On Thursday, July 31, former Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations and author of Hatred's Kingdom: How Saudi Arabia Supports the New Global Terrorism, Dore Gold testified before the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs. He addressed the issue of terrorist funding, specifically Saudi Arabia's connection to and funding of terrorism. Dr. Gold's opening statement from the hearing, in its entirety, follows.
Nearly two years ago on September 11, 2001, most well-informed observers about the Middle East were shocked to hear that 15 out of the 19 hijackers who carried out the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were Saudi citizens. It was equally surprising that the mastermind of the worst terrorist attack on the United States in its history, Osama bin Laden, was born and raised in Saudi Arabia. This curiosity and wonder about the Saudi role in the attack came up once more with the release of the September 11 report by the U.S. Congress and its disclosure of "incontrovertible evidence" linking Saudis to the financing of al-Qaeda operatives in the United States.
For decades, terrorism had been associated with states like Libya, Syria, or Iran. Saudi Arabia had been a pro-Western force during the Cold War and had hosted large coalition armies during the 1991 Gulf War. Saudi Arabia had not been colonized during its history, like other Middle Eastern states that had endured a legacy of European imperialism. This background only sharpened the questions of many after the attacks: What was the precise source of the hatred that drove these men to take their own lives in an act of mass murder?
In a series of articles appearing in the Egyptian weekly, Ruz al-Yousef (the Newsweek of Egypt), this past May, Wael al-Abrashi, the magazine's deputy editor, attempted to grapple with this issue. He drew a direct link between the rise of much of contemporary terrorism with Saudi Arabia's main Islamic creed, Wahhabism, and with the financial involvement of Saudi Arabia's large charitable organizations:
"Wahhabism leads, as we have seen, to the birth of extremist, closed, and fanatical streams, that accuse others of heresy, abolish them, and destroy them. The extremist religious groups have moved from the stage of Takfir [condemning other Muslims as unbelievers] to the stage of ‘annihilation and destruction,' in accordance with the strategy of Al-Qa'ida ? which Saudi authorities must admit is a local Saudi organization that drew other organizations into it, and not the other way around. All the organizations emerged from under the robe of Wahhabism."
"I can state with certainty that after a very careful reading of all the documents and texts of the official investigations linked to all acts of terror that have taken place in Egypt, from the assassination of the late president Anwar Sadat in October 1981, up to the Luxor massacre in 1997, Saudi Arabia was the main station through which most of the Egyptian extremists passed, and emerged bearing with them terrorist thought regarding Takfir ? thought that they drew from the sheikhs of Wahhabism. They also bore with them funds they received from the Saudi charities."
(Middle East Media Research Institute, Special Dispatch Series - No. 526 - Saudi Arabia, June 20, 2003)
Thus, while some Western commentators have sought to explain the roots of al-Qaeda's fury at the U.S. by focusing on the history of American policy in the Middle East or other external factors, a rising number of Middle Eastern analysts have concentrated instead on internal Saudi factors, including recent militant trends among Saudi Arabia's Wahhabi clerics and the role of large Saudi global charities in terrorist finance. This requires a careful look at how Saudi Arabia contributed to the ideological roots of some of the new wave of international terrorism as well as how the kingdom emerged as a critical factor in providing the resources needed by many terrorist groups.
The particular creed of Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia, which is known in the West as Wahhabism, emerged in the mid-18th century in Central Arabia from the teachings of Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab. This Arabian religious reformer sought to rid Islam of foreign innovations that compromised its monotheistic foundations and to restore what he believed were the religious practices of the 7th century at the time of the Prophet Muhammad and his immediate successors. He established a political covenant in 1744 with Muhammad bin Saud, according to which he received bin Saud's protection and in exchange legitimized the spread of Saudi rule over a widening circle of Arabian tribes. This covenant between the Saudi royal family and Wahhabism is at the root of modern Saudi Arabia.
