Not much joy at a Saudi Christmas

December 24, 2002

* Saudi government daily praises Passover and Jerusalem supermarket suicide bombers

 

CONTENTS

1. Just buying a Christmas card requires a whispered journey
2. A mistake to leave Saudi Arabia off the axis of evil
3. "A Saudi Christmas is a secret affair" (AP, Dec. 22, 2002)
4. "Saudi interior minister says Jews were behind Sept. 11 attacks" (AP, Dec. 5, 2002)
5. "Time to face Mecca" (By Tom Gross, National Review, Feb. 8, 2002)
6. "Saudi government-controlled daily Al-Jazirah praises Passover and Jerusalem supermarket suicide bombers" (Memri, April 1, 2002)


JUST BUYING A CHRISTMAS CARD REQUIRES A WHISPERED JOURNEY

[Note by Tom Gross]

I attach four articles about Saudi Arabia, with summaries first for those who don’t have time to read them in full:

1. "A Saudi Christmas is a secret affair" (AP, Dec. 22, 2002). "Expatriate workers hold discrete holiday parties within walled compounds, out of sight of the government's religious police... It is not that way everywhere in the Middle East... But in Riyadh, the mere mention of Christmas leads many expatriates to lower their voices and fidget, fearful of unwanted attention or risking their jobs. Just buying a Christmas card requires a whispered journey into a greeting card underworld ... The ever-vigilant religious police have been known to haul shopkeepers away to be questioned about where they got such materials..."

2. "Saudi interior minister says Jews were behind Sept. 11 attacks" (AP, Dec. 5, 2002). The Saudi Interior minister, Prince Nayef, one of the most powerful members of the Saudi regime, has claimed Jews were behind the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington. In an interview with the Arabic-language Kuwaiti daily Assyasah he used the word "Jews". Ain al-Yaqeen, a weekly English-language Internet magazine which translated the interview, changed the word "Jews" to "Zionists". Although this news item appeared earlier this month, and Prince Nayef has confirmed that these were his words, I am sending it out now because several influential newspapers that continue to apologize for and pander to Saudi interests, such as the New York Times, continue to all but ignore these comments, fearful of portraying the Saudi regime in a bad light. Please note that Prince Nayef is the man Crown Prince Abdullah put in charge of the Saudi investigations into the Sept. 11 attacks.

A MISTAKE TO LEAVE SAUDI ARABIA OFF THE AXIS OF EVIL

3. "Time to face Mecca" (By Tom Gross, The National Review, Feb. 8, 2002). This is an article I wrote at the beginning of the year and sent out on this list on Feb. 8, a few days after President Bush made his somewhat controversial "axis of evil" speech. I argued that as far as encouraging and financing worldwide terror is concerned, Bush had left the most important country off his list: Saudi Arabia. "When it comes to inciting Islamic extremism, too, the Saudi record is in many respects worse than Iraq or Iran. It is no accident that the Saudis enjoyed warm relations with the Taliban long after Teheran broke ties... As is the case with the Palestinian Authority, reports about the true extent of the awfulness of the Saudi regime are largely ignored in the western media, creating a dangerously misleading impression. Last week, for example, the New York Times sub-headlined its news interview with Crown Prince Abdullah, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, 'Dispensing wisdom, receiving praise.' it is the Saudis, not the Iraqis, who one way or another leave their fingerprints on virtually every major development among Muslim terrorists."

Following a host of further recent revelations about how the Saudis more than any other regime are today the main sponsors of worldwide terrorism, from the Philippines to Los Angeles, at least five other writers in the U.S. media have in the last month also argued that the Saudi regime is an integral part of any "axis of evil". I am sending this piece again as the number of recipients of this list has trebled since February.

4. "Saudi government-controlled daily Al-Jazirah praises Passover and Jerusalem supermarket suicide bombers" (Memri, April 1, 2002). (This item was originally sent on this list on April 8, 2002.)

-- Tom Gross



FULL ARTICLES

CHRISTMAS IS MOSTLY HIDDEN IN THIS DESERT KINGDOM

A Saudi Christmas is a secret affair
By Susan Sevareid
The Associated Press
December 22, 2002

Past the stuffed animals and congratulatory baby baskets, sprigs of plastic evergreens are tucked in among the silk flowers. The rows of ribbon include a few spools of reds, golds and greens, and two half-empty boxes of blown-glass Christmas tree ornaments sit partly obscured on a nearby shelf.

As evinced by the atmosphere in this Riyadh gift shop, Christmas is mostly hidden in this desert kingdom, where Islam is the only accepted religion.

