We all know that most of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 came from Saudi Arabia, which I visited in 2002 in an effort to help readers understand Islam today and how the terrorists hiding behind that ancient religion had so badly misused it.
What many people don't know, however, is that since 9/11 the House of Saud, which is the ruling family in the kingdom, has been working in various ways to counter the terrorism impulse that has infected some followers of Islam.
For instance, did you know that Saudi Arabia provided the primary funding -- $10 million -- for the creation of the United Nations Counterterrorism Center?
I can't yet give you a clear or definitive picture of what that center is doing and whether it's making any serious inroads into terrorism, but just having it exist and having the Saudis fund it is a way of saying to the world -- and especially to followers of bin Ladenism -- that the Saudi establishment is working to undermine terrorism.
The other day the Saudi king made a speech (delivered by his foreign minister) in which he suggested that the fight against terrorism needs to be coordinated on a global scale. So he's keeping the subject before his people.
And, of course, the king and his royal family know that they're on the top of the target list of the followers of the late Osama bin Laden.
But we must not fool ourselves into thinking that terrorism still can't arise from Saudi roots. Indeed, the Wahhabi brand of Islam that is the official religion on the kingdom is rigid and puritanical, and it encourages the kind of black and white thinking that people who ultimately adopt terrorism as a strategy must have.
And we must not fool ourselves into thinking that the House of Saud is reforming itself into a big proponent of democracy. The current king, Abdullah, for sure should be viewed as a reformer within the Saudi system, but that's not saying a lot.
The House of Saud controls nearly everything in the country, including most journalism. Otherwise, why does the Arab News story to which I linked you above sound like it was written from the very same government press release as the one used to produce this version in the Saudi Gazette?
Besides all that, there's no religious freedom in Saudi Arabia. None.
But when you look at the world the way it is versus the way we wish it were, I think you have to conclude that despite all that's wrong with the House of Saud and life in Saudi Arabia, it's a good thing to have the government there continuing to make efforts to kneecap terrorism.
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AND DITCH YOUR KIDS, TOO?
And under the possible subject of spiritual terrorism, a New Zealand pastor is urging his followers to leave their family if necessary to join him in the city he wants to build (mostly with their money, as I gather). Wonder what makes people so needy and self-doubting to turn over their wills to such charismatic leaders. It seems to happen in almost every age.