Counter-Terrorism: Saudi Clerics Ordered to Shape Up

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June 26, 2007: Saudi Arabia is still having problems with conservative clerics who preach in favor of Islamic terrorism. The Interior Minister has spoken to the worst offenders, but not all of them were persuaded to shape up or shut up. So the Interior Minister took it up a level and assembled all the senior clerics, and told them that they were not doing enough to fight Islamic terrorism. This terrorism not popular in Saudi Arabia, not since al Qaeda attacks have killed 264 Saudis in the last four years.

While the Saudi leadership does not like to dwell on it too much, their country is the place where most al Qaeda recruits come from. The conservative form of Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia (Wahhabism) forms the basis of al Qaeda ideology (that non-Moslems are scum and the everyone must be persuaded or forced to become Moslem). Although the Saudi government expelled most known al Qaeda members in the 1990s (and drove many other underground), there are still many Islamic conservatives that support Islamic terrorists directly, or indirectly via contributions to Islamic charities. What has been most embarrassing has been the Saudis who continued to be identified as suicide bombers. The U.S. strives to identify the dead bombers in Iraq, and the Saudis help, if only to get the remains returned to their families for proper burial. But then word got out that the sons of some prominent clerics had gotten themselves killed as suicide bombers. The Saudi Interior Minister was quite scathing about that about this when he chewed out the senior clergy.

While the Saudi royal family presides over a kingdom of very conservative Moslems, their consensus is that Islam has to change, to reform, if it is to survive. The Saudi royals have their own share of bad apples (corrupt, decadent or religious fanatics), but the majority see the problems that Islam faces (corruption, bad government, feeble economic and scientific progress), and have backed efforts to change things. This includes seemingly radical efforts, like the Arab Reform Movement, to more mundane ones, like more education, and personal freedoms, for women.

From the founding of the kingdom 80 years ago, the Sauds have been pushing the Wahhabis to loosen up. There's been a lot of progress, but not enough to prevent the creation of al Qaeda (which got going with a lot of help from Egyptian Islamic radicals). While the royal family pushes for change, many Saudis are content to blame the West for all their problems, and openly, or secretly, cheer on the Islamic terrorists.

 


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