Expatriate workers hold discrete holiday parties within walled compounds, out of sight of the government's religious police, who guard against offenses to the faith. For many other foreigners, the anniversary of Christ's birth is a private day of reflection.

"I only pray in my room," said a Roman Catholic laborer from Sri Lanka, noting there is little else to do to celebrate Christmas.

Some embassies, he said, organize gatherings for their citizens during the holiday season, but generally not on Christmas Day to avoid offending Saudi sensibilities.

Saudi Arabia, as the birthplace of Islam, is charged with protecting the faith's holiest shrines at Mecca and Medina, and differing beliefs, like new ideas, are carefully guarded against as threats to the culture, traditions and official religion.

Churches are not permitted – "freedom of religion does not exist," a recent State Department report said about Saudi Arabia – though some expatriates gather privately throughout the year for religious services.

It is not that way everywhere in the Middle East. In the neighboring Persian Gulf state of Bahrain, luxury hotels are decorated with brightly lit trees and poinsettias, and signs advertise Christmas meals. At the Holiday Inn, strains of "Silver Bells" and "White Christmas" waft through the lobby.

Christmas trees are sold in the Yemeni capital of San'a and in expatriate neighborhoods of Cairo. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak declared last week that Jan. 7 – when the country's minority Orthodox Coptic Christians celebrate Christmas – was a holiday for all Egyptians.

But in Riyadh, the mere mention of Christmas leads many expatriates to lower their voices and fidget, fearful of unwanted attention or risking their jobs. Just buying a Christmas card requires a whispered journey into a greeting card underworld.

At the Riyadh gift shop where a few festive decorations were tucked in among other goods, a Filipino employee shakes his head when asked about Christmas cards. But he gives directions to another shop, advising an inquirer to look for the Filipino manager.

"He'll give you one in secret ... secret because it's 'haram' here, you know," he says, using the Arabic word for "forbidden" known to anyone who has run afoul of conservative Islamic social norms.

At another card shop, an Indian employee reaches beneath the counter to pull out a half-dozen religious and secular Christmas cards, his eyes darting around his empty shop and out the window.

There would be trouble if caught: "They ask where you got them," he says. The ever-vigilant religious police have confiscated cards in the past, he said, and have even been known to haul shopkeepers away to be questioned about where they got such materials.

Clearly relieved once he is able to tuck the purchases into a paper bag and staple it shut, he points to a less offensive "Seasons Greetings" card, discreetly visible beside the cash register.

At $1.35, they're half the price of the Christmas cards, and half the risk.

 

“WE KNOW THE JEWS HAVE MANIPULATED THE SEPT. 11 ATTACKS”

Saudi interior minister says Jews were behind Sept. 11 attacks
By Alaa Shahine
The Associated Press
December 5, 2002

The Saudi Interior minister has claimed Jews were behind the Sept. 11 attacks because they have benefited from subsequent criticism of Islam and Arabs, according to media reports.

Interior Minister Prince Nayef made the remarks in the Arabic-language Kuwaiti daily Assyasah last month. The latest edition of Ain al-Yaqeen, a weekly Internet magazine devoted to Saudi issues, posted the Assyasah interview and its own English translation.

"We know that the Jews have manipulated the Sept. 11 incidents and turned American public opinion against Arabs and Muslims," Prince Nayef was quoted as saying in the Arabic text, while Ain al Yaqeen's English version referred to "Zionists" instead of "Jews."

"We still ask ourselves: Who has benefited from Sept. 11 attacks? I think they (the Jews) were the protagonists of such attacks," Nayef was quoted as saying. Nayef's spokesman, Saud al-Musaibeeh, did not respond to repeated requests for confirmation the minister had been quoted accurately.

The Internet magazine's English translation of the comments began to attract attention in the United States just as the Saudis launched a new public relations campaign to address accusations the kingdom is soft on terrorism and inculcates extremist thought among its citizens.

"The Saudis are telling us that they are an ally in the war on terror while their top government officials are still blaming ... the Jews and denying that 15 Saudis took part in the attacks on New York and the Pentagon," Rep. Eliot Engel, a New York Democrat, said in Washington earlier this week.

"The Bush administration continually defends Saudi Arabia as a friend of the United States and a committed partner in the war on terror," Engel said. "Does this Saudi minister sound like a partner in the war on terror?"

Sen. Charles Schumer, also a New York Democrat, wrote this week in a letter to the Saudi ambassador to the United States that "the interior minister's comments only serve to confirm American suspicions about the Saudi government's commitment to the war on terror."

