Counter-Terrorism: The Saudi Preacher Police

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January 4, 2008: Saudi Arabia has the largest number of Islamic conservative clergy in the world. The government pays a lot of attention to keeping these guys under some form of control. To that end, the Ministry of Islamic Affairs has recently hired 270 inspectors, to keep an eye on the clergy. There are 58,110 mosques in Saudi Arabia, although only 11,806 have congregations large enough to have regular services each Friday. This is when radical preachers try to incite people, and that's what the inspectors will be looking out for. Before the inspectors were hired, the Ministry of Islamic Affairs relied on tips from concerned citizens. This worked pretty well, and will continue to provide the inspectors with leads to preachers who are talking trash.

In the last half century of oil boom, it was very popular to build mosques in Saudi Arabia. It got a little out of hand, with there now being one mosque for every 400 or so Saudis. Most are basically abandoned, serving mainly to provide work for government employees who act as caretakers.

As is the case elsewhere in the Moslem world, most Islamic terrorists get their start in a mosque dominated by radical clergy. For a long time, the government let the radical clerics do whatever they wanted, as long as they kept it peaceful and within the kingdom. That approach kept most Saudis on the side of the government when it came time to discipline a cleric who crossed the line. But it also led to the founding of al Qaeda, and 15 or the 19 September 11, 2001 attackers being Saudi. Since then, it's been clear that the kingdom cannot continue to export its problems. The Ministry of Islamic Affairs is under new management, and the new policy is to curb radical teaching and preaching, or else. Preachers who do not conform can be fired from their jobs, jailed, or even executed.

 


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