Saudi Minister Denounces Muslim Fundamentalists (!)
Saudi Interior Minister Naef bin Abdul Aziz has denied in an interview with a Kuwaiti newspaper that there are al-Qaeda sleeper cells in Saudi Arabia. He said there might be individuals under suspicion of having terrorist links. He said Islam requires social order, and lamented that some young radicals had had their brains washed such that they had appointed themselves Muslim ‘jurists’ and issued rulings (fatwas) to the contrary, which were not reflective of true Islam.
He complained bitterly that hardline Muslim clerics and thinkers supported Iraq in its aggression on Kuwait in 1990, including Hasan al-Turabi of Sudan, Rachid Ghanouchi of Tunisia, Abdul Rahman Khalifa, Abdul Majid Zindani (of Yemen’s Islah Party), and Islamist Necmettin Erbakan of Turkey. He said they came to Riyadh for consultations, then went off to Baghdad and supported Saddam. Remarkably, he condemned the Muslim Brotherhood (of Egypt) for all its mistakes, and for producing offshoots like Excommunication and Holy Flight, which considers any Muslim less radical than itself an infidel and orders him divorced from his wife.
Since Saudi Arabia has secretly given the Muslim Brotherhood a great deal of monetary and other support over the years, and has helped radicalize Islamists through the influence of its own puritan “Wahhabi” sect, this diatribe against the major Islamist thinkers and against the Muslim Brotherhood on the part of a Saudi Interior Minister strikes me as quite remarkable.
Has the Saudi royal family finally decided that fomenting hardline Islam throughout the world is a bad idea? Are they worried for their own security in the wake of 9/11? Or does this diatribe have something to do with the pressure the neoconservatives in Washington are putting on the Saudis? Since the Saudi state began openly supporting the Palestinians, and since its leaders balked at helping in a US war against Iraq, the kingdom has been the victim of a strident smear campaign in Washington and in the press. Its enemies have even gone so far as to attempt to implicate Princess Haifa, the wife of Saudi Ambassador to the US, Bandar Bin Sultan, in having giving money that ended up in the hands of al-Qaeda (actually she just bestowed charity on a poor Jordanian woman with 6 kids, whose husband was in the San Diego circle of Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdar, 2 of the 9/11 hijackers; this is mere guilt by distant association).
Was Prince Naef’s interview a response to all this? And, how sincere could it all possibly be?