Insight on the News - World
Saudi Wealth Fuels Global Jihadism
By Kenneth R. Timmerman
Doaa 'Amer is a professional TV anchor who hosts Muslim Woman Magazine on IQRAA TV, a satellite channel broadcasting throughout the Arab world. As she tells it, her job is to educate the next generation of children to be "true Muslims." Readers accustomed to hearing Islam described as a "religion of peace" by pundits and apologists in the West will be surprised to learn what she means, but her view is neither extreme nor unusual in today's Islamic world - the real world of Islam, the day-to-day world of mosques and classrooms and teashops and hubbly-bubblies and government-controlled news media that provide a daily diet of hate that until recently has rarely been translated into English.
On May 7, 2002, wearing her customary body-length robe and a fashionable head scarf, Doaa 'Amer announced to her viewers that she had a special guest. The Middle East Media and Research Institute (www.MEMRI.org) taped the show and provided the following transcript, as well as a complete videotape of the Arabic-language original with English subtitles.
"Our report today will be a little different because our guest is a girl, a Muslim girl, but a true Muslim." Exuding sincerity, the attractive young host addresses herself directly to the mothers in the audience, who like her could have a daughter the same age. "Allah willing, may our God give us the strength to educate our children the same way, so that the next generation will turn out to be true Muslims who understand that they are Muslims and know who their enemies are," she gurgles. "This girl will introduce herself immediately. She is the daughter of my sister in faith and of the artist Wagdi al-Arabia. Her name is Basmallah."
The camera pans slowly down and to the right as Ms. 'Amer greets her guest, who turns out to be a small child.
"Peace be upon you," Ms. 'Amer says, welcoming Basmallah onto her show.
"Allah's mercy and blessing upon you," the little girl replies.
'Amer: Basmallah, how old are you?'
'Amer: Are you a Muslim?
'Amer: Basmallah, are you familiar with the Jews?
'Amer: Do you like them?
'Amer: Why don't you like them?
Child: Because ...
'Amer (prompting): Because they are what?
Child: They're apes and pigs.
'Amer: Because they're apes and pigs? Who said they are so?
Child: Our God.
'Amer: Where did he say this?
Child: In the Koran.
'Amer: Right, he said that about them in the Koran.
Ms. 'Amer turns to the camera, gushing with praise. "Basmallah, Allah be praised! Basmallah, Allah be praised! May our God bless her. No one could wish Allah could give him a more believing girl than she. ... May Allah bless her and her father and mother. The next generation of children must be true Muslims. We must educate them now while they are still children so that they will be true Muslims."
Shortly before this program aired on IQRAA, the station's part-owner, Prince al-Waleed bin Talal, contributed $27 million to a government-organized telethon in Saudi Arabia that raised $109 million for the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. Saudi King Fahd and Crown Prince Abdallah each contributed $1 million, with their wives kicking in separate checks of close to $1 million. The official story was that the money was intended for the families of Palestinian "martyrs" and to rebuild infrastructure in the West Bank and Gaza that had been destroyed during Israel's antiterror campaign. But as documents seized by the Israelis at numerous "charities" and government offices throughout the West Bank over the past two years show clearly, money paid by Saudi Arabia and Saddam Hussein's Iraq was considered as "blood money." It was used by Hamas as an enticement to murder by providing a guaranteed income to the families of the murderers.
The telethon was hosted by a prominent Saudi-government cleric named Sheikh Saad al-Buraik, who took the opportunity of the live television coverage to harangue an audience at a Riyadh mosque against America, Christians and Jews. "I am against America until this life ends, until the Day of Judgment," he proclaimed on April 11, 2002. "I am against America even if the stone liquefies. My hatred of America, if part of it was contained in the universe, it would collapse. She is the root of all evils and wickedness on Earth. ... Oh Muslim Ummah, don't take the Jews and Christians as allies. ... Muslim Brothers in Palestine, do not have any mercy, neither compassion on the Jews, their blood, their money, their flesh. Their women are yours to take, legitimately. God made them yours. Why don't you enslave their women? Why don't you wage jihad? Why don't you pillage them?"
Like the owners of the Middle East Broadcasting Network which aired the telethon, Sheikh al-Buraik is closely tied to Prince Abdul Aziz bin Fahd, the King's youngest son. The sheikh hosts a regular show on the government's Channel One called "Religion and Life." Just days after this festival of anti-American and anti-Semitic hate aired in Saudi Arabia, Prince Abdul Aziz bin Fahd traveled to Crawford, Texas, with his uncle, Crown Prince Abdallah, as part of the official delegation that met with President George W. Bush at his ranch.
Organized, state-supported anti-Semitism got a tremendous kick in 1979 with two events that shook the Islamic world to its core. In both instances, hatred of the Jews was thoroughly intertwined with fear and hatred of America and the openness of the West.
The first milestone was the overthrow of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in Iran by revolutionaries loyal to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, a radical cleric who believed that a true Islamic state should govern every aspect of daily life. Under Khomeini's guidance, universities were closed, women were forced to adopt the veil and were excluded from society, at least temporarily, and Western businesses were tossed out of Iran.
Khomeini's hatred of America was legendary. Less known was his hatred of Jews. Soon after seizing power, Khomeini ordered the first translation into Persian of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, previously unknown in Iran, and changed schoolbooks to reflect his anti-Semitic and anti-American beliefs.
The second event that transformed the Middle East and elevated anti-Semitism and anti-American hatred into state-sponsored doctrines went virtually unnoticed in the West. It was 5:20 a.m. on Nov. 20, 1979, when Sheikh Mohammad bin Soubbayil ascended the minaret to call the faithful to prayer. Fifty thousand pilgrims were still sleeping within the walls of the Great Mosque despite the fact that the annual pilgrimage to Mecca had ended three weeks earlier. Before Sheikh Mohammad could finish his song, a wild-eyed man in his early thirties snatched the microphone from his hands and pushed the older man away. "My name is Jouhayman al-Otaibi," he told the crowds in the courtyard below, who had begun to wash their hands and feet in preparation for their morning prayers. "Here with me is Mohammad al-Qahtani. He is the Mahdi who has come to bring justice to the world. Bow down to the Mahdi who will cleanse the kingdom of corruption!"
As he spoke, several hundred men mixed in among the crowd seized key positions, firing on the handful of policemen stationed inside the mosque with automatic rifles they had hidden beneath their pilgrims' robes. Panic seized the crowd. Pilgrims began running in every direction as al-Otaibi denounced the moral depravity and corruption of the Saudi royal family and the Westernization they had brought to the land of God's two holy mosques. His message was relayed by hundreds of loudspeakers and was audible halfway across the city.
Horrified by the violence inside Islam's holiest site, King Khaled summoned the highest religious authorities of the kingdom to his palace and got them to issue a fatwa authorizing a counter-attack. Despite this holy armor, the royal troops made little headway. The insurgents had posted snipers in all seven minarets of the mosque complex, picking off any government troops who ventured within range. The innumerable arcades, half-concealed corridors and underground galleries became so many hiding places for al-Otaibi and his men, now believed to number close to 2,000. They were well-armed, having smuggled in weapons and explosives in coffins and stockpiled them in the cellars over a period of several weeks in preparation for the attack.
After three days, the king and his brothers realized they needed outside help. Having seen how the Carter administration had betrayed the shah of Iran, they called on the French, who dispatched a unit of the elite antiterrorist force known as the GIGN (Groupe d'Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale), under the command of Capt. Paul Barril. On Nov. 23, 1979, Barril and the three gendarmes who eventually accompanied him onto the grounds of the Great Mosque to lead the counterattack were hastily converted to Islam to allow the king to pretend that he had not broken the taboo on allowing non-Muslims into Mecca. Nevertheless, it took Barril and the Saudi national guard nearly two weeks to subdue the rebels.
Barril and his gendarmes were helped by the company that had recently expanded the mosque complex on contract to the royal family. They turned over the blueprints of the cellars, allowing Barril and his men to localize the insurgents without a frontal assault. The company, run by a Yemenite family often called the "commoner branch of the royal family," was the Saudi bin Laden Group.