In retrospect, Wahhabism was significant for two reasons. First, it rejuvenated the idea of the militant jihad, or holy war, which had declined as a central Islamic value to be applied universally. Under the influence of Sufism, for example, jihad had also evolved into a more spiritual concept. Second, Wahhabism became associated with a brutal history of political expansion that led to the massacre of Muslims who did not adhere to its tenets, the most famous of which occurred against the Shiites Muslims of Kerbala in the early 18th century and against Sunni Muslims in Arabian cities, like Taif, during the early 20th century. These Muslims were labeled as polytheists and did not deserve any protection. The highest spiritual authority of Islam during this period, the Sultan-Caliph of the Ottoman Empire, regarded the Wahhabis as heretics and waged wars against them in defense of Islam.
Yet it would be a mistake to focus on Wahhabism alone as the ideological fountainhead of the new global terrorism. Modern Saudi Arabia in the 1950s and 1960s hosted other militant movements that had an important impact, as well. For reasons of regional geopolitics, King Saud, King Faisal, and their successors provided sanctuary to elements of the radical Muslim Brotherhood from Egypt, Sudan, Jordan, and Syria. Some were provided Saudi stipends. Others were given positions in the Saudi educational system, including the universities, or in the large Saudi charities, like the Muslim World League, that was created in 1962. For example, Egyptian President Abdul Nasser had the Muslim Brotherhood ideologue, Sayyed Qutb, executed in 1966; his brother, Muhammad Qutb, fled to Saudi Arabia and taught at King Abdul Aziz University in Jiddah. He was joined in the 1970s by one of the heads of the Muslim Brotherhood from Jordan, Abdullah Azzam. In 1979, both taught Osama bin Laden, a student at the university.
Saudi Arabia's global charities, like the Muslim World League, permitted the spread of the new militancy that was forged from the cooperation between the Wahhabi clerics and the Muslim Brotherhood refugees. After 1973, these charities benefited from the huge petrodollar resources dispensed by the Saudi government, which undoubtedly helped them achieve a global reach. Abdullah Azzam headed the office of the Muslim World League in Peshawar, Pakistan, when it served as the rear base for the war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. He was joined by his student, bin Laden, who with Saudi funding also set up the Mujahidin Services Center (Maktab Khadmat al-Mujahidin) for Muslim volunteers who came to fight the Red Army. After Moscow's defeat in Afghanistan, this office became al-Qaeda.
Thus, the Saudi charities became instrumental for the continuing global jihad. Bin Laden's brother-in-law, Muhammad Jamal Khalifa, ran the offices of the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO), a Muslim World League offshoot, in the Philippines. Local intelligence agencies suspected that it served as a financial conduit to the Abu Sayyaf organization. Muhammad Zawahiri, brother of bin Laden's Egyptian partner, Ayman Zawahiri, would eventually work for IIRO in Albania. Indeed, IIRO would eventually be suspected of involvement in terrorist threats in India, Kenya, and to Russian forces in Chechnya.
Ideological Roots of the New Terrorism
These developments seem far beyond the horizon of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but not completely, for a careful examination of the religious sources of some of the worst suicide bombings against the State of Israel by the Hamas organization leads also to Saudi Arabia. Looking at Hamas websites, this very month, one finds Saudi clerics prominently featured as providing the religious justification for suicide bombings. Of 16 religious leaders cited by Hamas, the largest national group backing these attacks are Saudis. The formal Saudi position on suicide bombings, in fact, has been mixed. To his credit, the current Saudi Grand Mufti, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah Al al-Sheikh, has condemned these acts. Yet at the same time, Saudi Arabia's Minister for Islamic Affairs, Sheikh Saleh Al al-Sheikh, has condoned them: "The suicide bombings are permitted...the victims are considered to have died a martyr's death."
The Hamas-Saudi connection should not come as a surprise. Hamas emerged in 1987 from the Gaza branch of Muslim Brotherhood which, as noted earlier, had become a key Saudi ally during previous decades. When Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yasin was let out of an Israeli prison in 1998, he went to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment and Crown Prince Abdullah made a high-profile visit to his hospital bedside. Bin Laden had made the fate of Sheikh Yasin an issue for his al-Qaeda followers as well. In his 1996 "Declaration of War," he listed Sheikh Yasin's release from prison as one of his demands or grievances.
Saudi support for suicide bombings has wider repercussions. Other militant Islamic movements cite Saudi clerics to justify their activities ? from the Chechen groups battling the Russians to Iraqi mujahidin (al-jam'ah al-salifiyah) fighting the U.S. army in western Iraq. In order to evaluate the significance of these religious rulings, it is necessary to focus on the stature of these various clerical figures.
For example, just after the September 11 attacks, it is true that many Saudi government officials condemned them. But there were other voices as well. Shortly thereafter a Saudi book appeared on the Internet justifying the murder of thousands of Americans, entitled The Foundations of the Legality of the Destruction That Befell America. The Introduction to the book was written by a prominent Saudi religious leader, Sheikh Hamud bin Uqla al-Shuaibi. He wrote on November 16, 2001, that he hoped Allah would bring further destruction upon the United States. Al-Shuaibi's name appears in a book entitled the Great Book of Fatwas, found in a Taliban office in Kabul. Sheikh al-Shuaibi appears on the Hamas website, noted earlier, as a religious source for suicide attacks. He appears on the website of the Islamic militants fighting the U.S. army in western Iraq as well. His ideas had global reach.
The question that must be asked is whether a religious leader of this sort is a peripheral figure on the fringes of society or whether he reflects more mainstream thinking. In fact, al-Shuaibi had very strong credentials. Born in 1925 in the Wahhabi stronghold of Buraida, he was a student of King Faisal's Grand Mufti, Sheikh Muhammad ibn Ibrahim Al al-Sheikh. Al-Shuaibi's roster of students read like a "Who's Who" of Saudi Arabia, including the current Grand Mufti and the former Minister of Islamic Affairs and Muslim World League secretary-general, Abdullah al-Turki. When al-Shuaibi died in 2002, many central Saudi figures attended his funeral. In short, he was mainstream. His militant ideas about justifying the September 11 attacks were echoed by Sheikh Abdullah bin Abdul Rahman Jibrin, who actually was a member of the Directorate of Religious Research, Islamic Legal Rulings, and Islamic Propagation and Guidance ? an official branch of the Saudi government.
Financial Support for the New Global Terrorism
As already demonstrated, Saudi Arabia erected a number of large global charities in the 1960s and 1970s whose original purpose may have been to spread Wahhabi Islam, but which became penetrated by prominent individuals from al-Qaeda's global jihadi network. The three most prominent of these charities were the International Islamic Relief Organization (an offshoot of the Muslim World League), the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), and the Charitable Foundations of al-Haramain. All three are suspected by various global intelligence organizations of terrorist funding.
It would be incorrect to view these charities as purely non-governmental organizations. At the apex of each organization's board is a top Saudi official. The Saudi Grand Mufti, who is also a Saudi cabinet member, chairs the Constituent Council of the Muslim World League. The Saudi Minister of Islamic Affairs chairs the secretariat of WAMY and the administrative council of al-Haramain. All three organizations have received large charitable contributions from the Saudi royal family that have been detailed in Saudi periodicals.
The earliest documented links between one of these charities and terrorists was found in Bosnia. It is a handwritten account on IIRO stationery from the late 1980s indicating the use of this charity's offices for the support of militant actions. But the strongest documented cases that demonstrate the ties between Saudi Arabia's global charities and international terrorism are related to Hamas. These ties were alleged already in the mid-1990s when a Hamas funding group received instructions to write letters of thanks to executives of IIRO and WAMY for funds it had received. In 1994, President Clinton made a brief stopover in Saudi Arabia during which he complained about Saudi funding of Hamas. These charges about Saudi Arabia bankrolling Hamas have become even more vociferous in recent years.
The Saudis have been equally vociferous in their denials. Crown Prince Abdullah's foreign policy advisor, Adel al-Jubeir, asserted on CNN's "Crossfire" on August 16, 2002: "We do not allow funding to go from Saudi Arabia to Hamas." More recently, Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told the Saudi daily Arab News on June 23, 2003, that since the establishment of the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, the Saudi Kingdom only sends funding through the PLO. He denied that the Saudis finance Hamas.
Yet during Israel's Operation Defensive Shield last year, a whole array of documents was uncovered which show these repeated Saudi denials to be completely baseless. One of the strongest pieces of evidence came from a handwritten letter written in Arabic by the current Palestinian Prime Minister, Mahmud Abbas (Abu Mazen), on December 30, 2000, to Prince Salman, governor of Riyadh and a full brother of King Fahd. Abbas complained that Saudi donations in the Gaza Strip are going to an organization called al-Jamiya al-Islamiya (the Islamic Society), which Abbas explained "belongs to Hamas." He wanted the funds for Fatah.
Al-Jamiya al-Islamiya was not just a Hamas front, supporting positive social programs and secretly diverting funds to military activity. Even its showcase activities were reprehensible. For example, at a kindergarten graduation involving some of its 1,600 Palestinian pre-schoolers, children wore uniforms and carried mock rifles. Others re-enacted the lynching of Israelis or other terrorist attacks. Thus, the Saudis were not only funding the current generation of terrorism but also the next generation as well.
There were other documents linking Saudi institutions to terrorist financing. An actual IIRO document was found that detailed how $280,000 was to be allocated to 14 Hamas front groups. Checks made out to well-known Hamas fronts from the corporate account of al-Rajhi Banking and Investment at Chase Manhattan Bank were also uncovered. Al-Rajhi Banking and Investment was one of the largest Saudi banking networks which serviced the Saudi charities. Its head, Sulaiman al-Rajhi, headed the family that established the SAAR (the acronym for his name) foundation in Herndon, Virginia, which was raided last year by U.S. federal agents because of suspected terrorist links.
There were other conduits for terrorist funding that were disclosed. Spreadsheets of the Saudi Committee for Aid to the al-Quds Intifada were found. These lists, that detailed the movement of moneys to the families of suicide bombers, were significant. Saudi spokesmen tried to distance themselves from this activity by arguing that they helped these families through international aid organizations. Yet it became clear from the spreadsheets that these contributions were given through a specifically Saudi organization that was headed by the Saudi Minister of the Interior Prince Naif. Indeed, at the top right-hand side of the spreadsheet found in the West Bank, the name "Kingdom of Saudi Arabia" stands out. In the words of Secretary of State Colin Powell, this kind of support "incentivized" the suicide terrorist attacks.
The Hamas case demonstrated the mode of operation of Saudi charities in support of terrorism. It was significant for those investigating other cases of global terrorism, including al-Qaeda, since very often these groups shared the same funding mechanisms. As a case study, it is particularly useful, since it is the best-documented case of how the Saudis used their charities to back militant activities.
Most of the documents discovered in the West Bank and Gaza Strip were dated from the year 2000. Saudi diplomats argued that after September 11, 2001, they had turned over a new leaf. For example, in October 2002, the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington released a statement detailing the steps they had taken to keep better track of what the charities were doing. The Saudi statement asserted that since September 11, 2001, "charitable groups have been closely monitored and additional audits have been performed to assure that there are no links to suspected groups."
Yet, the very same month the newest Saudi assurances were provided in Washington, one of the top leaders of Hamas, Khaled Mashal, was invited to Riyadh for a WAMY conference. So while in Washington the press corps was told that there were no longer any ties between the Saudi charities and suspected groups, in Riyadh, one of the three main Saudi charities was hosting the leader of one of the suspected groups, Hamas, that had been labeled by the U.S. government as an international terrorist organization. According to a captured Hamas document that detailed Khaled Mashal's visit to Saudi Arabia, he actually had been invited by Crown Prince Abdullah himself. While Hamas had refused at the time to stop its suicide attacks, nonetheless, Saudi officials reassured Mashal of continuing support.
A new context for the issue of Saudi funding of terrorist groups was created when President Bush issued the "Roadmap to a Permanent Two-State Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict" on April 30, 2003. Besides requiring difficult measures by Israelis and Palestinians alike, the new Bush administration plan specifically called on Arab states in its first phase to "cut off public and private funding and all other forms of support for groups supporting and engaging in violence and terror." In short, Saudi Arabia had to come under the roadmap, as well. Meeting the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, and Bahrain at Sharm el-Sheikh on June 3, 2003, President Bush announced that they had committed themselves to use all means to cut off assistance to any terror group.
It might have been expected that Saudi Arabia would adhere to this firm U.S. policy. On May 12, 2003, Saudi Arabia itself was struck by a triple suicide bombing that led to 35 fatalities, including 9 Americans. Having denied that there was an al-Qaeda presence in the Saudi kingdom, the Saudi government began uncovering al-Qaeda cells and munitions in Riyadh, Mecca, Medina, Jidda, and in the northern al-Jawf area. Having provided the ideological and financial basis for the growth of al-Qaeda and its sister organizations, including Hamas, Saudi Arabia found that the fire they had ignited was coming back to burn them as well.
Unfortunately, while the Saudis appear to be taking their own domestic threat seriously, there is no indication that they have scaled back their support for Hamas. The Israeli national assessment is that Saudi Arabia today funds more than 50 percent of the needs of Hamas and the Saudi percentage in the total foreign aid to Hamas is actually growing. Saudi Arabia continues to aid the families of suicide bombers. It helps dual-use charities and charities that funnel funds directly to military activities against Israel.
At present, Hamas has agreed to a temporary truce with Israel called a hudna, but it is vigorously seeking to rebuild its operational infrastructure, including an effort to increase the quantity and quality of Qassam rockets launched against Israelis towns. Muslim writers have argued in the past that a hudna is to be maintained until the balance of power improves for the Muslim side. Funding Hamas today jeopardizes the present cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinians and increases the likelihood that Hamas will return to militant action.
It is instructive to recall that in 1995, Saudi Arabia's National Guard headquarters was struck by pro-bin Laden forces, as well. Domestic threats in the mid-1990s did not cause the Saudis to halt their assistance to jihadi groups abroad, like Hamas or the Taliban, in the past. Riyadh appears able to draw a distinction between acts of domestic subversion and international terrorist activities, which are seen as part of the global jihad.
This testimony was intended to disclose the critical role of Saudi Arabia in providing ideological and financial support for the new terrorism. While most of the evidence presented here comes from the specific case of Hamas, the modus operandi adopted in the Hamas case is probably applicable to other parts of the global terrorist network as well. This is especially true of the critical role of Saudi Arabia's global charities in sustaining many similar militant organizations from Indonesia to central Russia. While Saudi spokesmen have provided repeated assurances that they have cleaned up these activities, their denials with respect to terrorist funding do not stand up against the documented evidence that has accumulated in the last two years.
The Saudi government faces hard dilemmas. It has recently taken disciplinary action against some of its most extreme religious leaders. But traditionally, the Saudis need the backing of their clerics to legitimize their regime; that is the heart of the Saudi-Wahhabi covenant that dates back to the 18th century. Yet the Saudis also need the ultimate protective shield provided by the United States. In order to sustain this, they have spent huge sums of money for public relations firms and influence-brokers. But the time has come to tell the Saudis that they have to make a choice. After September 11, there has to be zero tolerance for terrorist funding and other forms of terrorist support.
The stakes involved are not just a question of public relations or Arab-Israel point-scoring in Washington. The West needs to come to an understanding with the Islamic world based on mutual respect and tolerance. The radicalization of the Middle East being promoted by the Saudis undermines that goal and threatens to substitute instead a vision of perpetual militancy and conflict. For that reason, what is at stake is nothing less than the security of the United States and its allies, as well as the question of whether the Middle East moves in the direction of hope and peace or relapses into a state of continuing strife.
February 11, 2004, 9:10 a.m. Kingdom Cover The Saudi crackdown is overstated.
