Saudi Arabia's Teachers of Terror

Posted in Broader Middle East | 24-Sep-03 | Author: Jon Kyl| Source: Washington Post

and Charles Schumer

The House of Saud has for decades played a double game with the United States, on the one hand acting as our ally, on the other supporting a movement -- Wahhabism -- that seeks our society's destruction. Because of other strategic interests, our government has long indulged the Saudis, overlooking their financial and structural ties to one of the world's most violent terror organizations.

After the attacks of 9/11, President Bush made clear that America would no longer play that game. He said: "Every nation will have a choice to make: Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists." It is time for Saudi Arabia to make that choice.

Upon its establishment as the nation's ruling family, the House of Saud forged an alliance with the radical Wahhabi sect of Islam. The deal that was struck gave the House of Saud control over political and foreign policy, while the Wahhabis would be free to take charge of the society's religious and cultural institutions.

Recently our subcommittee on terrorism held the first of a series of public hearings on the activities of this Wahhabi sect. The findings were alarming. Wahhabism is an extremist, exclusionary form of Islam that not only denigrates other faiths but also marginalizes peaceful followers of Islam. As witnesses testified, Wahhabism uses mosques and schools, called madrassas, to indoctrinate mostly young people with a hatred of Jews, Christians and traditional Muslims who reject this radicalism. Its goals are world domination and the destruction of its enemies.

Osama bin Laden is a follower of Wahhabism. So were all 19 of the Sept. 11 hijackers. Bin Laden's al Qaeda trained the Taliban in Afghanistan, formed a movement that threatens the government of Pakistan and is the source of terrorist atrocities from Morocco to Indonesia, Israel, Kenya, Tanzania, Yemen and Saudi Arabia itself.

The sect has established mosques in the United States and elsewhere in the world. According to federal officials, money collected at these mosques is often used to help finance the Wahhabis' global mission. Followers have developed new ways to recruit supporters in America by seeking out U.S. citizens or persons with Western passports, and infiltrating U.S. prisons and universities.

The Saudi government has conferred dangerous legitimacy on the Wahhabi sect. As Princeton University scholar Bernard Lewis noted: "Without oil and the creation of the Saudi kingdom, Wahhabism would have remained a lunatic fringe." A Treasury Department official testified that Saudi Arabia is often the "epicenter" of funding for terrorist activities.

The House of Saud allows the sect to hand-pick imams to control local mosques and to run the madrassas. The Saudi-controlled media continue to abet Wahhabi teachings by spreading lies about the West. The Anti-Defamation League, for example, has issued a report on the Saudi media's denial of the Holocaust and their charges that Jews run U.S. foreign policy.

It should be noted here that, through an expensive public relations campaign aimed at an American audience, the Saudi government vehemently denies any relationship to the Sept. 11 attackers. It also professes steadfast support for America's war against terrorism. Recently the Saudi ambassador to the United States urged the Bush administration to release classified pages of an intelligence report that allegedly listed Saudi ties to terrorism. He further stated on the Saudi government's Web site that "Saudi Arabia has nothing to hide. We can deal with questions in public."

The Saudi ambassador is right to encourage candor. It is time for the U.S./Saudi relationship to be based on a mutual commitment to eradicate terrorism. That commitment must be unambiguous, and it must include effective efforts by the Saudi government to stop Wahhabi support of terrorism.

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) is chairman of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on terrorism, technology and government information. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is a member of the Judiciary Committee.