In one sense, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan on Dec. 26, 1979, couldn't have come at a more opportune moment for the Saudi regime. Still reeling from the attack on the Great Mosque, the Saudis desperately needed to reforge their alliance with the radical Wahhabite clerics, whose support they needed to remain in power. Without the clerics behind them, they feared a revival of the even more radical Ikhwan, who condemned Saudi ties to the West, rejected the modern world and vowed to close off the kingdom to any foreign, and especially any non-Muslim, influence.
Keeping the Wahhabis on their side required more than just money. The royal family needed to display adequate passion and commitment to spreading Wahhabi doctrine to Muslim communities around the world. In 1962, to placate the clerics, the Saudis established the Muslim World League to build Wahhabite mosques around the world and propagate the faith. In 1973, they added the activist World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), which opened offices in 60 countries, distributing scholarships to young Muslims who accepted the Wahhabi doctrine that "Jews are the source of all conflicts of the world, that Shia'a Muslims are part of a Jewish conspiracy and that Muslims, Jews and Christians cannot live together."
These organizations spread the works of Ibn Abd al-Wahhab, the sect's 18th-century founder, as well as those of the leading contemporary Wahhabi scholar Sayyid Abul-Ala al-Mawdudi (1903-1979), who condemned all Muslims not embracing the Wahhabi doctrine as apostates and unbelievers. This excommunication from the faith began with Shia'as and extended to every school of the majority Sunni thought that did not explicitly embrace the austere, fundamentalist Wahhabi doctrine. The Wahhabis reserved special damnation for "Crusaders" and Jews, who were considered the implacable enemies of Islam.
Al-Mawdudi's doctrine of jihad and his messianic vision of Islam conquering the world inspired a generation of young jihadis who flocked to his native Pakistan following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. As the jihad gathered force, the Saudis seized the occasion to imprint the Afghan resistance with their own Wahhabi stamp. Under the personal direction of Crown Prince Fahd, who became king upon Khaled's death in 1982, the Saudi government spent billions of dollars to fund the jihadis.
Prince Salman, the governor of Riyadh and a full brother of the king, was put in charge of raising money at the mosques and from wealthy Saudis and distributing it through ostensibly private agencies, including the Muwafaq (or Blessed Relief) Foundation, the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO) and the Islamic Salvation Foundation (ISF). His role was so public and so central, the editor of an Arabic-language newspaper told me in London, that the fund-raising effort was called "the Prince Salman Committee" and published its account number to facilitate bank transfers. Osama bin Laden - not yet the renegade he would become - was put in charge of the Islamic Salvation Foundation office in Peshawar. As the local representative of Prince Salman, he became the ex officio Saudi ambassador of jihad.
With their billions, the Saudis also built an entire network of religious schools in Pakistan where the next generation of Wahhabi fanatics would be trained. Young men sent to these schools learned little about the outside world, focusing instead on Wahhabi interpretations of the Koran. It was here that the Taliban was spawned, brought up to hate non-Wahhabi Muslims, the West and, of course, the Jews.
The same relief organizations, government ministries and "private" Saudis that supported Osama bin Laden and the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan today funnel billions of dollars to Saudi-backed institutions from Malaysia to Los Angeles. According to one private investigator who tracked Saudi expenditures on Islamic movements around the world for a major financial institution, "The Saudis themselves claim in official reports that they have provided $65 billion to Islamic causes between 1973 and 1993."
Indeed, the Saudis like to boast of their liberality. "The determination of the Kingdom to support Islam and Islamic institutions to the best of its ability was evidenced from the time of the formation of the Kingdom by King Abdul Aziz, but it was only when oil revenues began to generate real wealth that the Kingdom could fulfill its ambitions of spreading the word of Islam to every corner of the world," an extraordinary article in the Saudi government English-language weekly, Ain-al-Yaqeen, begins. Some of the Saudi aid was development assistance to "Muslim countries less well endowed economically," the article states.
But a vast amount was spent in building mosques, distributing Wahhabite literature and supporting jihad from Richardson, Texas, to Malaysia through the same institutions that pumped aid into Afghanistan during the 1980s and fund suicide bombings in Israel today. Imagine if the United States government were to spend billions of dollars in virtually every country around the world building Baptist or Methodist churches and then appointed U.S. government officials to run the World Council of Churches? Yet that is precisely what the Saudis have been doing. When the Saudi government speaks of "the voice of Islam," what it really means is the radical, anti-Western and anti-Semitic teaching of the Wahhabi sect.
