Saudi Time Bomb?
haroun fazul
links & readings

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 interview with Ali al-Ahmed, Mai Yamani, and Hassan Youssef Yassin.)

arrow Can We Do Without Saudi Oil?

"If things continue as they have," writes Irwin M. Stelzer in The Weekly Standard, "we will increasingly be dependent on a shaky, despotic regime that uses the proceeds of its oil sales to support the gangs that aim to destroy us, and to educate its young to hate us, after skimming off enough to support its princes' penchant for yachts, women, and Johnny Walker Black Label. In a worse case, we will see our supplies controlled by a regime driven more by hatred than by greed."

arrow King's Ransom

In this report for The New Yorker, investigative journalist Seymour M. Hersh looks at the vulnerability of the Saudi royal family. "Since 1994 or earlier," he writes, "the National Security Agency has been collecting electronic intercepts of conversations between members of the Saudi Arabian royal family, which is headed by King Fahd. The intercepts depict a regime increasingly corrupt, alienated from the country's religious rank and file, and so weakened and frightened that it has brokered its future by channelling hundreds of millions of dollars in what amounts to protection money to fundamentalist groups that wish to overthrow it."

arrow The House of Bin Laden

In another New Yorker article, Jane Mayer examins the divided loyalties of Osama bin Laden's family, and of Saudi Arabia itself. "As President Bush demands that the countries of the world choose sides, and declare whether they are with the United States or with Osama bin Laden, for some members of the bin Laden family -- and for many other conflicted Saudis, too -- the situation is so complex that they would have to respond 'Both.'"

arrow Understanding Political Dissent in Saudi Arabia

"Portrayals of internal politics as contests between US-allied 'moderates' and puritanical 'Wahhabis' are grossly oversimplified. So too is a menu that offers two stark choices: an absolute monarchy tilting toward the West or a revolutionary Islamist regime hostile to the West. Internal contests and choices are more complex than that. They stem from three profound political crises to which the ruling family must respond: a convergence of dissent on core grievances, a multiplicity of clergies and socio-economic distress." An analysis by political scientist Gwenn Okruhlik for the Middle East Research and Information Project.

arrow Reflections from a Saudi Prince

"Former intelligence chief Turki al Faisal says ties with America remain strong, despite much misunderstanding about his country." An interview from Business Week Online.

arrow Bin Laden and His Followers Adhere to an Austere, Stringent Form of Islam

An article from The New York Times (Oct. 7, 2001) outlining how the faith that drives Osama bin Laden and his followers is a particularly austere and conservative brand of Islam known as Wahhabism, which was instrumental in creating the Saudi monarchy, and, if sufficiently alienated, could tear it down.

arrow War Against Terror Tests Fragile Relations With U.S.

Another New York Times article (from Sept. 15, 2001) on how Saudi Arabia's track record in previous terrorism investigations has been one of keeping its distance from the United States.

arrow Saudi Friends, Saudi Foes

An article from the Oct. 8, 2001, issue of The Weekly Standard suggests that to understand Saudi influence within the Muslim world today one must look at Wahhabism, the fundamentalist strain of Islam that is "the state-sanctioned doctrine" of Saudi Arabia, and argues that "powerful elements in Saudi society have supported Osama bin Laden throughout his campaign of terror, just as they support the Taliban."

arrow Double-edged Sword

A Sept. 27, 2001, commentary from The Economist argues that "the Saudi royal family has long exploited religion to bolster its standing." This in turn "has helped breed the very sort of religious extremism that inspired the terrorist attacks on America and is now threatening the kingdom's own stability." (Click here for more coverage of Saudi Arabia from The Economist.)

arrow Royal Mess

In this 1994 article from The New Yorker, authors Leslie and Andrew Cockburn report on opposition within Saudi Arabia from groups critical of the government and the Saudi royal family.

arrow Saudi Arabia: Post-War Issues and U.S. Relations

This April 2001 issue brief for Congress, prepared by the Congressional Research Service, is a timely and in-depth primer on U.S.-Saudi relations. In addition to information on Saudi Arabia's positions regarding Iraq and the Arab-Israeli conflict, the brief details recent U.S. arms shipments to Saudi Arabia and the two countries' trade relationship.

arrow Saudi Arabia: A Secret State of Suffering

Amnesty International's March 2000 report on the status of human rights in Saudi Arabia. "Every day the most fundamental human rights of people living in Saudi Arabia are violated, yet rarely is this fact publicized. The Saudi Arabian government spares no effort to keep its appalling human rights record a secret, and other governments have shown themselves more than willing to help maintain the secrecy."

arrow Saudi Arabia: One Hundred Years Later (PDF)

In April 1999, the Georgetown University Center for Contemporary Arab Studies convened a conference on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the modern Saudi Arabian state. In discussing Saudi Arabia's history, much is made of the fact that it is the only country in the region that was able to reject direct colonization and, thus, it "exists as a result of an indigenous process of state building that yielded a unique form of government."

arrow Saudi Arabia Enters the 21st Century

A new project of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., examines the economic, political, and military trends affecting the future of Saudi Arabia and the stability of the Persian Gulf region. Of particular interest is a draft report on "Islam Extremism in Saudi Arabia and the Attack on Al Khobar" available in PDF format.

home · introduction · interviews · analyses · haroun fazul · chronology
discussion · links & readings · reporting from the new york times
tapes & transcripts · press reaction · credits · privacy policy · FRONTLINE · pbs online · wgbh

photo copyright © afp/corbis
web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation