bomber was Iraqi, the London-based Saudi Asharq Al-Awsat daily identified him as Ahmed Saeid Ahmed al-Ghamdi, a 20-year-old Saudi medical student from Riyadh.
Iraqi and U.S. authorities have said Saudis are among foreign fighters who have gone to Iraq, although the insurgency is mostly run by local Sunnis and disaffected Iraqis.
Saudi authorities have been trying to smash the persistent al-Qaida branch for some years. The founding leaders are in jail in Saudi Arabia and some of their successors have been killed.
“Bin Laden gave Wahhabism glory,” said Hamza al-Hassan, a Saudi dissident in London, who noted the al-Qaida leader was inspired by his radicals beliefs to fight in Afghanistan.
An extreme vision every 10 years
“Wahhabism produces an extremist version every 10 years, and each new one is more extreme than the previous one, making the previous ones seem like moderates,” added al-Hassan.
The Jihadis, now the most extreme al-Qaida group in Saudi Arabia, believe in global holy war. The government claims they were imported, but Khamis said they were homegrown.
In the 1980s, the late Sheik Abdul-Aziz bin Baz, the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, issued a fatwa, or religious edict, during the Afghan war urging Muslims to fight infidel Soviet occupiers on Islamic soil. Today, this fatwa applies to Iraq, say dissidents Khamis and al-Hassan.
Saudi clerics such as Al-Odeh and al-Hawali have issued several fatwas saying jihad is legitimate in Iraq. Al-Hawali also opposes beheading foreign hostages for political reasons, even though he supports it from a religious point of view, said Khamis. Al-Odeh was among 26 clerics who called for jihad in Iraq last year.
Saleh al-Owfi, believed to be al-Qaida’s leader in Saudi Arabia, claimed in a Web site statement that al-Hawali had asked him not to fight at home but to go to Iraq, and that he would arrange for him to go there, says Khamis. But al-Owfi replied that everyone should fight on his own turf.
Saudi Arabia: Friend or Foe in the War on Terror?
Assyrian International News Agency
Testimony Of Nina Shea, Director Center For Religious Freedom, Freedom House Before The Committee On The Judiciary U.S. Senate:
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the opportunity to testify before this distinguished Committee. On behalf of Freedom House's Center for Religious Freedom, I wish to present the findings of the report, Saudi Publications on Hate Ideology Invade American Mosques, which Freedom House issued in January 2005, as well as some comments on the shortcomings of the Saudi government's response.
Freedom House's Center for Religious Freedom decided to undertake this project after a number of Muslims and other experts publicly raised concerns about Saudi state influence on American religious life. It complements a May 2003 recommendation of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent government agency, that the U.S. government conduct a study on Saudi involvement in propagating internationally a "religious ideology that explicitly promotes hate, intolerance, and other human rights violations, and in some cases violence, toward members of other religious groups, both Muslims and non-Muslims."
The Center's study addresses the question: Is Saudi Arabia, our purported ally in the War on Terror, responsible for having planted extremist propaganda within our borders?
In order to document Saudi influence, the material for this report was gathered from a selection of more than a dozen mosques and Islamic centers in American cities, including Los Angeles, Oakland, Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Washington, and New York. In most cases, these sources, while representing a small fraction of the total number of mosques in the United States, are among the most prominent and well-established mosques in their areas. This study did not attempt any general survey of American mosques.
And, as the Center's website states in the electronic version of the report, "We have made no determination that these mosques endorsed any of these materials cited in these reports, or were even aware of their presence."
Many of the tracts in our study are in the voice of a senior authority.
One of them states: "Be dissociated from the infidels, hate them for their religion, leave them, never rely on them for support, do not admire them, and always oppose them in every way according to Islamic law."
The advice of another is emphatic: "There is consensus on this matter, that whoever helps unbelievers against Muslims, regardless of what type of support he lends to them, he is an unbeliever himself."
Another book states that, if relations between Muslims and non-Muslims were harmonious, there would be "no loyalty and enmity, no more jihad and fighting to raise Allah's work on earth."
The books give detailed instructions on how to build a "wall of resentment" between the Muslim and the infidel: Never greet the Christian or Jew first. Never congratulate the infidel on his holiday. Never befriend an infidel unless it is to convert him. Never imitate the infidel. Never work for an infidel. Do not wear a graduation gown because this imitates the infidel. The cover of the book giving this particular set of instructions states: "Greetings from the Cultural Department" of the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington, D.C.
This book was published by the government of Saudi Arabia; it bears no publication date and was found in several locations. The other books are textbooks from the Saudi Education Ministry, and collections of fatwas, religious edicts, issued by the government's religious office, or published by other organizations based in Riyadh and monitored or controlled by the government of Saudi Arabia.
Between late 2004 and December 2005, researchers who are themselves Muslim Americans, gathered samples of over 200 such texts -- all from within America and all spread, sponsored or otherwise generated by Saudi Arabia. They demonstrate the ongoing efforts by Saudi Arabia to indoctrinate Muslims in the United States in the hostility and belligerence of Saudi Arabia's hardline Wahhabi sect of Islam.
