Saudi Time Bomb?
haroun fazul
press reaction

Newsday (New York)  - Diane Werts

"The PBS series Frontline continues to be the most valuable source of news analysis on TV today. Tonight's report, 'The Saudi Time Bomb?' brings much needed clarity to a global issue so cloudy that it's currently raining fear and confusion on us all.

Terror in the name of Islamic fundamentalism. What on earth drives men to such appalling attacks as those of Sept. 11? And in the name of religion?

...[S]ome Saudi 'charities' have funded schools that sometimes stress scholarship less than they do a brand of extreme Islamic dogma spawned in the dominant Saudi sect of Wahhabi, which in the words of former United Nations ambassador Richard Holbrooke demands 'an intolerant, backward-looking society.'

Frontline provides an acute example in the Comoros Islands off east Africa. Correspondent Lowell Bergman traces the path of one Muslim youth who proceeds from island poverty to a Saudi-funded madrassa religious school in Pakistan to terror training in Afghanistan to -you don't want to know...

...The largest enabler of the new Islamic extremism is, ironically, the Saudi power structure that may be most threatened by it. Frontline explores the current regime's roots in an 18th century era of religious revivals that spawned political compromises that continue to this day To stem any faith-born threat to their 'stability,' political princes have ceded cultural control-education, public values-to religious leaders...

...In decades of self preservation Saudi rulers have learned to style themselves as protectors of 'pure' Islam. Now that tactic comes back to haunt them, and their allies-us. Frontline illuminates the intertwining of our two very different countries' economic and political interests, over billions of dollars flowing in both directions over billions of gallons of oil. Will our leaders, and theirs, heed the "wake-up call" of recent events to seek a deeper understanding of the region's complexities, to plot future strategy from cultural understanding as well as economic expediency? We didn't seem to get the message 20 years ago behind the Iranian revolution. This time, Frontline has done its best to give us the 411."

The New York Times - Leslie Camhi

"...[A] timely and informative documentary ... about Saudi Arabia, where the members of King Faisal's family, the House of Saud, have long maintained power. Two factors contributing to their extraordinary tenacity are their long-standing alliance with Wahhabism, the austere brand of Islam promoted as the official state religion, and their political radar, which is acutely attuned to the (generally conservative and religious) temper of the street...

...The documentary's limitations come with its territory. The Saudi government declined to allow its makers to travel there so they compensate with recent film and archival images. But the issues at the heart of today's crisis - the milieu that gave birth to the hijackers and the fluctuating mood of the street - remain obscure.

'Saudi Time Bomb?' comes closest to answering these questions when it ventures beyond Saudi Arabia, where the combination of Saudi wealth and Islam's emphasis on charity have led to an explosive growth of Wahhabi schools and mosques, from Islamabad to Culver City, Calif. In the remote Comoros Islands off the coast of Africa a local imam complains about his Saudi-financed rival; in the madrasahs, or religious schools, of northern Pakistan, boys learn to read and shoot..."

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