Try Harder

Prince Turki al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia has an op-ed in USA Today on how Saudi Arabia is trying to change itself to combat intolerance:

Can you imagine how different American history would be if the United States went from the War of Independence to the Internet Age in less than 75 years?

That is, in essence, the history of my country, Saudi Arabia. In just my lifetime, Saudi Arabia has evolved from a predominantly 17th century culture to a nation of 21st century attitudes and aspirations. But such incredibly rapid change has caused our society to experience many growing pains.

We admit we have people in our midst who are bigots, who are intolerant and who see the world through a prism of “us and them.” But do we consider this to be acceptable behavior? Absolutely not. Are we working hard to change mind-sets that encourage prejudice and intolerance? Yes, absolutely.

The Saudis are trying to combat extremism – and they are one of al-Qaeda’s targets – but the pace of reforms is often slow, and the Saudi government continues to fan the flames of extremism and anti-Semitism at home while talking about reform to an American audience. Saudi charities still help fund terrorist group, and young Saudis are still joining al-Qaeda. As we all know, 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 were Saudis. Saudi Arabia is not alone in having a problem with Islamist terrorism, but it is one of the most fertile recruiting grounds for terrorism in the world.

The article that inspired the Prince’s op-ed makes it clear why the Saudis appear to be speaking out of both sides of their mouths:

For more than a year, the Saudi government has said that the textbooks have been rewritten to emphasize tolerance over violence toward non-believers.

But the non-profit Freedom House has found otherwise. The books are not publicly available, but Freedom House obtained and translated copies. Despite some minor changes, passages still contain disturbing intolerance.

An eighth-grade text, for example, teaches that “the Jews are apes … while the swine are the Christians.” A 12th-grader learns the value of jihad (holy war) in language that shows jihad as a violent struggle against Jews, Christians and Muslims who don’t follow the conservative Wahhabi version of Islam that Saudi Arabia officially adheres to.

The Saudi government seems to do a much better job of producing future terrorists than future citizens – and that won’t change until the institutional culture of racism that has been cultivated for years is destroyed. If the Saudis really are trying to reform their nation, they need to try harder.

One thought on “Try Harder

  1. I think it’s wrong to judge billions by the acts of thousands. The biggest terrorist attack in history was committed by the United States and we’re supposed to try harder? I think the US Government needs to try harder at decreasing the amount of wars it has to get itself involved in.

    Saudi Arabia doesn’t have to help, believe me, but its doing a lot to curb the rise of terrorism in the region. You can’t insult it when it’s trying to help.

    If you ask any truly knowledgeable person on the issue of Saudi Arabia (ie expatriates living in Saudi and who have experienced life there), they’ll tell you that Saudi is being horribly misrepresented by the global media.

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