As the United States sent Treasury Department officials to the kingdom to help staunch the flow of Saudi money to terrorist organizations, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh called the U.S. efforts "a smear campaign" aimed at discrediting Saudi charitable societies.
"Our charities are supporting the poor and working for the good of humanity," he told a gala fund-raiser held at the Inter-Continental Hotel in Riyadh on Nov. 13, 2002. Organized by the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO), the World Assembly of Muslim Youth and al-Haramain Charitable Foundation - the very charities in Washington's gun sights for having supported Osama bin Laden - the event was hosted by Riyadh governor Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz, the same Saudi prince who oversaw fund-raising for the anti-Soviet (and anti-Western) jihad. Ali bin Abdullah al-Jerais, the director of IIRO's office in Riyadh, said his organization alone had "established 4,400 mosques and sponsored about 209,000 orphans in various parts of the world," Arab News reported. In addition, IIRO had "constructed 1,615 wells and published millions of copies of Islamic books and pamphlets."
The precision of al-Jerais' figures, while impossible to verify, are of interest. In parts of the world where access to clean water makes all the difference between health and the misery of chronic dysentery, these Saudi charities have built 2.7 mosques for every well - and at considerably greater expense. None of these Saudi government-financed institutions has made headlines for promoting interfaith dialogue. Instead, they preach hatred of the West, hatred of Christians, hatred of Jews and the subservience of women. Not incidentally, it was IIRO mosques and madrassas in Pakistan that spawned the Taliban in the early 1990s and formed the breeding ground for al-Qaeda supporters.
Compare the statements of the Saudi ulema - kill the Jews, kill the infidels - to the statements and fatwas issued by Osama bin Laden. "We knew that the Americans support the Jews in Palestine and that they are our enemies," he told British reporter Robert Fisk in 1996, explaining why his Afghan-Arabs never accepted U.S. assistance during the anti-Soviet war. "The present U.S. government is under the influence of Jews," he said one year later. "The U.S. secretaries of Defense and State are both Jews. Cooperation with United States is in fact, cooperation with the Jews." In the same interview, bin Laden explained that all Muslims needed to join his jihad because "the Ka'aba, facing which they say their prayers, is under the siege of Jews and Christians." On Aug. 20, 1998, just hours before the United States bombed an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan in retaliation for the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania three weeks earlier, bin Laden deputy Ayman al-Zawahri telephoned a Pakistani journalist to read a statement in English. "Osama bin Laden calls on all Muslims to continue jihad against Jews and Americans to liberate their holy places," he said. To justify the bombing of the French tanker Limburg on Oct. 6, 2002, off the coast of Yemen, al-Qaeda issued a statement bearing bin Laden's hand-written signature that called the oil tanker target "the umbilical cord of the Christians."
Given this extraordinary effort to spread hatred of Jews and the West by the government of Saudi Arabia, which continues today, it's not surprising that Osama Bin Laden and his followers have found it easy to build a clandestine network of dedicated terrorists that the U.S. intelligence community estimates is active in more than 60 countries around the world. All bin Laden had to do was tap into the official network of the government of Saudi Arabia, as he did during the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan, and recruit young men who had already been prepared mentally and spiritually to join his fight "against the Crusaders and the Jews."
It all comes full circle. From the very earliest ages, when it teaches hate to children, as Doaa 'Amer and the 3-year-old Basmallah illustrate on IQRAA TV, the Wahhabi system of hate is a well-oiled machine with far-reaching consequences. On Sept. 11, 2001, Osama bin Laden demonstrated forcefully that when it comes to hate, what begins with the Jews never ends with the Jews.
Kenneth R. Timmerman is a senior writer for Insight. This article is excerpted from his new book, Preachers of Hate: Islam and the War on America (Crown Publishing Group, $25.95, 384 pp). All rights reserved.
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From the author of the national best-seller, Shakedown!