Saudi Arabia: The Islamist Cage
Date: 28 Aug 2007
Saudi Arabia: The Islamist Cage
BY YOUSSEF IBRAHIM
August 27, 2007
A former prime minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, recently declared he was returning home to try to regain power after six years of exile — in Saudi Arabia. The day that the monster of Uganda, Idi Amin, was removed from power in 1979, he flew to a country where sanctuary as a Muslim African leader would be guaranteed upon his arrival — Saudi Arabia.
And in 1970, immediately following the death of an Egyptian dictator, Gamal Abdel Nasser, the leadership of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood movement returned home in droves to try to Islamize their native land — after two decades in Saudi Arabia.
Thus, Saudi Arabia ever expands its fundamentalist cage.
Robert Baer, a 20-year veteran of the CIA and the author of "Sleeping With the Devil: How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude," has often described the Saudis as the world's primary financiers of terrorism, the source of much of Al Qaeda's leadership, and an incubating station for radical Islam.
Though such activities have come back to haunt the Saudis and their allies in America — Islamist terror struck home in 1995, 1996, and 1998 bombings, two American embassies were attacked in Africa, and the USS Cole was bombed in Yemen in the leadup to the attacks of September 11, 2001 — the Saudi system continues to perpetuate the model.
The reason, according to Mr. Baer and other Middle East analysts, is that Saudi Arabia runs on two currencies: the riyal and Islam.
Neither Saudi society nor its ruling establishment can escape: All of its constituent elements — from business and charity to religious instruction, law enforcement, and foreign relations — rattle inside the cage of the country's fundamentalist obsessions: The Saudi flag contains a Koranic verse. The Saudi monarch wraps his authority in Islam as "the custodian of Mecca and Medina." Saudi foreign aid is based on building fundamentalist madrassas and mosques, supporting such fundamentalist groups as Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, and spreading Koranic instruction worldwide.
Arab and Muslim expatriate workers who have lived and worked in Saudi Arabia — easily numbering 50 million over the last three decades — return imbued with a model of militancy that duplicates an Osama bin Laden-style path toward jihad against their home societies.
This vicious cycle mattered little when oil was cheap and the Saudis were a mere curiosity. But Saudi Arabia's power grew as it was transformed into a prime energy source in the 1970s, a huge financial influence in the 1980s, and an immense lobbying presence in the 1990s.
By the late '90s, there were full-size mirror images of Saudi Arabia's stilted brand of Islam in Egypt, Pakistan, Somalia, the Philippines, Chechnya, Bosnia, and Kosovo, as well as among Muslim communities in Europe, Australia, and America. More mirror images are in the making.
In one of his many interviews since leaving the CIA, Mr. Baer gave an interesting analysis of the elements that make for the creation and exportation of this model, describing Saudi Arabia as both hapless and evil.
"They feel humiliated by colonialism, by the United States, by Israel — call it what you want. They feel they are citizens or subjects of a country that has never fought a war, and yet spends so much money on defense. They're humiliated that they don't take the Israelis on, because their army is worthless. They sit around and they read the Koran. And they get on these Islamic Web sites, and they watch Al-Jazeera. And they go to the mosque."
In other words, the Saudis do little except rattle around within the cage of their own fundamentalism. This deep confusion is reflected throughout the ruling family, which contains both princes who are Westernized — in such vulgar aspects as drinking, womanizing, gambling, and wearing diamond-studded Rolex watches — and others who leave a mosque only to enter a charity that nurtures madrassas turning out little bin Ladens.
Their schizophrenia is exemplified in such global personalities as Prince Al-Walid bin Talal, a multibillionaire businessman who simultaneously invests his billions in America while funding both the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which is the American chapter of the jihadist Muslim Brotherhood.
In the end, the Saudis are just rattling around in their cage. A society with no social project except to produce more Muslims, deeper Muslims, better Muslims, ends up as one that produces Muslim fanatics and terrorists.
Now, with oil prices having moved north of $70 dollar a barrel, a lot more trouble will be coming our way out of the Saudi cage.
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