The documents we analyzed all have some connection to the government of Saudi Arabia. While not all extremist works are Saudi, Saudi Arabia is overwhelmingly the state most responsible for the publications on the ideology of hate in America. Our findings are consistent with the assessment of the Treasury Department's Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. On July 13, 2005, Treasury Under Secretary Stuart Levey testified before the Senate Banking Committee: "Saudi Arabia-based and funded organizations remain a key source for the promotion of ideologies used by terrorists and violent extremists around the world to justify their hate-filled agenda."
All Saudis must be Muslim, and the Saudi government, in collaboration with the country's religious establishment, enforces and imposes Wahhabism as the official state doctrine. In 2004, the United States State Department designated Saudi Arabia as a "Country of Particular Concern" under the International Religious Freedom Act after finding for many years that "religious freedom did not exist" in the Kingdom. The Saudi policy of denying religious freedom is explained in one of the tracts in this study: "Freedom of thinking requires permitting the denial of faith and attacking what is sacred, glorifying falsehood and defending the heretics, finding fault in religion and letting loose the ideas and pens to write of disbelief as one likes, and to put ornaments on sin as one likes."
The Wahhabi ideology that the Saudi monarchy enforces, and on which it bases its legitimacy, is shown in these documents as a fanatically bigoted, xenophobic and sometimes violent ideology. These publications articulate its wrathful dogma, rejecting the coexistence of different religions and explicitly condemning Christians, Jews, all other non-Muslims, as well as non-Wahhabi Muslims.
The various Saudi publications gathered for this study state that it is a religious obligation for Muslims to hate Christians and Jews and warn against imitating, befriending, or helping such "infidels" in any way, or taking part in their festivities and celebrations. They instill contempt for America because the United States is ruled by legislated civil law rather than by totalitarian Wahhabi-style Islamic law. Some of the publications collected for this study direct Muslims not to take American citizenship as long as the country is ruled by infidels and tell them, while abroad, above all, to work for the creation of an Islamic state. The Saudi textbooks and documents our researchers collected preach a Nazi-like hatred for Jews, treat the forged Protocols of the Elders of Zion as historical fact, and avow that the Muslim's duty is to eliminate the state of Israel. Regarding women, the Saudi state publications in America instruct that they should be veiled, segregated from men and barred from certain employment and roles.
In these documents, other Muslims, especially those who advocate tolerance, are condemned as infidels. The opening fatwa in one Saudi embassy-distributed booklet responds to a question about a Muslim preacher in a European mosque who taught that it is not right to condemn Jews and Christians as infidels. The Saudi state cleric's reply rebukes the Muslim cleric: "He who casts doubts about their infidelity leaves no doubt about his." Since, under Saudi law, "apostates" from Islam can be sentenced to death, this is an implied death threat against the tolerant Muslim imam, as well as an incitement to vigilante violence. Sufi and Shiite Muslims are also viciously condemned. Other Saudi fatwas in the collection declare that Muslims who engage in genuine interfaith dialogue are also "unbelievers." As for a Muslim who fails to uphold Wahhabi sexual mores through homosexual activity or heterosexual activity outside of marriage, the edicts found in certain American mosques advise, "it would be lawful for Muslims to spill his blood and to take his money."  Regarding those who convert out of Islam, it is explicitly asserted, they "should be killed."
Much of the commentary in the West on Wahhabi hate ideology is restricted to shallow statements that it is "strict" or "puritanical." The Saudi publications in this study show that there is much more of concern to Americans in this ideology than rigid sexual codes. They show that it stresses a dualistic worldview in which there exist two antagonistic realms or abodes that can never be reconciled, and that when Muslims are in the land of the "infidel," they must behave as if on a mission behind enemy lines. Either they are there to acquire new knowledge and make money to be later employed in the jihad against the infidels, or they are there to proselytize the infidels until at least some convert to Islam. Any other reason for lingering among the unbelievers in their lands is illegitimate, and unless a Muslim leaves as quickly as possible, he or she is not a true Muslim and so too must be condemned. The message of these Saudi government publications and rulings is designed to breed greater aloofness, instill suspicion, and ultimately engender hatred for America and its people.
One insidious aspect of this propaganda is its aim to replace traditional and moderate interpretations of Islam with Wahhabi extremism. Wahhabism began only 250 years ago with the movement created by fanatical preacher Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab. Once a fringe sect in a remote part of the Arabian peninsula, Wahhabi extremism has been given global reach through Saudi government sponsorship and money, particularly over the past quarter century as it has competed with Iran in spreading its version of the faith. With its vast oil wealth and its position as guardian of Islam's two holiest sites, Saudi Arabia now claims to be the leading power within Islam and the protector of the faith, a belief stated in the Saudi Basic Law. Saudi Foreign Policy Adviser Adel al-Jubeir publicly states that "the role of Saudi Arabia in the Muslim world is similar to the role of the Vatican."  Even as the Saudi state asserts that it strives to keep the faith "pure" and free of innovation, it invents a new role for itself as the only legitimate authority on Islam.
One example of how Saudi Arabia asserts its self-appointed role as the authoritative interpreter of Islam within the Muslim world is provided in a collection of fatwas published by the Saudi Embassy's Cultural Department in Washington. Its one-page introduction laments the dearth of competent Islamic scholars among Muslim emigrant communities abroad, and the confusion this has caused about Islamic beliefs and worship. The opening line reads, "The emigrant Muslim communities suffer in these countries from a lack of religious scholars (ulema)." It states that this deplorable situation has led the highest committee of Islamic scholars in the Kingdom to offer authoritative replies to questions frequently asked by Muslims living in the non-Muslim world. These replies are given in authoritative pronouncements that the introduction urges should be official guides for preachers, mosque imams, and students living far from the Kingdom.
A prolific source of fatwas condemning "infidels" in this collection was Sheik 'Abd al-'Aziz Bin 'Abdillah Bin Baz (died 1999), who was appointed by King Fahd in 1993 to the official post of Grand Mufti. As Grand Mufti, he was upheld by the government of Saudi Arabia as its highest religious authority. Bin Baz was a government appointee who received a regular government salary, served at the pleasure of the King, and presided over the Saudi Permanent Committee for Scientific Research and the Issuing of Fatwas, an office of the Saudi government. His radically dichotomous mode of thinking, coupled with his persistent demonizing of non-Muslims and tolerant Muslims, runs through the fatwas in these publications. Bin Baz was responsible for the unique fatwa, enforced in no other Muslim country, barring Saudi women from driving. Though Bin Baz is now dead, his fanatical fatwas continue to be treated as authoritative by the Saudi government.
As I previously stated, the Center has not attempted to measure the extent and effect of Saudi publications here. However, as the website of King Fahd states, "the cost of King Fahd's efforts in this field has been astronomical." Some, such as Alex Alexiev of the Center for Security Policy who testified before this Committee in 2003, have estimated Saudi spending on the export of extremist ideology globally to measure three to four times what the Soviets spent on external propaganda during the height of the Cold War. As oil revenues rise for the Saudis, this might well increase.
Singapore's main newspaper recently published an interview with Sheik Muhammad Hisham Kabbani, the Lebanese-American chairman of the Islamic Supreme Council of America and a distinguished Islamic scholar: "Back in 1990, arriving for his first Friday prayers in an American mosque in Jersey City, he was shocked to hear Wahhabism being preached. 'What I heard there, I had never heard in my native Lebanon. I asked myself: Is Wahhabism active in America? So I started my research. Whichever mosque I went to, it was Wahhabi, Wahhabi, Wahhabi,Wahhabi.'"
In an interview on October 26, 2001, with PBS Frontline, Dr. Maher Hathout, identified by PBS as a senior adviser to the Muslim Public Affairs Council and the spokesperson for the Islamic Center of Southern California, this very question about Saudi influence in America is posed by the interviewer. Dr Hathout answered: "[T]hey send imams and books in Arabic. And these books are translated into English and the translation is not always very good. And they are talking about an environment that is obsolete, the world-view of the unbelievers fighting the believers. So it comes very irrelevant to the diversity and the pluralism in America. These books are all over the place, because they can afford to make very glossy magazines and distribute it for free" (emphasis added). MPAC has announced a policy of not accepting Saudi support.
Within worldwide Sunni Islam, followers of Wahhabism and other hardline or salafist (literally translated as venerable predecessors) movements remain a distinct minority. This is evident from the millions of Muslims who have chosen to make America their home and are upstanding, law-abiding citizens and neighbors. In fact it was just such concerned Muslims who first brought these publications to our attention. They decry the Wahhabi interpretation as being foreign to the toleration expressed in Islam and its injunction against coercion in religion. They believe they would be forbidden to practice the faith of their ancestors in today's Saudi Arabia, and are grateful to the United States and other Western nations for granting them religious freedom. They also affirm the importance of respecting non-Muslims, pointing to verses in the Koran that speak with kindness about non-Muslims. They raise examples of Islam's Prophet Mohammed visiting his sick Jewish neighbor, standing in deference at a Jew's funeral procession, settling a dispute in favor of a truthful Jew over a dishonest person who was Muslim, and forming alliances with Jews and polytheists, among others. They criticize the Wahhabis for distorting and even altering the text of the Koran in support of their bigotry. They say that in their tradition jihad is applicable only in the defense of Islam and Muslims, and that it is commendable, not an act of "infidelity," for Muslims, Jews, and Christians to engage in genuine dialogue.
Fifteen of the September 11 hijackers were Saudi subjects indoctrinated from young ages in just such Wahhabi ideology, possibly from some of the very same textbooks and fatwa collections in our study. Saudi state curriculum for many years has taught children to hate "the other" and support jihad, a malleable term that is used by terrorists to describe and justify their atrocities.
For example, a book for third-year high school students published by the Saudi Ministry of Education that was collected in Oakland, California, teaches students to prepare for jihad in the sense of war against Islam's enemies, and to strive to attain military self-sufficiency: "To be true Muslims, we must prepare and be ready for jihad in Allah's way. It is the duty of the citizen and the government. The military education is glued to faith and its meaning, and the duty to follow it."
Saudi commentators, themselves, have drawn the link between, on one hand, the large number of Saudis involved on September 11, and among the al Qaeda prisoners in Guantanamo Bay and the insurgents in Iraq, and, on the other, the culture of religious rage and violence that is part of Saudi religious education. A study presented to a Saudi forum of 60 intellectuals, researchers, clerics and public figures, convened by Saudi then-Crown Prince Abdullah in December 2003 as part of a "National Dialogue" series, found "grave defects" in the religious curricula of the state's boys' schools, particularly with regard to "others," that is, non-Muslims and non-Wahhabi Muslims. The researchers concluded that this approach "encourages violence toward others, and misguides the pupils into believing that in order to safeguard their own religion, they must violently repress and even physically eliminate the 'other,'" according to a summary of the study by MEMRI. The Saudi forum concluded with recommendations for reforming the religious curriculum.
The Saudi government is currently waging a multi-million dollar public relations campaign in the United States, which among other activities advertised in American journals that the Kingdom's textbooks are being "updated." In an interview on October 14, 2005 with Barbara Walters, King Abdullah responded to a question about extremism and hatred in Saudi textbooks with the assurance, "We have toned them down."
We have not attempted to investigate this claim but we remain skeptical based on our own interviews last December of Saudi official religious scholars who denied that reform was necessary and said that textbook reform would have to "evolve slowly over many years," as well as other reports. We do not find it reassuring that, following the release of our study, the government of Saudi Arabia appointed as the new education minister a former director of the Muslim World League, Abdullah al Obeid. The Wall Street Journal reported (Feb. 9, 2005) that "Mr. Obeid was secretary general of MWL from 1995-2002, a period when the huge Saudi-government-funded organization fell under intense scrutiny from Asia to North America for spending tens of millions of dollars to finance the spread of Saudi Arabia's austere brand of fundamentalist Islam." It is one of the 25 Islamic organizations placed under investigation by the U.S. Senate Finance Committee for "financ[ing] terror and perpetuat[ing] violence."
What we have confirmed is that, as of ten months ago, the retrograde, unreformed editions of Saudi textbooks and state-sponsored fatwa collections remained in circulation in some prominent American mosques.
The global spread of Islamic extremism, such as Wahhabism, is the most serious ideological challenge of our times. Senator Jon Kyl, chairman of the Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Terrorism, who held hearings on Wahhabism, asserted: "A growing body of accepted evidence and expert research demonstrates that the Wahhabi ideology that dominates, finances and animates many groups here in the United States, indeed is antithetical to the values of tolerance, individualism and freedom as we conceive these things." The 9/11 Commission was even more emphatic that a threat is posed "even in affluent countries, [where] Saudi-funded Wahhabi schools are often the only Islamic schools," (page 370) and that "education that teaches tolerance, the dignity and value of each individual , and respect for different beliefs is a key element in any global strategy to eliminate Islamist terrorism."
Wahhabi extremism is more than hate speech; it is a totalitarian ideology of hatred that can incite to violence. The fact that a foreign government, namely Saudi Arabia, has been working to mainstream within our borders such hate ideology demands our urgent attention. This Committee and the press have previously examined the extremist infiltration of the prison and military chaplain programs in the United States. The Saudi textbooks and publications described in the Center's report could also pose a serious threat to American security and to the traditional American culture of religious toleration and freedom.
I believe that, not only does the government of Saudi Arabia not have a right to spread educational materials based on an ideology of religious hatred against Jews, Christians, other Muslims such as Shiites and Sufis, and others within U.S. borders, by the fact that it is a government actor and member of the United Nations, it is committing a human rights violation in doing so. A government that advocates religious intolerance and hatred violates the religious freedom and tolerance provisions of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The September 2005 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, U.S. Agencies' Efforts to Address Islamic Extremism, indicates that recent Saudi claims to have made reforms cannot be taken at face value. They must be verified:
The GAO report concludes that while Saudi Arabia claims to have made reforms, and in some case has done so, "U.S. agencies do not know the extent of the Saudi government's efforts to limit the activities of Saudi sources that have allegedly propagated Islamic extremism outside of Saudi Arabia." (Emphasis added).
Specifically, the GAO reports that, "as of July 2005, agency officials did not know if the government of Saudi Arabia had taken steps to ensure that Saudi-funded curricula or religious activities in other countries do not propagate extremism." (Emphasis added).
The government of Saudi Arabia, and State and Treasury officials in the U.S. have publicly declared that Saudi Arabia is undertaking a number of charity reforms, including requiring all private Saudi donations marked for international distribution to flow through a new National Commission for Relief and Charity Work Abroad. However, the GAO report found: "[A]s of July 2005, this commission was not yet fully operational, according to Treasury."
In 2004, Saudi Arabia and the United States announced they had jointly designated nine al Haramain Foundation offices as terrorist financiers, and Saudi Arabia announced its intentions to close down al Haramain Foundation. But the GAO report states that in May 2005 "a Treasury official told us it was unclear whether the Saudi government had implemented its plans." (Emphasis added).