By Josh Lefkowitz & Jonathan Levin
Since the May 12, 2003, al Qaeda bombing in Riyadh that killed 23 people, the Saudi government has launched an all-out offensive against terrorists who are targeting the kingdom, arresting hundreds of suspected operatives in dozens of raids throughout the country. The Saudis have also increased cooperation with the United States, extraditing captured terrorists, establishing a joint task force against global terrorist financing, and taking steps to control the flow of funds out of the country. Yet despite the Saudis' vigorous pursuit of terrorists within the kingdom's borders and the increased cooperation with the U.S., Saudi counterterrorism policy remains fundamentally insufficient and requires extensive reform. Most notably, the Saudi government continues to propound the extremist brand of Islam at the heart of al Qaeda terror, obstructs the 9/11 investigation, and provides significant support to organizations with proven terrorist connections.
Recently, these problems with Saudi counterterrorism policy have been overshadowed by praise for the Saudis' domestic crackdown following the Riyadh bombing. For example, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage declared that Saudi "...cooperation on things...internal to Saudi Arabia has been magnificent."
The Saudis have handed several terrorist suspects captured in the kingdom over to the U.S. In June 2003, Ali Abd al Rahman al Faqasi al Ghamdi, a key al Qaeda figure in the kingdom, surrendered to Saudi police; he is now being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The Saudis also extradited three people who had been indicted in northern Virginia for their involvement with Lashkar-e-Taiba, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization.
In addition, following the May 2003 Riyadh bombing, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia established a cooperative team drawing members from law-enforcement and intelligence agencies "to share 'real time' intelligence and conduct joint operations." The joint U.S./Saudi team conducted over 400 interviews as part of the May 12th investigation, and by November 2003, the Saudis had arrested more than 200 people in connection with the probe.
Furthermore, in an effort to curtail terror funding from within the kingdom, the Saudis promised in 2003 to prohibit mosques, schools, and commercial centers from collecting cash contributions, prevent Saudi charities from transferring cash overseas, and ban Saudi charities from operating offices outside Saudi Arabia.
And in August 2003, Saudi Arabia and the U.S. established a task force to interdict terrorist financing. Overall, the Saudis have frozen $5.7 million. With the Treasury Department, the Saudis jointly designated Wael Julaidan as an al Qaeda financier and blocked select accounts of a front organization, Al-Haramain, in Somalia, Bosnia, Kenya, Tanzania, Pakistan and Indonesia.
However, a few half-hearted Saudi concessions are simply not enough. The Saudi government's protection of Al-Haramain is typical of the kingdom's treatment of organizations linked to terrorism. As one U.S. official told Time in September 2003, "...the Saudis still appear to be protecting charities associated with the royal family and its friends."
In a seemingly momentous announcement, on June 12, 2003, Saudi-embassy spokesman Adel Al-Jubeir declared that Al-Haramain would "be shutting down all of its foreign offices," and that all Saudi organizations were banned from operating outside the kingdom.
Five months later, in November 2003, Aqeel Al-Aqeel, the head of Al-Haramain at the time, stated that the organization was not only still active in 74 countries, but that Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah had recently sent Al-Haramain a letter accompanied by a check for an unreported sum of money. Saudi Minister of Islamic Affairs Saleh Al-Shaikh is chairman of Al-Haramain's board of directors.
The Al-Haramain fiasco also speaks to the Saudis' failure to pursue counterterrorism of their own volition. Al-Haramain was first linked to terrorism in 1998, following the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Kenyan authorities investigating the attacks banned Al-Haramain because it "had been found to be working against the interests of Kenyans in terms of security..." The Saudis did not ban Al-Haramain's Kenyan branch until January 2004, more than five years after Kenyan authorities linked the office to the embassy attacks.
In addition to the troubling case of Al-Haramain, the Saudis have repeatedly ignored U.S. requests to shut down three other high-profile organizations with documented ties to terrorism: The Muslim World League (MWL), The World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), and the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO).
