Saudi Arabia is still having
problems with conservative clerics who preach in favor of Islamic terrorism.
The Interior Minister has spoken to the worst offenders, but not all of them
were persuaded to shape up or shut up. So the Interior Minister took it up a
level and assembled all the senior clerics, and told them that they were not
doing enough to fight Islamic terrorism. This terrorism not popular in Saudi Arabia, not since al
Qaeda attacks have killed 264 Saudis in the last four years.
While the Saudi leadership does not like to dwell
on it too much, their country is the place where most al Qaeda recruits come
from. The conservative form of Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia (Wahhabism)
forms the basis of al Qaeda ideology (that non-Moslems are scum and the everyone
must be persuaded or forced to become Moslem). Although the Saudi government
expelled most known al Qaeda members in the 1990s (and drove many other
underground), there are still many Islamic conservatives that support Islamic
terrorists directly, or indirectly via contributions to Islamic charities. What
has been most embarrassing has been the Saudis who continued to be identified
as suicide bombers. The U.S. strives to identify the dead bombers in Iraq, and
the Saudis help, if only to get the remains returned to their families for
proper burial. But then word got out that the sons of some prominent clerics
had gotten themselves killed as suicide bombers. The Saudi Interior Minister
was quite scathing about that about this when he chewed out the senior clergy.
While the Saudi royal family presides over a
kingdom of very conservative Moslems, their consensus is that Islam has to
change, to reform, if it is to survive. The Saudi royals have their own share
of bad apples (corrupt, decadent or religious fanatics), but the majority see
the problems that Islam faces (corruption, bad government, feeble economic and
scientific progress), and have backed efforts to change things. This includes
seemingly radical efforts, like the Arab Reform Movement, to more mundane ones,
like more education, and personal freedoms, for women.
From the founding of the kingdom 80 years ago, the
Sauds have been pushing the Wahhabis to loosen up. There's been a lot of
progress, but not enough to prevent the creation of al Qaeda (which got going
with a lot of help from Egyptian Islamic radicals). While the royal family
pushes for change, many Saudis are content to blame the West for all their
problems, and openly, or secretly, cheer on the Islamic terrorists.