These GAO assertions make clear that either the Saudis have failed to follow through on important reforms and/or the U.S. has failed to verify whether or not the reforms have been carried out. Either case is deeply troubling.
The GAO report concludes that, while U.S. government officials and other experts believe that the spread of Islamic extremism, rather than al Qaeda, is the "pre-eminent threat facing the United States," U.S. government agencies lack a common definition of Islamic extremism, as well as a coordinated approach to it. Furthermore, the GAO report concludes that "The agencies do not distinguish between efforts or programs intended to target Islamic extremism indigenous to a country and those intended to target outside influences, such as Saudi Arabia." (Emphasis added).
I urge this Committee to seriously consider the following recommendations, which are drawn from those of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent government agency:
The State Department Annual Report on International Religious Freedom should include in its reporting on Saudi Arabia an analysis of the content of Saudi textbooks and other Saudi state publications promoting or condoning anti-Semitism and religious hatred.
The U.S. government should issue a formal demarche urging the government of Saudi Arabia to cease funding or providing other support for written materials or activities that explicitly promote hate, intolerance, and human rights violations. Further it should urge the government of Saudi Arabia to:
Provide an accounting of what kinds of Saudi support have been and continue to be provided to which religious schools, mosques, centers of learning, and other religious organizations globally;
Stop funding religious activities abroad until the Saudis know the content of the teachings and are satisfied that they do not promote hatred, intolerance, or other human rights violations;
Monitor, regulate, and report publicly about the activities of Saudi charitable organizations based outside Saudi Arabia in countries throughout the world;
Cease granting diplomatic status to Islamic clerics and educators teaching outside Saudi Arabia, and close down any Islamic affairs sections in Saudi embassies throughout the world that have been responsible for propagating intolerance, as it has already apparently done within the U.S.;
Finally, even should the Saudis stop exporting and supporting extremist propaganda, their extremist textbooks, study guides, and fatwa collections will remain in circulation here and in other countries for years to come. Some American mosques have voluntarily made it their policy to screen out and reject Saudi-supplied educational materials and publications; this is an important model for all.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee. This concludes my testimony.
 Full text of report available: www.freedomhouse.org/religion
 Schwartz, Stephen, The Two Faces of Islam, Doubleday, New York, NY, 2002.; Baer, Robert, Sleeping With the Devil, Crown Publishers, New York, NY, 2003. See also Mai Yamani's talk at Freedom House "State Wahhabism of Saudi Arabia: Impacts of a Religious Ideology of Intolerance and Hate," 21 October 2004; Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, http://www.cdhr.info/ ; Saudi Institute, http://www.saudiinstitute.org/index.php?option=com_frontpage &Itemid=1
 U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, Report on Saudi Arabia, May 2003.
 Loyalty and Dissociation in Islam. Riyadh: Ibn Taymiya Library, no date.
 Loyalty and Dissociation in Islam. Riyadh: Ibn Taymiya Library, no date.
 Verdict Regarding Celebrating the Year 2000 and the Call for the Unity of Religions. Riyadh: Permanent Committee for Scientific Research and the Issuing of Fatwas, 2000.
 Bin Baz, Sheik Abdul Aziz. Religious Edicts for the Immigrant Muslim. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: Cultural Attaché in Washington, no date.
 In some instances, they have five connections. The publications under study each have at least two of the following links to Saudi Arabia. They are: official publications of a government ministry; distributed by the Saudi embassy; comprised of religious pronouncements and commentary by religious authorities appointed to state positions by the Saudi crown; representative of the established Wahhabi ideology of Saudi Arabia; and/or disseminated through a mosque or center supported by the Saudi crown.
In many examples, the Saudi link is readily apparent from the seal or name appearing on the cover of the publications of the Saudi Embassy in Washington, or of the Saudi cultural, educational or religious affairs ministries, or of the Saudi Air Force. While not all the mosques in the study may receive Saudi support, some of the mosques and centers, such as the King Fahd Mosque in Los Angeles and the Islamic Center in Washington, are openly acknowledged to receive official support by the Saudi king as recorded on his website (www.kingfahdbinabdulaziz.com ).
Furthermore, the Saudi government has directly staffed some of these institutions. The King Fahd mosque, the main mosque in Los Angeles, from which several of these publications were gathered, employed an imam, Fahad al Thumairy, who was an accredited diplomat of the Saudi Arabian consulate from 1996 until 2003, when he was barred from reentering the United States because of terrorist connections. The 9/11 Commission Report describes the imam as a "well-known figure at the King Fahd mosque and within the Los Angeles Muslim community," who was reputed to be an "Islamic fundamentalist and a strict adherent to orthodox Wahhabi doctrine" and observed that he "may have played a role in helping the [9/11] hijackers establish themselves on their arrival in Los Angeles" (Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, The 9/11 Commission Report, W.W. Norton & Company, New York, NY, pp. 216-217).
