September 11, 2010


Has 9/11 Changed Saudi Arabia for the Better?: The terrorist attacks of September 11th changed America forever, but Robert Lacey argues they had a big impact on Saudi Arabia too, by emboldening reformers to push back against religious extremists. (Robert Lacey, 9/11/10, Daily Beast)

Nine years on, the 9/11 attacks can only evoke bitter memories for America. But it is already clear that 9/11 was a very good thing for Saudi Arabia. [...]

The Saudis are never going to say “sorry” for 9/11. But their change of behavior may be taken as some sign of remorse.

These were some of the challenges facing Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia as the news of the September 11th attacks reached Riyadh. That very day the crown prince issued a statement of sympathy expressing Saudi horror at these actions “in conflict with our religious and civilized values.” But it soon became clear that most of the men whom Abdullah was denouncing were his own subjects, and that they had picked up their uncivilized values inside his kingdom.

It was to Abdullah’s credit that he realized this—almost alone and certainly ahead of many members of his family.

“We must study what has happened,” he declared in a series of televised gatherings to which he summoned the religious sheikhs, the tribal leaders, the media, and the business community. “Something serious has gone wrong here, and we must try to put it right.” 9/11 gave Abdullah the chance to introduce the reforms that he had long wished to implement, and reform has been his theme ever since—in four years as crown prince, and the last five years as king. At 85 years old, this gruff, no-nonsense man knows that his time is running out and he is willing to take risks. To combat the core issue of religious fanaticism, he has not been afraid to sack retrograde clerics—his Chief Justice Saleh Al-Lahedan, for example, who called for the producers of “corrupting” TV soap operas to be killed—and he has initiated programs of national and interfaith dialogue. The last time I saw Abdullah, he was shaking hands with rabbis—albeit in Madrid: It will be some time before non-Islamic priests of any faith can be openly admitted to the land of Mecca and Medina. is the Wibberley Lesson: only attack us if you wish to make your own country more closely resemble ours.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at September 11, 2010 12:32 PM
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