In FrontPage I take another look at Saudi claims to reform. Here is my earlier article on the Saudi Arabia Accountability Act. At FP there are links to the source material. [UPDATE: The link still works, but this piece has been taken down from the FP site for today -- they tell me it has been rescheduled for tomorrow.]
Saudi Arabia has “seen the face of the devil, and they don’t want it.” So says Prince Saud, the Saudi Foreign Minister. The Saudis have seen the light since 9/11, he says, and they want no part of religious extremism; the Kingdom is no longer a haven for terrorists.
While the Prince’s words were soothing, it is much more likely that he and other members of the House of Saud have seen the face not of the devil, but of the Saudi Arabia Accountability Act of 2005. Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on the Act and the general incitement to terrorism in America through jihadist literature and speech are scheduled to begin October 25, and the Saudis are scrambling to appear as if they have decisively rejected the jihad terrorism that they so energetically backed for so many years.
But have they? Not exactly. “Oh Allah, liberate our Al-Aqsa Mosque from the defilement of the occupying and brutal Zionists….Oh Allah, punish the occupying Zionists and their supporters from among the corrupt infidels.” According to the Middle East Media Research Institute, Sheikh Abd Al-Rahman Al-Sudayyis preached that in a sermon in Mecca on July 15 – of 2005, not 2001. He also railed against American pop culture, which he termed “the terrible deluge of all manner of vice, which is considered a form of moral terrorism against the values, ideals, and virtues of the Islamic nation.” His sermon was carried on Saudi Arabia’s Channel 1.
Nor did Saudi TV, which is strictly controlled by the government, limit itself to prayers for punishment of the Israelis and Americans. On August 29 Saudi Iqra TV aired a program calling on Saudis to donate money to support the Palestinian jihad. “As the Prophet Muhammad said, Jihad is the pinnacle of Islam,” the program’s organizer reminded viewers. “A person who cannot wage Jihad with his soul is required to wage Jihad with his money, with his tongue, with his thought, and with any means at his disposal. There is no doubt that our brothers in Palestine desperately need financial support, which goes directly to this cause, and helps them to carry out this mission.”
On the same show, Sheikh Abdallah Basfar, secretary-general of the Muslim World League Koran Memorization Commission (a Saudi government agency) added: “All the funds sent via known charities and organizations reach your Muslim brothers, Allah be praised. Undoubtedly, this aid is obligatory and not just recommended. This is the duty of every Muslim, based on the scholars’ religious ruling that supporting our brothers in Palestine is obligatory. Therefore, material support is a duty.” Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), who introduced the latest Saudi Arabia Accountability Act into the Senate, noted in support of the Act of 2003 that the Saudis “are reported to have contributed as much as $4 billion to Hamas over the course of the latest intifada.” Could some of that money have gone to finance Hamas’ suicide attacks against innocent civilians in buses and restaurants? Is it still going to finance Hamas’ terrorist activities? Nor is the Palestinian jihad the only ones the Saudis support. NBC’s Lisa Myers reported last summer: “An NBC News analysis of hundreds of foreign fighters who died in Iraq over the last two years reveals that a majority came from the same country as most of the 9/11 hijackers — Saudi Arabia. Among the suicide bombers was Ahmed al-Ghamdi, a one-time medical student and son of a Saudi diplomat. In December 2004, he climbed into a truck in Mosul and blew himself up. On an Internet video, another Saudi says goodbye to his mother, then drives an ambulance full of explosives into a building.” What motivated these people to go to Iraq? Unmistakably, it was the jihad ideology that, now over four years after 9/11, continues to be taught all over Saudi Arabia — while political correctness and fear prevent the State Department from identifying it as any problem, actual or potential.
There are, however, Saudi leaders who have come out against jihad in Iraq. The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Asheikh, has denounced it. Did he condemn attacks against American troops there and remind Saudis of their country’s alliance with the United States? Not exactly. He came out against “attempts by suspicious parties to trigger sectarian tension between the people of Iraq,” saying that such attempts only served “the aims of the enemies conspiring against Muslims.” In other words, he was only condemning Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s recent declaration of war against Shi’ite Muslims. In an oblique condemnation of U.S. forces in Iraq, he also criticized those who committed “bloodshed and murder of innocents by planes and bombs.”
What has the U.S. done in response to all this? Last Friday, U.S. District Judge Richard Casey found that two Saudi officials who have been named as defendants in 9/11 lawsuits, Interior Minister Prince Naif and Prince Salman, Governor of Riyadh, were not liable. And last Wednesday, Associated Press reported that President Bush decided “to waive any financial sanctions on Saudi Arabia, Washington’s closest Arab ally in the war on terrorism, for failing to do enough to stop the modern-day slave trade in prostitutes, child sex workers and forced laborers.”
America’s closest Arab ally in the war on terrorism? Really? What kind of ally — particularly a tightly-controlled society like Saudi Arabia — allows a steady stream of its citizens to travel to a neighboring country to wage war against forces with which it is supposed to be allied? What kind of ally broadcasts exhortations to wage this war over its government-controlled television stations?
It’s time for Congress to pass and President Bush to sign the Saudi Arabia Accountability Act. After all, he himself said it best after 9/11: you’re either with the terrorists or with us. He should signal to the Saudis that they can no longer have it both ways.