Several publications in this study were also gathered from the Institute of Islamic and Arabic Sciences in Fairfax, Virginia. According to investigative reports in the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S., served as chairman of this school's Board of Trustees, and some 16 other personnel there held Saudi diplomatic visas until they were expelled for extremism by the State Department in 2004 (Markon, Jerry and Susan, Schmidt, "Islamic Institute Raided in Fairfax; U.S. Agents Target Group Accused of Promoting Extremism," Washington Post, 2 July 2004). Until late 2003, the institute was an official adjunct campus of the Imam Mohammed Ibn-Saud Islamic University in Riyadh, part of Saudi Arabia's state-run university system, funded and controlled by the Saudi Ministry of Education (Simpson, Glenn, "A Muslim School Used by Military Has Troubling Ties," Wall Street Journal, 3 December 2003). Although Saudi Arabia claims to have severed official links with it, the Institute the Saudis established continues to operate in northern Virginia.
Some of the works were published by the Al-Haramain Foundation, run from Saudi Arabia with branch offices in the United States until the FBI blocked its assets in February 2004, finding that it was directly funding al Qaeda. In October 2004, the Saudi government's Ministry for Islamic Affairs announced its intentions to dissolve the foundation, and, according to a senior Saudi official, its assets would be folded into a new Saudi National Commission for Charitable Work Abroad. However, the US Government Accounting Office released its new report on Islamic Extremism (GAO-05-852, page 5) on September 22, 2005, in which it stated: "According to State, the government of Saudi Arabia also announced its intentions to close al Haramain Islamic Foundation, but in May 2005, a Treasury official told us it was unclear whether the government of Saudi Arabia had implemented its plans."
Some of the Wahhabi materials in this study were printed by publishers and libraries functioning as publishing houses in Saudi Arabia. Some of these are directly government-supported and-controlled, such as the King Fahd National Library and the General Presidency of the Administration of Scientific Research, Ifta', Da'wa and Guidance (General Administration for Printing and Translation). Others, which may be privately run, are monitored closely by the state, which does not grant the free right to expression, and, according to the State Department, the government's Ministry of Information has the authority to appoint and remove all editors-in-chief (U.S. State Department Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, Saudi Arabia Country Report on Human Rights Practices, February 2004).
 Alsawi, Dr. Salah. Ruling though Jurisprudence and the Opposition Claim. Riyadh: Institute of Islamic and Arabic Sciences in America, 1992.
 Ajami, Fouad, "The Sentry's Solitude," Foreign Affairs, November/December 2001, p.2-16; Baer, Robert, Sleeping With the Devil, Crown Publishers, New York, NY, 2003.
 Rulings for Travelers and Emigrants, authored by Sheik Bin Baz and Sheik
Mohammad al-Salih Ibn al-Athimein and printed by the Saudi Arabian Airforce publishing house for distribution in the United States by the Cultural Department of
the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Washington, D.C.
 Bin Baz, Sheik Abdul Aziz. Reality of Monotheism and Polytheism. Riyadh: The Ministry of Islamic Affairs, 2002.
 bin Uthaimin, Sheik. The Belief of Ahl Assuna wal Jammaat (The People of the Way and Community of the Prophet). Riyadh: The Ministry of Islamic Religious Affairs, 1995.
 Al-Jubeir, Adel, Saudi Foreign Policy Advisor, Interview by Tony Snow, Fox News Sunday, 18 May 2003.
 Bin Baz, Sheik Abdul Aziz. Religious Edicts for the Immigrant Muslim. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: Cultural Attaché in Washington, no date.
 Simon, Mafoot, "A Sufi Muslim Takes on Wahhabism," Sunday Straits Times, 12 December 2004.
 "Interview with Maher Hathout." PBS Frontline, 26 October 2001.
 Reading. Riyadh: Ministry of Education, 1995.
 Dankowitz, Aluma, "Saudi Study Offers Critical Analysis of the Kingdom's Religious Curricula," Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), 9 November 2004.
 In December 2004, I met with a delegation of Saudi religious officials, including Sulaiman Muhammad al-Jarallah, the former director of the Institute of Islamic and Arabic Sciences of Fairfax, Virginia, and a current teacher at the government's Imam Ibn Saud Islamic University in Riyadh who serves on a teacher training commission at the University and on the organizing committee for the National Dialogue. Dr. Jarallah replied to my question about the progress of such reform by stating that Saudi Arabia was a "conservative" society whose textbooks properly reflected religiously conservative values. After I raised specific examples of hate ideology expressed in the Saudi government textbooks, he sought to mitigate it by giving an example of a heavily veiled Saudi woman having difficulty getting a taxi in London. He added that "updating" the textbooks would take "many years" and "evolve slowly." Another Saudi participant, Ibrahim Abdullah Al-Sadan, also teaching at the Ibn Saud University and a former member of the Ministry of Education's Islamic Educational Reform project, said that the criticisms of the curriculum were unwarranted because the examples given at the National Dialogue were taken out of context. The meeting took place on December 14, 2004, at the Washington offices of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom as part of an inter-faith dialogue sponsored through the US Institute for Peace. Also see, World Net Daily, "Saudi Sheik: 'Slavery is a Part of Islam'" The independent Saudi Information Agency reported that Sheik Saleh Al-Fawzan who was recently taped justifying the enslavement of infidels in a lecture recorded by the Saudi Information Agency, remains a leading figure in the religious establishment that oversees this effort http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=35518, 10 November 2003.
