By Rajendra Prabhu
Saudi Arabia continues to protest when many journalists the world over trace the final source of ?Jehadi terrorism? to the oppressive regime in that country which clandestinely exports a most virulent form of Islam, that has begun to embarrass many broadminded Muslims themselves. On the eve of the 9/11 anniversary, Nobel laureate Sir Vidia Naipaul, in an extensive interview to Observer, went to the extent of listing Saudi Arabia and Iran as the two countries that ?probably should be destroyed? for their incubation of Jehadi terrorism. Naipaul'sstatement immediately had the liberals who want to face Islamic terrorism with kid gloves, railing at the writer. But Naipaul was not alone in zeroing in on Saudi Arabia though probably he overshot himself in calling for ?destroying?, or may be that was the writer'shyperbole to draw attention to the seriousness of the problem.
Newsweek'sforeign editor, Farid Zakaria, New York Times? columnist Thomas Friedman, social historian and author of End of History, Trust and other works, Prof. Fukuyama, investigative journalist John Miller were among the many who had traced the root cause of terrorism and religious fundamentalism to the determined efforts of the Saudi royal house to spread the Wahabi Islam as the true face of Islam to the exclusion of any other school of this religion throughout the world.
Miller is the only American journalist who was able to meet Osama bin Laden face to face in his hideout in Afghanistan before the 9/11 incident. In the extensive interview that the Saudi millionaire bin Laden gave to Miller (bin Laden opposes the Saudi royalty because he thinks it is not Islamic enough and that it had allowed non-Muslim troops to remain in Islam'sholy land), bin Laden had declared, ?We predict a black day for America and the end of United States as United States and that they will retreat from our land and collect the bodies of their sons back to America.? This is one of the many dire warnings that bin Laden gave to America through Miller. He and two other investigative journalists have revealed all this in their well researched book on al Qaeda, The Cell. Miller reveals that according to CIA, the Saudi government helped bin Laden to escape to Afghanistan ?because they (royal family) wanted to see the last of him.? Significantly, says Miller, after the terror attacks on the Saudi soil itself first surfaced, the Saudi intelligence captured some of the alleged perpetrators but instead of getting all the information from them, they were secretly executed. Miller wrote that it was strange that the Saudi intelligence did not want anyone to know who these people were and what their other links were.
Farid Zakaria says that ?there are many who believe that the Saudi regime is not acting decisively enough.? One of them is Saudi Arabia'sown ambassador to Washington, Prince Bandar bin Sultan. Zakaria reported that many educated Saudis were now admitting that ?parts of their society have become dangerously extreme?. The repeated terrorist attacks right in Saudi Arabia that targeted foreigners, since Mary 2003, have led many investigators to believe that the type of closed society that the Saudi royalty had spawned in the name of religious orthodoxy itself was responsible for the flowering of terrorism on the Saudi soil.
Thomas Friedman, reporting in New York Times has quoted many sources to show how the exclusivist system of Saudi Arabia, including its education system, has been responsible for breeding a new generation of Saudis who are programmed to welcome terrorism and take part in it. After all, it is not a mere coincidence that the majority of the 9/11 architects and footsoldiers were Saudis and many of the al Qaeda activists subsequently arrested in different parts of US and Europe, Pakistan, Indonesia and Philippines were also Saudis. The NYT columnist said that the education system in Saudi Arabia was so bad at spreading hatred against other religions that even many Saudis themselves were beginning to ?decry it as a factory for extremism?.
Zakaria'sseries of articles have exposed the corruption and the luxury that pervades behind the puritan veneer of that country. ?Corruption dominates and distorts the entire Saudi system?, he wrote. He quotes estimates that say as much as 25 per cent of the Saudi GDP goes towards the support of the Royal family and its patronage networks. In that country, all the clerics are paid by the State and in turn the clerics ensure that the people are brainwashed enough to remain within the miasma of believing that their system is the best and is according to the tenets of religion. The clerics and the royal family together want to keep the people under an illusion. Zakaria fears that as the system degenerates in future with the population rising, oil revenues leaking to support royal luxury and discontent growing, the country would become even more orthodox and seek to project itself as the true voice of Islam to be accepted so by other Muslim countries. It is towards this end that the royal family supports a chain of madrasas in many countries where the children are told that the Wahabi style of Islam is the right one and the aim of life is to adhere more and more closely to it.
A recent analysis about Saudi Arabia and the internal struggle in the royal household to stick even more closely to the orthodox Islamic life comes from a Princeton University professor, Michael Scott Doran, who wrote in the prestigious Foreign Affairs magazine this January, how the last hope of change in Saudi Arabia is receding with the increased hold of Interior Minister Prince Nayef as against the reformist Crown Prince Abdullah. ?Nayef sides with the clerics and takes the direction from an anti-American religious establishment that shares many goals with al Qaeda?, the professor wrote. The enemies listed by the clerics who are paid by the State, include ?Christians, Jews, Shiites and even insufficiently devout Sunni Muslims.? Day in and day out these clerics spout venom against others, painting all of them as enemies of their religion. The battle against them is described as Tawahid which is a long drawn battle till victory is assured. No wonder, brought up in such an environment many Saudis becomes vulnerable to Jehadi propaganda. By spreading this brand of religion in other countries over a long period of support to such religious teachings abroad also, the Saudis have succeeded in creating the right environment for extremism and terrorism to flourish from one end of Europe to the other end of Asia.
That is why on this year'sanniversary of 9/11, Islamic terror struck at innocent school children in Beslan in Russia, poor Nepali workers in Baghdad and hundreds of people in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta. That was the way al Qaeda was saying that it survives in a wide swath of the world.
However, they are not winning hands down all the way. Forces are rising within Islam which are alarmed at this bad image the religion gets and at the mindless killing of innocents.
After the September 9 truck-bombing in Jakarta, the Indonesians were so incenced at this killing that former President Abdurrahaman Wahid launched a movement with the support of two biggest Muslim organisations to promote ?pluralistic and peaceful Islam?, as Time magazine reports.
Muslim governments from Algeria to Indonesia are waking up to the potential of the Saudi-funded promotion of extremism in the name of religion in which they also see a threat to themselves. Naipaul was therefore playing no fool as the self-styled liberals were saying in focusing on the real culprit behind the Jehadi violence and philosophy of freedom to kill.