The September 26, 2003, New York Times reported that "American intelligence and law enforcement officials recently gave Saudi officials a detailed document outlining terrorism links to...the International Islamic Relief Organization [IIRO]. American officials have asked that the Saudi government close all of that group's overseas offices and that members of the Saudi royal family...step down from its board." IIRO is the "humanitarian assistance" arm of the MWL, a quasi-official missionary and propaganda arm of the Saudi kingdom. In March 1997, MWL Secretary General Abdullah Al-Obaid thanked King Fahd for his continued support, noting that the Saudi government had officially provided more than $1.33 billion in financial aid to MWL since 1962.
The Washington Post wrote on October 2, 2003, that "Bush administration officials have pressed the Saudi government to clamp down on the Muslim World League and WAMY." Saleh Al-Shaikh, the same man who is chairman of Al-Harmain's board of directors, is president of WAMY. Given the government's deep ties to IIRO, MWL, and WAMY, it is little surprise that the Saudi government has taken no visible steps against these organizations.
Even more galling is the lack of Saudi cooperation with the global investigation into the September 11 attacks. In the immediate aftermath, the Saudis stalled when U.S. officials asked for passport photos, fingerprints, and other information about the 9/11 hijackers. Later, they refused to permit American investigators to interview the hijackers' families in Saudi Arabia. As late as November 2002, more then a year after the attacks, Saudi Minister of the Interior Prince Nayef continued to deny that the hijackers were Saudi, saying, "Who benefited from events of 9/11? I think [the Zionists] are behind these events."
The Saudi authorities also hindered the German investigation into links between the hijackers and a Saudi government agent. Evidence has surfaced that Muhammad Jaber Fakihi, who was head of the Islamic Affairs Department at the Saudi embassy in Berlin, had extensive ties to militants and had met with Mounir el-Motassedeq, who was later convicted for his role in the 9/11 conspiracy. The Saudi embassy in Berlin has not cooperated in the probe, and a German police official told the Wall Street Journal in December 2003 that "nothing has changed" since the Riyadh bombings. The same Journal article stated, "European police and intelligence officials...say cooperation has been spotty. Although Saudi Arabia has won high marks in Washington recently for its willingness to cooperate in fighting terrorism, European law-enforcement officials say that they have found teamwork to be minimal."
The Saudis' halting cooperation stems from a deep rift within the kingdom. Although there is a desire to maintain contact with the modern world for the sake of material wealth, many Saudis believe that all Westerners and non-Muslims are heretics. Adel Al-Jubeir tacitly acknowledged the problem in a May 2003 interview on Fox News, saying the kingdom "...need[s] to eliminate the environment in which they [terrorist organizations] can recruit our young people." The environment in Saudi Arabia has produced at least 160 of the 650 detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
Nonetheless, the Saudi government continues to use an elaborate network of mosques, schools, "charitable" and "humanitarian" organizations, and official diplomatic facilities to aggressively propagate Wahabbism, the extreme brand of Islam that Sen. Jon Kyl said "...presents a clear and present danger to our Constitution and the principles of freedom enshrined by our Founding Fathers."
Michael Young, chairman of the State Department's Commission on International Religious Freedom, succinctly described Wahabbism as "an ideology that is incompatible with the war on terrorism."
Despite the Saudi government's claim that it has "reformed" several thousand imams, sermons and statements by the kingdom's religious leadership remain deeply radical. This month, Saudi Arabia's highest religious authority, Grand Mufti Sheik Abdulaziz bin Abdullah Al-Sheik, said, "Allowing women to mix with men is the root of every evil and catastrophe." In November 2003, in a sermon broadcast on official Saudi television, an imam ended his sermon by saying, "O God, strengthen Islam and Muslims, humiliate infidelity and infidels, destroy the enemies of Islam, and...help our mujahadeen brothers in Palestine defeat the tyrannical Jewish occupiers."
One senior Saudi provincial official told Time that, even when imams have tempered their language, "What we are hearing is only a façade. You can smell the disgust they feel in mouthing their new rhetoric."