Nayef's remarks echoed rumors that have been heard in the Arab world since the attacks – but this time they are attributed to the man in charge of Saudi investigations into the attacks.

The Saudi minister was quoted in the interview as saying his kingdom is currently detaining some 100 terror suspects for interrogation. He added that the suspects "will either apologize for their mistakes and change their course or will be referred to trial."

The United States has blamed the Sept. 11 attacks on al-Qaida terror network, whose chief, Osama bin Laden, was stripped of his Saudi citizenship in 1994. It took Saudi Arabia five months after the attacks to acknowledge that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis. The Gulf kingdom, a close U.S. ally, has never officially held al-Qaida responsible for the attacks and usually refers to the hijackers as people "enticed and deluded" into committing their crimes.

Several statements attributed to bin Laden aired by the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera television claimed responsibility for the attacks. A statement attributed to al-Qaida's "political bureau" that appeared Monday on an Islamic web site listed the Sept. 11 attacks as among the successful operations carried out by the terrorist group against the United States.

In the interview, Nayef said he could not believe that bin Laden and his network, including Saudi participants, worked alone.

He was quoted as saying he believed terrorist networks have links to "foreign intelligence agencies that work against Arab and Muslim interests, chief among them is the Israeli Mossad."

 

THE SAUDIS AID TERRORISM BOTH DIRECTLY AND INDIRECTLY

Time to face Mecca
By Tom Gross
The National Review
February 8, 2002

www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment-gross020802.shtml

In his State of the Union address last week, President Bush indicated where his war on terror is heading. Iraq, Iran and North Korea "and their terrorist allies constitute an axis of evil," he declared. Bush received considerable praise from the pundits. Charles Krauthammer, for example, congratulated him on an "astonishingly bold address" which was "about preventing the next Sept. 11." The prime target, it was generally agreed, would be Iraq.

Yet, it has been clear since Sept. 11 – and actually since well before then – that if America wants to prevent a major terrorist onslaught there is one government above all others that must be reformed or replaced. And it is not that of Saddam, but the House of Saud.

The Saudi regime – not merely its exiled son, Osama Bin laden – bears a major share of the responsibility for international terrorism. Further acts of terror against Americans of the kind seen in Africa, Yemen, New York and Washington, will likely follow unless some serious pressure is placed on Riyadh, both to stop sponsoring Islamic extremists, and to allow moderates some significant role in government.

The Saudis aid terrorism both directly and indirectly. On the direct level, they fund (at government and at private levels) Islamic terrorist groups throughout the world. For example, evidence uncovered in Afghanistan by British and American intelligence officers clearly implicates a number of leading Saudis, some of them members of the royal family, in the funding of al-Qaeda.

The Saudi government is also the chief financial backer of the Palestinian terror group Hamas. It was members of Hamas who taught shoe bomber Richard Reid, who attempted to blow up an American Airlines jet, how to dry the explosive triacetone triperoxide, and mold it into shoes and belts. He received this instruction when he visited Gaza last June.

In addition to providing support for terrorist groups, the Saudis have helped to shape those groups' ideology by exporting an extreme form of Islamist philosophy.

The Saudis are also responsible for terror on an indirect level. By refusing to permit any opposition to the regime other than that of the extremist imams, who support Bin Ladenism, they have virtually forced young Saudis who want to express their opposition to the ruling family's brutal, corrupt ways into the arms of those imams. The result – al Qaeda – merely mirrors their own lack of respect for life and humanity.

These extremists will eventually overthrow the regime if it doesn’t reform. Signs of dissent are growing. Just before Christmas, for example, 1,000 young men were reported to have rioted in Jeddah.

The Saudi regime regularly dishonors the moderate Islamic tradition with its beheadings, amputations and floggings. Its appalling treatment of women (the religious police patrol the streets with electric camel prods looking for women exposing a little too much under their chadors), the vile anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial that permeate the state-controlled media, and the general lack of tolerance for Christians and Jews – in all these respects, the Saudis are worse than Iran and Iraq.

When it comes to inciting Islamic extremism, too, the Saudi record is in many respects worse than Iraq or Iran. It is no accident that the Saudis enjoyed warm relations with the Taliban long after Teheran broke ties. As Abdullah Al Refaie, editor-in-chief, of the Saudi paper Al Muslimoon, put it: "The Iranian claim that the Taliban have discredited Islam is simply not true. The Taliban, in fact, have a good record of behaving as faithful and moderate Muslims."

