Linking Saudi Arabia with Terrorism

The Anti-Saudi Media Campaign

During his latest meeting with university directors, professors, and writers and editors in chief of the various media outlets in Saudi Arabia, Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah ibn Abd al-Aziz brought up the malicious media campaign that Saudi Arabia has been subjected to in the American and European media. In choosing the members of these two important institutions in society—universities and the press—he expounded upon the important responsibility that intellectual, cultural, and media experts must bear in responding to and countering this media war against Saudi Arabia. And he added that any complete discussion in the face of this media blitzkrieg that has befallen the kingdom should include pinpointing the sources and causes of the media campaign in an effort to draw attention to how they were brought together.

We need to know what exactly they are claiming about the kingdom in their spurious media campaign. And why does this campaign comprise absurd slanders and incorrect accusations? And finally, how is it possible to face this campaign and counter it? We should mention the two most prominent absurdities of this media campaign and elucidate the sophistry inherent in them. Those who see inaccuracies in the media’s claims are not only Saudi and Arab writers, but also official sources in America and Europe, as well as some academics and journalists in the Western media. Indeed, an American official said, “I don’t know where all these incorrect accusations have come from, as the information we have about Saudi Arabia is the complete opposite of what is being said.”

What are the components of the media campaign against the kingdom? This campaign outlines three points, with which its proponents try to link Saudi Arabia indirectly to extremism and terrorism. The first point takes the form of a critique of the cooperation of the kingdom with the international coalition to combat terrorism, led by the United States. The media claim the kingdom has denied or hindered the transfer of information that could possibly help in the war on terrorism.

As for the second point, some of the proponents of the idea laid out in the first point try to link “Wahhabism” [the Saudi-based Islamic movement whose members describe themselves as Muwahhidun or “Unitarians”—WPR] with religious fanaticism and intolerance. Not all Muslims are extremists, their argument follows, but all Muslim extremists are Wahhabis. And from this extremism flows terrorism. This is a direct attack on the kingdom, which is proud of its strong devotion to the foundations of the reform movement of Sheik Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab.

“These idiots,” a British professor specializing in Islamic studies said to me, “are writing about Wahhabism while they are ignorant of it.” Likewise, an American professor said to me, “If I were to give any of these writers only two basic questions about Wahhabism they wouldn’t know what to answer.” This is indeed a new and sad phenomenon, which has occurred, incidentally, in the American press.

As for the third point, which supposedly ties the kingdom to extremism and terrorism, it is a fact that some of the principle actors in the events of Sept. 11 in the United States were Saudi. Yet how can they propose this illogical link and disregard the long position of the kingdom in fighting terrorism and in taking on intellectual, political, and economic policies that attempt to alleviate this situation? The fact of the matter is that any fair person can agree that extremism and terrorism have cropped up in Saudi Arabia just as in other nations. Yet those who today are pointing their fingers at Saudi Arabia are biased and striving to extract revenge from the kingdom and “settle accounts” at the same time.

So then why this media campaign against Saudi Arabia? If it is based on false accusations and pretenses, then it is important that we ponder the reasons behind it. When we examine the names and reputations of the principle writers and news organizations that have constructed this campaign, we are able to distinguish two principle reasons.

First, there is no doubt that some pro-Zionist pens have taken up a stance against the kingdom since the 1970s. This is due in part to the success of Saudi Arabia’s opposition to normalization [of political relations] with Israel, which was due to its position in the Arab and Islamic world and its ability to rally Arabs and Muslims. Also, the kingdom shouldered a leading responsibility in granting material, spiritual, and political support to the Palestinian Intifada, and the struggle of the Palestinian people in general.

Furthermore, because of the kingdom’s strategic relations with America and Europe, it enjoys a strong influence in these nations, which has put Saudi Arabia in a position to influence American policy and realize some gains in the interests of the Palestinians. Thus there is no doubt that the stance of the kingdom in support of the Palestinian cause has enraged a lot of pro-Zionist pens that were unable in the past to levy attacks on Saudi Arabia in such a strong and direct manner.

The second reason for this media campaign is related to secularizing forces in America and Europe. The groups behind these forces oppose any conservative religious systems. I assume such secularist groups were in the mind of Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah when he said that the media campaign is a product of a deep-seated malice toward the Islamic faith. Indeed, the proponents of this anti-religious philosophy had wagered on the failure of the Saudi religio-political experiment since the beginning of the 1960s, and they had asserted that the Saudi model of statehood would not be successful because of its conservative religious nature, predicting instability and anarchy in the kingdom. However, the Saudi state has proved its success despite a number of problems and has achieved an impressive rate of development.

It is possible to say in this context that some of the secularist pens are likewise critical of Saudi Arabia’s prominent position in American and European foreign policies and, like some of the pro-Zionist pens, these secular writers have found a big opportunity to justify an attack on the kingdom and link it to extremism and terrorism.

How is it possible to face and offset the media campaign against the kingdom? Since we know that the principle aim of this campaign is to influence general Western opinion in America and Europe and guide it against the kingdom, as well as specifically influence decision-makers in the West, we should curb their efforts with our own media and cultural outlets.