Just hours after Saudi journalist Khaled Batarfi sneered that the United States “overreacted” in closing its Saudi missions in the face of terror threats, terrorists exploded three bombs in Riyadh – killing as many as 40 people and wounding 100. Apparently most of the victims were children, since the bombs exploded late at night, which during Ramadan is a time for adults to stroll around and socialize while the little ones are home in bed.
This follows two days after two Islamic radicals blew themselves up to escape arrest by Saudi police – according to a Saudi spokesman, their plotting terrorist attacks “did not respect the sanctity of holy places and the month of Ramadan.”
It is not just in Saudi Arabia that radicals tend not to “respect” the sacred month. Speaking of the Muslim world in general, Dia’a Rashwan of Egypt’s Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies said Sunday: “For militant groups, Ramadan is an opportunity for escalating violence.” In Algeria, according to Islam Online, “armed groups usually declare the intensification of what they term ‘Jihad against Satan and his followers’ during the holy month of Ramadan.”
At first glance, this seems to be utterly inconsistent with the idea of Ramadan as a time of spiritual purification. But from the radical Muslim perspective, it’s entirely in keeping with it. Radicals see jihad not principally as an act of violence or an assertion of power (although those elements are essentially inseparable from it), but as a spiritual act, a holy cleansing of the world’s impurities. In this view, if there is ever a time to fight Satan in all his various manifestations on Earth – including Americans and Israelis – it is Ramadan.
This is the answer to the questions of why Saudi Arabia, and why during Ramadan. Everyone in the kingdom from King Fahd and Prince Abdullah on down know that, for years now, the groundwork has been laid for the explosions in Saudi Arabia last Saturday night.
Prince Alwaleed bin Talal declared last spring: “In this country, extremism has been given a voice and has not been subdued. If any person has doubts that we have extremists in Saudi Arabia, they ought to shut up now. There is very big extremism here, and extremism has shown its very ugly face by killing Arabs, Saudis, Americans and Westerners altogether. There has been too much tolerance of extremism.”
Says Saudi journalist Mansour Al-Nogaidan: “Even before Sept. 11, people inside Saudi Arabia were talking openly about jihad. But the authorities were in denial and did not deal seriously with the problem.”
Not only did they not deal with it, they let it proliferate at the highest levels. In a May 18 interview on Fox News with Tony Snow, the slick Saudi spokesman Adel Al-Jubeir downplayed the influence of Saudi extremist preachers: “Well, Tony, the thing to keep in mind is that a lot of these clerics are underground. A lot of these clerics issue their fatwas, which are really their opinions, on the Internet, and that gets bandied about.”
But Sheikh Mohsin Al-’Awaji was no underground Net geek. The former imam of the Great Mosque at King Saud University in Riyadh, he went on Al-Jazeera in 2002 to praise Osama bin Laden as “a man of honor, a man who abstains [from the pleasures] of this world, a brave man, and a man who believes in his principles and makes sacrifices [for them].” He added: “the Saudi people love every Jihad warrior, every fighter, and every man of honor, whether in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Kashmir or southern Sudan.”
Likewise, Sheikh Abd Al-’Aziz Qari wasn’t preaching in an underground cave, but in Medina, the second holiest city in the world for Muslims, when he said: “Two groups – the Jews and the Christians – are the main elements constituting the ‘Camp of Kufur’ [unbelief] and will continue to be its two foundations until Allah allows their downfall and annihilation at the end of days … The Jews are the objects of Allah’s [promised] wrath, while the Christians deviate from the path of righteousness … The Koran described the Jews as a nation cursed by Allah, a nation at which he was angry – some of whom he turned into apes and pigs.”
Children in Saudi Arabia are also taught to hate. According to a report by the Middle East Media Research Institute, “a textbook for 8th grade students explains why Jews and Christians were cursed by Allah and turned into apes and pigs. Quoting [the Quran's] Surat Al-Maida [Sura 5], Verse 60, the lesson explains that Jews and Christians have sinned by accepting polytheism and therefore incurred Allah’s wrath. To punish them, Allah has turned them into apes and pigs.”
Here in the United States, the Saudis distribute textbooks for Muslim schools that are filled with the vilest hate speech. According to a text financed by the foundation of Ibrahim Ben Abdul Aziz Al-Brahim, father-in-law of King Fahd, “Judaism and Christianity are deviant religions.” Consequently a Muslim must not befriend them: “Befriending the unbelievers, through loving and cooperating with them while knowing that they are unbelievers, makes those who are their friends the same as them.” Another text declares that “the unbelievers, idolaters, and others like them must be hated and despised.”
The king takes great pride in the work of the King Fahd Complex for Printing the Holy Quran in Medina, which between 1984 and 2000 printed over 23,000 copies of the Quran every day: 138 million copies of Islam’s holy book. But producing this proliferation of Qurans for his kingdom and the world at large has not flooded his nation with peace.
According to a chief justice of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh ‘Abdullah bin Muhammad bin Humaid, the Quran commands violence against nonbelievers. Describing stages in Quranic revelations, he explains: “At first ‘the fighting’ [that is, jihad] was forbidden, then it was permitted and after that it was made obligatory.” He also distinguishes two groups Muslims must fight: not only “against them who start ‘the fighting’ against you (Muslims),” but also “against all those who worship others along with Allah” – in other words, against Christians, Jews and pretty much everyone else.
How long can someone teach such things and expect no one to act upon them? Particularly during Ramadan, and precisely as a special act of devotion for the season. Sheikh ‘Abdullah bin Muhammad bin Humaid’s is not the voice of bellicosity or extremism. He is not one of the wild-eyed, ranting preachers that Adel Al-Jubeir assured us had been silenced months ago.
Right now the Saudi royal family is hemmed in on all sides. If they cast their lot decisively with the United States, al-Qaida and other radical elements will bring to an unhappy end their days of jetting to Gstaad for brunch. If they continue their more or less covert financial and ideological support for terror, and keep on propping up its Islamic theological foundations, they risk losing the support of the only force they may fear as much as they fear al-Qaida: the United States.
It’s understandable that they would dither while Riyadh burns, although on Sunday, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Britain, Prince Turki al-Faisal, denounced the “evil cult” behind the attacks, although he seemed unable to grasp the larger implications of the attack, saying that the bombers’ “sole aim is the destruction of the kingdom.” Nevertheless, he asked for international help: “This evil must be stopped. We call on all the people of the world to work with us in fighting this evil and ridding the international community of this plague.”
We have heard this kind of thing before, and little or nothing has changed. That’s just one reason why the Saturday attacks indicate that the House of Saud’s days are numbered, one way or the other. Months of bluster about cracking down on terrorism have availed little or nothing – they’re inexorably reaping what they have sown for so many years. Whatever greater horrors may follow will have been born in what they have helped bring to life.
They cannot and will not take the only step that can ultimately help bring to an end this cycle of violence: the explicit renunciation, in word and deed, of the theology of violent jihad. The renunciation, in word and deed, of the notion that the mass murder of children, under the banner of “jihad against Satan and his followers,” is a good way to please Allah during Ramadan.
That is also why they have placed themselves outside the civilized world, and made themselves the enemy of the forces of civilization. Now it is up to us to take up the challenge.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and the author of “Onward Muslim Soldiers: How Jihad Still Threatens America and the West” (Regnery Publishing), and “Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions About the World’s Fastest Growing Faith (Encounter Books).