The Saudi regime's brutal record of torture is ignored by the West – even when Britons, Belgians, and Canadians are the victims, as was the case last year. As the British media revealed last month, during a 67-day period of torture, Saudi police hung from the ceiling a middle-aged British man who was being held on trumped-up charges, beat him with a pickaxe handle, and threatened to have his wife repeatedly gang-raped until he confessed.

And yet the Saudi government is often described by American media and politicians as "moderate" and "our partners," and is subject to much flattery from American and British halls of government. As is the case with the Palestinian Authority, reports about the true extent of the awfulness of the Saudi regime are largely ignored in the western media, creating a dangerously misleading impression. Last week, for example, the New York Times sub-headlined its news interview with Crown Prince Abdullah, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, "Dispensing wisdom, receiving praise."

Western governments have spent far too long propping up the regime in Riyadh, as they have the one in Gaza, on the principle that the alternative would be worse. But in fact there are plenty of moderate voices, among both the Saudis and the Palestinians, who are desperate to find Western support but are too terrified to speak out against their native regimes.

To say that the Saudis have been less than fully cooperative in the war on terrorism would be an understatement. The lack of meaningful criticism or rebuke from the US to Riyadh for the fact that 15 of the 19 suicide hijackers were Saudis (and at least one entered the US on a Saudi diplomatic passport) – a fact that the Saudis only acknowledged this week – that over 100 of the 158 detainees being held in US custody at Guantanamo Bay are Saudis, that 240 of the 250 al-Qaeda prisoners Pakistan is holding are Saudis – this is surely one of the main reasons why the Saudi ruling class are continuing to fund al Qaeda and other Islamic terror groups.

Citing Western intelligence sources, Turkish, German and British newspapers all last month reported that Saudi intelligence is currently financing the relocation of thousands of Al Qaeda insurgents to Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza. The German daily Die Welt reported last Wednesday that Saudi officials have helped place many of them in the Ein Hilwe Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, and plan to finance their relocation to territory controlled by Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority. (Not unrelated, Die Welt also reported that it was Saudi intelligence that paid Iran $10 million to buy the weapons for the Palestinian Authority that were captured by Israel in the Red Sea on January 3.)

Indeed it is the Saudis, not the Iraqis, who one way or another leave their fingerprints on virtually every major development among Muslim terrorists. Take, for example, the recent use of women suicide bombers against Israeli civilians. The Islamic authorities in Gaza have so far ordered only men, not women, to blow up Israeli teenagers. The Palestinians behind these recent female attacks (only one of which was "successful") cite as their inspiration last August's fatwa issued by the Saudi High Islamic Council exhorting women to become suicide bombers.

Even with the Taliban's collapse, the ideological justification for the September 11 attacks (and of similar future acts) continues among Saudis. For example, Saudi Sheikh Safar Abd Al-Rahman Al-Hawali, as quoted in Al-Hayat, a London-based Arabic daily, on January 13, 2002, said: "Since when is the Pentagon 'innocent'? The famous American intellectual Gore Vidal himself called it 'Hell and a nest of Satans'... [It is] a den of spies and a Mafia nest." He went on to describe the World Trade Center as "the center of usury and money laundering."

And here is Sheikh Ali bin Khdheir (a Yemenite who is funded from Saudi sources), again speaking after Sept. 11: "It is permissible to kill the combatants among them, as well as those who are non-combatants, for example the aged man, the blind man, and the dhimmi, as the clerics agree."

Former CIA Director James Woolsey is virtually alone among American officials in stating what should be obvious to everybody: Saudi Arabia, he said last month, "deserves a very large part of the blame for Sept. 11."

It is constantly argued that if the Saudi monarchy were to fall, the successor regime would merely be more extreme and anti-Western. Such thinking also led Bush Sr. to try and keep the Soviet regime in power in the dying days of communism. Yet there are moderate Saudis. Some come from within the regime, such as King Fahd's half-brother, Prince Talal, now 73, who spent many years in exile for trying to persuade his fellow royals to shed their despotic ways, and only last week renewed his call for the modernization of Saudi institutions.

Others are from the middle classes, such as Dr. Sahr Muhammad Hatem of Riyadh. Unable to voice her criticism inside the country, she wrote a letter to a London-based Arabic newspaper on December 12, 2001. Under the title "Our Culture of Demagogy Has Engendered bin Laden, Al-Zawahiri, and Their Ilk," she wrote: "The mentality of each one of us was programmed upon entering school as a child, [to believe] that ... anyone who is not a Muslim is our enemy, and that the West means enfeeblement, licentiousness, lack of values, and even Jahiliya [a term used to describe the backward pre-Islamic era] itself. Anyone who escapes this programming in school encounters it at the mosque, or through the media or from the preachers lurking in every corner."