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The War: A top U.S. diplomat recently revealed Saudi Arabia still teaches students to hate non-Muslims and the West. So why are we making it easier for Saudi students schooled in that hatred to visit the U.S.?
As if 9-11 never happened, President Bush has agreed to a request by Saudi King Abdullah to lower some of the barriers blocking Saudi youth from studying in America.
The barriers were erected as a security measure after 15 visiting Saudi nationals attacked their gracious host with hijacked jets. The young terrorists, holding various visas, studied at flight schools in the U.S. Post-9-11 visa curbs have resulted in a sharp drop in the number of Saudi travelers.
The Bush-Abdullah deal threatens to reverse that trend. The kingdom is sponsoring a program to expedite visas for Saudis to study in the U.S. by, among other things, providing funds and letters of recommendation. Its Ministry of Higher Education aims to send 21,000 nationals to the U.S. over the next four years.
We're supposed to believe this new crop of Saudi students will be less hostile to America, yet even the State Department's new counterterrorism chief isn't so sure.
He recently returned from a meeting with our alleged Saudi partners and testified that they've done little to reform their curriculum. Their textbooks still teach Saudi kids to hate Jews and Christians and still promote jihad against the West.
"They still have a long way to go," Henry Crumpton, a former senior CIA official, told the House International Relations Subcommittee on International Terrorism and Nonproliferation.
Welcoming another wave of Saudi students is supposed to forge better relations between our countries while promoting cultural exchanges. But when it comes to the Saudis, you get the sense the only culture they want exchanged is theirs — namely, the violently anti-Western strain of Islam called Wahhabism.
Indeed, Crumpton says the Saudis also aren't doing enough to crack down on charities that spread Wahhabism to our shores, including some sympathetic to al-Qaida.
"They need to do more in this regard," he said. "This is something we have to discuss with the Saudis, and we need to engage them further." (A follow-up meeting is set for early December.)
What better way to spread their hate than to export thousands of young Islamist zealots to the U.S., who, even if they don't carry out 9-11-scale attacks, could riot like the young French Muslims who have been torching Paris?
And they seem to have the benefit of open checkbooks. The Saudi government is picking up half their college tabs, while Saudi businessmen are funding the rest through "scholarships."
Will these businessmen be vetted to see if they are the same ones who have given money to Osama bin Laden? Don't bet on it. Crumpton confirms Riyadh still hasn't set up a commission to regulate charities and track their giving as promised.
It's not just the charities that are guilty of spreading the seeds of Wahhabi hate.
The Saudi government itself runs several groups that indoctrinate youths into jihad. They include the Muslim World League and the World Assembly of Muslim Youth. In pamphlets, they teach youths to not be "miserly with your blood" in fighting the infidels during jihad, and laud suicide bombers as "heroes."
The FBI has raided the U.S. offices of both groups, although they're still open for business, thanks to political pressure, and still converting students on campuses such as Howard University to Islam. The groups invite the students on pilgrimages to Mecca as all-expenses-paid guests of the Saudi government.
For that matter, the Ministry of Higher Education — the same Saudi agency sponsoring the new wave of Saudi students to hit American shores — runs an institute in Washington that is under investigation for its ties to terror suspects and propagation of jihadist materials.
Federal agents just last year raided the offices of the Institute for Islamic and Arabic Sciences in America, which was chaired by former Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar.
Until we have verifiable proof of Saudi reform, why would we want to reopen the door to students from that country? We only risk inviting another attack.
Saudi Billionaire Prince's Hate TV
Still teaching hate
June 1, 2006
The Center for Religious Freedom in Washington has put to the test Saudi Arabia's claims that it has reformed its educational system of teachings that demonize the West and non-Muslims. If the Saudi textbooks reviewed by the center represent the kingdom's reforms, the Saudi government shouldn't get a passing grade.
The survey of a dozen textbooks of Islamic studies found ample examples of intolerance and hatred for Christians, Jews and other Muslims who don't practice the fundamentalist form of Islam, Wahhabism, that is supported by the Saudi government.
The center, an arm of the human rights group Freedom House, examined the Saudi texts with the Institute for Gulf Affairs, led by a Saudi national. It asked prominent Islamic scholars to review its work. And the bottom line is the center's findings discredit repeated statements by Saudi officials that reform initiatives begun after the 9/11 attacks had been completed. The Saudis defend their efforts, explaining that "overhauling an educational system is a massive undertaking." That's true, but the offensive textbook passages cited in the Freedom House study illustrate the depth of the problem and the need for stronger action.
The Saudis say the objective of their educational reform is to "fight intolerance" and prepare their youths to compete in a global market. Then how can a 10th-grade textbook sanctioned by the government for its 25,000 schools give any credence to The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, an anti-Semitic tract proved long ago to be a fraud? How do Saudis explain the imperative to hate Christians and other "unbelievers" found in a revised fourth-grade text? Does glorifying the path of jihad prepare Saudi 12th-graders to compete in today's world?