Saudi Arabia is itself presenting a façade to the world. The Saudi government claims that it is fully combating terrorism, but it is historically linked to a brand of Islam that promotes violence and intolerance toward the West. Until the Saud family makes a firm commitment to divorce itself from this radical ideology, Saudi Arabia will continue to be a hotbed of terrorist activity.
— Josh Lefkowitz & Jonathan Levin are senior analysts with the Investigative Project. For more on al Qaeda and Saudi Arabia, see Evan Kohlmann's "A Saudi Home."
MIM:Snapshots from the Muslim World League/Al Haramain Album :
Osama Khalifa, First Director
Dr. Arafat El Ashi, Second Director
Osama Khalifa & Sheikh Abdullah Al Akeel
Mohamad Khatib, Public Relations Officer
Mohamad & Dr. Arafat
Dr. Arafat & Mohamad
Abdullah Idris, AlAkeel, Dr. Arafat
Al Akeel & Dr. Arafat
Ibrahim Husain & Mohamad
Dr. Arafat & Al Akeel
Dr. Kamal Alhilbawi
During the celebration of National Day in Ottawa
Dawa Seminar 2002 At International Muslim Organization - IMO Toronto, ON
Dr. Arafat El-Ashi
Sheikh Muhammad Alhanooti, Sheikh ahmad Kutty & Sheikh Abduhamid
"On March 11, the Treasury Department announced with great fanfare that the U.S. and Saudi Arabia had jointly blocked the funds of the Bosnia and Somalia offices of the "private, charitable, and educational" Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation because it was diverting funds to terrorists. This action, according to Treasury, "opened a new phase in international cooperation to destroy terrorist financing" and proved the "strength of the anti-terror coalition."
In reality, Al-Haramain — alongside the World Muslim League — is the Saudis' largest Islamist front organization, controlled directly by the minister of religious affairs and in charge of spending huge amounts of (mostly government) money to promote the radical-Islamist agenda worldwide. It has offices in over 50 countries and operates through Saudi embassies in another 40; as for its Bosnia and Somalia operations, business even there is continuing as usual, despite additional evidence of terrorist ties unearthed by Bosnian police in a raid on June 3. Al-Haramain's director, Aqeel al-Aqeel, noted with satisfaction in early September that "America has tried to establish a link between terrorism and Islamic charitable societies and failed" — and went on to assert that Al-Haramain's donations and activities both have intensified since 9/11. Indeed they have: Al-Haramain has opened three new offices since then."
(MIM:Note: See photos above for pix of Aqeel al- Aqeel )
Terrorism Financing: Origination, Organization, and Prevention ... File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat - View as HTML ... Financing and the War on Terror" July 31, 2003 Steven Emerson Executive Director ... Besides destroying the base that Al Qaeda used in Afghanistan, the United ... www.senate.gov/~gov_affairs/073103emerson.pdf - Similar pages
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The Most Important Aims of the Foundation - To establish the correct beliefs (al'aqeedah as-saheehah) in the hearts of the Muslims as comes from the Book of Allah and the Sunnah based upon the understanding of the righteous and pious generations. - Concentration on teaching the authentic sunnah (as-sunnah as-saheehah), clarifying and explaining its importance in understanding beliefs, worship and practice. - Being quick to provide aid to the Muslims who suffer from catastrophes, disasters and calamities and to benefit them with material assistance to enliven the eemaan in the hearts and implant knowledge in their breasts if Allah Most High so wills. - Establishing correct Islamic doctrines deeply in the individual and developing a unified Muslim personality or character. - Trying to direct Islamic communities to submit to the law of God and to judge from His Law only. - Renewing scientific and propagational awareness as well as uplifting the educational and ideological level among Muslims. - Educating new generations according to Islamic doctrines and in accordance with Islamic norms and moral standards. - Confronting ideological and atheistic invasion. - Calling non-Muslims to Islam and propagating it among them. - Educating and Guiding Muslim Women. - Cooperating with Islamic organizations, calling propagational groups and striving to unify the Islamic communities according to the authentic law of Islam.