Saudi Time Bomb?
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analyses: Excerpts from FRONTLINE's interviews on some of the main themes explored in Saudi Time Bomb?

arrow U.S.-Saudi Relations

Does militant Islamic fundamentalism threaten the stability of both Saudi Arabia and the entire region? Can the U.S. still count on one of its most important allies in the Arab world? Here are excerpts from FRONTLINE's interviews with Brent Scowcroft, former U.S. national security adviser; Vali Nasr, an authority on Islamic fundamentalism; James Baker, former U.S. secretary of state; and Prince Bandar bin Sultan, Saudi ambassador to the U.S. They discuss the challenges confronting U.S.-Saudi relations.

arrow wahhabism

For more than two centuries, Wahhabism has been Saudi Arabia's dominant faith. It is an austere form of Islam that insists on a literal interpretation of the Koran. Strict Wahhabis believe that all those who don't practice their form of Islam are heathens and enemies. Critics say that Wahhabism's rigidity has led it to misinterpret and distort Islam, pointing to extremists such as Osama bin Laden and the Taliban. Wahhabism's explosive growth began in the 1970s when Saudi charities started funding Wahhabi schools (madrassas) and mosques from Islamabad to Culver City, California. Here are excerpts from FRONTLINE's interviews with Mai Yamani, an anthropologist who studies Saudi society; Vali Nasr, an authority on Islamic fundamentalism; Maher Hathout, spokesperson for the Islamic Center of Southern California; and Ahmed Ali, a Shi'a Muslim from Saudi Arabia. (Also see the Links and Readings section of this site for more analyses of Wahhabism and Saudi Arabia.)

arrow Saudi Religious Education -- Extracts from Ministry of Education textbooks used by  9th-10th graders in Saudi Arabia.

Here are two extracts from Ministry of Education textbooks used by middle school students in Saudi Arabia. The books were published in 2000. The first extract, "The Victory of Muslims Over Jews," is from the prophet Mohammed's sayings, HADITHS. The second extract is from EXPLANATIONS [of the Koran]. It also deals with Muslims and Jews and presents an interpretation of part of a Sura from the Koran, which says "murder" is a form of punishment for those who acted in opposition to Allah. (For more on Saudi religious education, see FRONTLINE's interviews with Ali al-Ahmed and Mai Yamani and Hassan Youssef Yassin.)

arrow madrassas

A madrassa is an Islamic religious school. Many of the Taliban were educated in Saudi-financed madrassas in Pakistan that teach Wahhabism, a particularly austere and rigid form of Islam that comes from Saudi Arabia. Around the world, Saudi wealth and charities contributed to an explosive growth of madrassas during the Afghan jihad against the Soviets. During that war (1979-1989), a new kind of madrassa emerged in the Pakistan-Afghanistan region -- not so much concerned about scholarship as making war on infidels. The enemy then was the Soviet Union, today it's America. Here are analyses of the madrassas from interviews with Vali Nasr, an authority on Islamic fundamentalism, and Richard Holbrooke, former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. (For more on the role of madrassas in producing militant Islamists, see the story of Haroun Fazul.)


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