Leadership: March 29, 2005

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The September 11, 2001 terror attacks shook up the rulers of Saudi Arabia in many ways, and not just because most of the terrorists involved were from Saudi Arabia. The aftereffects led to the creation of a very special corps of chaplains for the royal guard in Saudi Arabia. The royal family (a group now several thousand strong) of Saudi Arabia had been getting increasingly concerned about the growth of Islamic fundamentalism in the kingdom. Some of the more extreme preachers were calling for the overthrow of the monarchy. These malcontents were easy enough to take care of in a place that still beheads traitors. But it was the less obvious, and just as radical, clerics that really worried the Saud family.

In addition to cracking down on known troublemakers, the royal family also saw to it that their personal army, the National Guard, was not corrupted by these radical troublemakers. The National Guard was basically a mechanized infantry force recruited from tribes and families that had traditionally been loyal to the al Saud family. The National Guard was a counterweight to the regular armed forces, which was recruited from the general population. The National Guard recruits tended to be less educated, and more religious, than the average Saudi. To insure that National Guard recruits did not get any misguided religious ideas, shortly after September 11, 2001, created its own "Chaplains' Corps," totally separate from the Saudi religious apparatus and the Ministry of Religion. These special chaplains attend to the needs of members of the National Guard, and was staffed by recruiting promising young scholars, training them in its own religious school, and assigning them to mosques on National Guard bases. This is an effort to keep the new imams from becoming tainted by the ultra-conservatives who dominate the clergy nation-wide. Since the invasion of Iraq two years ago, many Saudi Islamic radicals have come out of the shadows and made terrorist attacks inside the kingdom. As a result, the Saudi government has been searching everywhere for Islamic radicals. Some were found in the police and armed forces, but very few in the National Guard. That was no accident.

 


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