Terrorism: February 25, 2003

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The growing violence and hostility to foreigners in Saudi Arabia has many Saudis and expatriates fearing a civil war in the country. If it happens, it will be a war funded by the government. Saudi Arabia was a major contributor of money, and volunteers, to aid Afghans in their war against Russian invaders during the 1980s. There are still some 10,000 Saudi veterans of that war living in Saudi Arabia. These men wear their service in Afghanistan (or, more frequently, like Osama bin Laden, providing supporting services in Pakistan) with pride, and many are have become very sympathetic to bin Laden's views. Saudi Arabia has long sought to assist Moslems the world over, but this aid, often for nothing more than building a Mosque or religious school, is accompanied by missionaries for the very strict brand of Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia. That fundamentalism, plus the experience of winning a "Holy War" against Russia in Afghanistan, has ignited a militant Moslem movement for Islamic conquest. Bin Laden preached the need for theocracies ("Islamic Republics") and saw the royal family of Saudi Arabia as the enemy. Islam, unlike most other religions, does not recognize "church and state." To fundamentalist Moslems, a secular state in a nation with a Moslem majority is wrong. Actually, it goes farther than that. Islam is a militant religion and it's basic doctrine calls for converting the world. Many other religions seek converts aggressively. But Islam was the only major religion for form armies for that purpose (the medieval Christian crusades were a reaction to Moslem conquests of Christian shrines.) It's quite possibly a case of the revolution coming home to roost in Saudi Arabia. The government has used it's vast oil wealth to provide alternatives to joining militant Islamic groups. But the money is running out as the populations increases, along with poverty and the popularity of militant Islam. Only a minority of Saudis see Islamic radicalism as a cure for anything. But these militants are more ruthless, desperate and determined than any other group in the country. Under such conditions, another Islamic republic could be formed, after a bloody revolution. Then again, maybe not. Across the Gulf is a living example of a failed Islamic Republic in Iran. There, the 1979 Islamic revolution has gone terribly wrong and the nation is on the verge of another revolution to push the Islamic militants out of power. 



 

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