Saudi Arabia, as the home of Islam's two holiest shrines, promotes itself as a leading protector of the faith. Its influence extends beyond the kingdom. But the extremist ideology reflected in the sample of Saudi textbooks can't be left untouched. Such a curriculum "encourages violence toward others" and mistakenly leads students to believe that "they must violently repress and even physically eliminate 'the other'" to protect their religion.
That's the assessment not of the Center for Religious Freedom but of a Saudi royal study group issued 18 months ago.
Saudis arrest 172 militants
Nationwide sweep nets some suspects who had trained as pilots to fly planes in attacks on oil fields.
By ABDULLAH SHIHRI and DONNA ABU-NASR
Friday, April 27, 2007
The Associated Press
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia announced Friday that an anti-terrorism sweep netted 172 Islamic extremists and stopped plans to mount air attacks on the kingdom's oil refineries, break militants out of jail and send suicide attackers to kill government officials.
An official said the plotters had completed preparations for their attacks, and all that remained to put the plot in motion “was to set the zero hour.”
It was one of the biggest roundups since Saudi leaders began cracking down on religious extremists four years ago after militants attacked foreigners and others involved in the country's oil industry seeking to topple the monarchy for its alliance with the U.S.
But while the monthslong police operation provided a high-profile victory for the royal family, the large number of people arrested highlighted the extremism threat in the world's leading oil exporter.
The Interior Ministry said the plotters were organized into seven cells and planned to stage suicide attacks on “public figures, oil facilities, refineries ... and military zones,” including some outside the kingdom. It did not identify any of the targets.
The militants also planned to storm Saudi prisons to free jailed militants, the ministry's statement said.
“They had reached an advance stage of readiness, and what remained only was to set the zero hour for their attacks,” the ministry's spokesman, Brig. Mansour al-Turki, told The Associated Press in a phone call. “They had the personnel, the money, the arms. Almost all the elements for terror attacks were complete except for setting the zero hour for the attacks.”
The Saudi statement said some of the detainees had been “sent to other countries to study flying in preparation for using them to carry out terrorist attacks inside the kingdom.”
Al-Turki said he didn't know whether the militants who trained as pilots planned to fly suicide missions like those in the Sept. 11 attack on the United States or whether they intended to strike oil targets in some other way with the aircraft.
“I have no information on what they were planning to do with the airplanes, but I assume, based on the possible use of airplanes in attacks, that they planned to fly the airplanes into specific targets,” he said.
The militants were detained in successive waves, with one group confessing and leading security officials to another group as well as caches of weapons, al-Turki said. He told the privately owned Al-Arabiya television channel that some of those arrested were not Saudis.
The Interior Ministry said police seized large quantities of weapons and explosives and more than $5.3 million in currency during the sweep. State TV showed video of one cache dug up in the desert that included explosives, assault rifles, handguns and ammunition wrapped in plastic.
U.S. officials praised the sweep as a blow to international terrorism.
“Certainly anytime the Saudis or anyone else takes action against those involved in terrorism it's a good thing,” State Department spokesman Tom Casey said. “It's something that makes the world safer and makes America safer.”
Saudi Arabia's long alliance with the United States angers Saudi extremists who object to Western ways, such al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.
An austere strain of Islam known as Wahhabism is followed by the country's predominantly Sunni Muslim population, and militant groups have attracted recruits from Saudis with extremist leanings. Fifteen of the 19 airline hijackers in the Sept. 11 attack were from here.
Militants have struck at foreigners living in Saudi Arabia and the country's oil industry, which has more than 260 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, a quarter of the world's total. Bin Laden also has urged such attacks to hurt the flow of oil to the West.
In May 2004, attackers stormed the offices of a Houston-based oil company in the western Saudi oil hub of Yanbu. The fighting killed six Westerners, a Saudi and several militants.
Several weeks later, al-Qaida-linked gunmen attacked oil company compounds in Khobar on the eastern coast, killing killed 22 people, including 19 foreigners.
During the most recent attack, in February 2006, two explosives-laden vehicles tried to enter the Abqaiq oil complex, the world's largest oil processing facility, in eastern Saudi Arabia. But guards opened fire and the vehicles exploded without damaging the facility.
The ruling family has pursued an aggressive campaign against militants the past four years, and its security forces have managed to kill or capture most of those on its list of most-wanted al-Qaida loyalists in the country.
The Interior Ministry did not say whether any of the militants rounded up in the latest sweep were members of al-Qaida, referring to them only as a “deviant group” _ Saudi Arabia's term for Islamic terrorist.
The kingdom earmarked one-sixth of its $12 billion defense budget last year for protecting oil facilities and is considering creation of special military units devoted to guarding the industry, Nawaf Obaid, a petroleum adviser with close ties to the government, has said.
Previous reports have said attack helicopters and F-15 jet fighters are in the air 24 hours a day over Saudi oil export terminals, while as many as 30,000 soldiers guard oil facilities.
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