Dr Hatem has received much praise from other Saudis. In the future, is the US going to support those who agree with her, or is it going to continue to prop up the unsavory regime that continues to govern Riyadh? The regime can be pressured. It needs to sell oil more than the US needs to buy it. Nor is it just oil that they send abroad. They also export hate – the hatred of America.

 

SAUDI DAILY PRAISES PASSOVER & JERUSALEM SUICIDE BOMBERS

Saudi government-controlled daily praises Passover and Jerusalem supermarket suicide bombers
Al-Jazirah (Saudi Arabia)
Memri
April 1, 2002

In an article for the Saudi government-controlled daily Al-Jazirah, columnist Dr. Khalil Ibrahim Al-Sa'adat applauded the actions of 'Abd Al-Baset 'Oudeh, the Palestinian who detonated himself at a Passover 'Seder' in a Netanya hotel, and Ayat Al-Akhras, who carried out a suicide attack in a Jerusalem supermarket. Following are excerpts from the article:

PRAISING THE PASSOVER BOMBER

"May Allah have mercy upon you, oh 'Abd Al-Baset 'Oudeh, mujaheed and martyr, the quiet hero who infiltrated so elegantly and spoke so gaily. You defended your religion, your homeland, and your people. You attached no importance to [any] Arab summit; you did not wait for international agreements; you did not follow television interviews; you did not pause because of dead Arab and international reactions that neither help nor hinder."

"Courageously, full of willingness to [wage] Jihad, and with faith filling your heart, you executed your assignment and sacrificed your pure soul for your religion and your homeland. The Israeli tanks did not strike you with dread; the Israeli military, armed to the teeth with all types of modern weaponry, did not move a hair on your head; the prime minister of this aggressive state that occupies your land and your homeland did not frighten you; Israeli intelligence, experts in terrorist espionage and treacherous collaboration, did not expose you."

"You could not stand the killing, the destruction, and the exile carried out by the Zionist army...You knew that the Zionists do not honor treaties, promises, and agreements, and understand only the language of resistance and Jihad."

"You rose up like the rest of your mujahideen brothers, took matters into your own hands, and did not wait for Arab or international help that might never arrive, and if it did would be no more than words of condemnation and demand."

"May Allah have mercy on you, oh beloved of the Arab nation, oh 'Abd Al-Baset. You evoked hope that had begun to dissipate; you restored life that had begun to expire; you revived the Arab pride, valor, chivalry, and sacrifice that had begun to die, and you caused pain to [the people] who had begun to celebrate and sing atop the bodies of the children, youths, and mothers of your people."

"You entered silently, with the faith and confidence with which Allah inspired you. Despite all the obstacles, fortifications, and security measures, you reached [the appointed place], sat down at one of the tables, talked, told a few jokes, and laughed with them, and then Allah decreed for you a martyr's death. What heroism, courage, and strength – almost unmatched on the face of the earth!"

PRAISING THE SUPERMARKET BOMBER

"May Allah have mercy on you, oh Ayat Al-Akhras. You left your home for the path of martyrdom and Paradise. Your family knew not where you were headed, and knew not that you had chosen the way of martyrdom. There was nothing to stop you ... You proceeded with a determination, will, and strength rarely found, even impossible to find, in a 16-year-old girl..."

"You sought not the counsel of the American, French, or Russian governments; you sought not a green or red light from them; rather, you knew that the hand of Allah is supreme, that soul-sacrifice is the highest form of Jihad, and that he who sacrifices reaches the highest level of Paradise. You were not tempted by and did not rejoice in the life of this world, oh beloved of the Arab nations of 16 springs [i.e. 16 years]. Marriage was before you; you were a girl engaged and looking forward to finishing your studies in order to wed – except you chose Allah, Paradise, and martyrdom. You taught the Arab nation a lesson almost never taught in the schools and universities, and you breathed your last [breath] and evoked [in us] sensations that had begun to disappear..."

"You raised our heads high and told the oppressing world, biased towards Zionism, that a young girl had infiltrated [into] Israeli society despite the tight security closure, and had profoundly shaken it without tank, missile, or rifle – [merely] with her small, pure soul. You say to us, 'Despair not; it is simpler than you think. Be filled with faith in Allah, with a quest for Jihad and martyrdom.'"

"May Allah have mercy on you, oh 'Abd Al-Baset, Ayat, and all the male and female mujahideen. We ask Allah that the angels welcome you as righteous martyrs, and beseech Allah to give you the highest level of Paradise."


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.