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This item is available on the Middle East Forum website, at http://www.meforum.org/article/999

Al-Qaeda's Saudi Origins
Islamist Ideology

By Uriya Shavit
Middle East Quarterly
Fall 2006

From where did Al-Qaeda come? While its actions are well known, its intellectual origins are not. Many scholars and analysts depict the group as a new phenomenon. They cite its international recruitment, its message of global jihad, its lack of a clear chain-of-command, and its use of the Internet as both an operational and informative tool. While the group's amorphousness makes it threatening and unpredictable, neither Osama bin Laden's operative modes nor his ideology are cloaked in mystery. Rather, they are a synthesis of two interlinked and equally important sources of influence: first, the teachings of ‘Abdallah ‘Azzam, the leader of the Afghan mujahideen during the 1980s; and second, the Saudi opposition movement which arose in the early 1990s and sought to Islamize Saudi society in response to a perceived Western "cultural attack" on the Muslim world.

The Saudi Debate on the Western Cultural Attack

Both influences arose out of a struggle within Saudi Arabian society. In the first three decades of the twentieth century, the House of Saud managed to unite much of the Arabian Peninsula under its leadership. The Saudi kingdom preserved a temporal-religious balance of power: Saudi kings and princes took charge of political and financial decisions, while the ulema, the Muslim clergy, governed religious and judicial affairs including the issuance of fatwas, religious edicts that judged the compatibility of temporal decisions with Islamic law.

However, this balance of power was superficial. While the House of Saud derived legitimacy from the ulema, it also appointed or dismissed them and set the boundaries of their authority. Whenever the ulema disagreed with a Saudi king, the last word was almost always his. The clergy could debate political decisions, but they could not impose amendments.

The king and clergy often disagreed over the compatibility of modernization with Wahhabi puritanism. During the 1920s, for example, the ulema protested King ‘Abd al-‘Aziz Ibn Saud's decision to use wireless communication, claiming it was devilish.[1] During the 1960s, the ulema contested King Faisal Ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz's decision to introduce television broadcasting because, they claimed, it contradicted the Qur'an and could corrupt society.[2] In both cases, clerical objections did not prevent implementation of the king's decision.

The 1970s oil boom changed Saudi society. Two distinct social groups emerged. The first, composed of young, often Western-educated technocrats sought to develop Saudi infrastructure and adapt Saudi administrative, educational, and financial systems to Western standards. The second were ulema, who graduated from newly-established religious schools and universities. They, too, enjoyed the economic boom but feared that rapid modernization could endanger Saudi Arabia's Muslim identity.[3] These young clerics did not oppose modernization per se like their predecessors but demanded that new technologies be harnessed to promote Islam. They did not oppose television broadcasts, for example, but demanded that any programming be Islamic in nature and free of Western influence. Their approach to modernization was, in fact, more Salafi in nature than Wahhabi. While these two strains of Islamism are often conflated, there are subtle differences. Salafism refers to a school of thought developed in Egypt in the late nineteenth century that called for a return to the origins of Islam yet aimed to harmonize Islam with the scientific and technological aspects of modernity. Wahhabism is a Saudi puritan school which, in its idealization of the time of Muhammad, also rejects scientific and technical aspects of modernity.

As modernization progressed, these young ulema became increasingly discontented with the path of the Saudi kingdom. They opposed the growing number of girls attending school, the mushrooming number of television sets, temporal courts, and a banking system that did not adhere to the Islamic legal prohibition against charging interest. The personal extravagance of some young Saudi princes added insult to injury. The authoritarian nature of the Saudi system allowed little outlet for their discontent. When, on November 20, 1979, a young Saudi former national guardsman named Juhaiman al-‘Utaibi and a small band of followers took control of the Grand Mosque in Mecca to demand the overthrow of the House of Saud and the severing of all relations with the West, most ulema stood alongside the king.[4]

However, their unease did not dissipate, but rather than coalesce into a formal opposition movement, they preached the dangers of poorly supervised modernization. They cautioned that the kingdom and the broader Muslim world were subject to a sophisticated Western "cultural attack" (al-ghazw ath-thaqafi) or "intellectual attack" (al-ghazw al-fikri), which sought first to weaken Muslim faith and morals and then conquer again Muslim territories and convert Muslims to Christianity. Its tools were Western textbooks, Western television programs, Western sports, Western cafés, and Western banking systems.[5] Influenced by the teachings of Egyptian Islamists who found refuge in Saudi Arabia, the proponents of such a conspiracy theory did not differentiate between the capitalist West and the communist bloc; both were variations of the same enemy.

The ulema had a two-pronged plan to thwart this Western conspiracy: first they sought to purge Saudi Arabia of any Western influences and Islamize all aspects of Saudi life, including its judiciary, media, financial institutions, and educational systems. They would then launch a counterattack in which they would attempt to influence the Western world, mainly via Muslims living in Europe and the United States.

The Means of Combating the Intellectual Attack on the Muslim World, a book published in Mecca by the Saudi-controlled, pan-Islamist Muslim World League, is a typical manifestation of this conception. The author, Hassan Muhammad Hassan, describes the Western intellectual attack as a tumor whose timely detection is critical to the body's recovery. He argued that the West planned a three-stage offensive: first, the West would seek to convince Muslims that Islam is not a complete way of life but merely folklore; then Muslims would doubt their faith, before lastly, abandoning it.[6] According to Hassan, the Western plot had already borne fruit because of Muslims' ignorance of the ideological underpinnings of Western society. For example, many Muslims failed to understand the destructive implications of teenagers imitating the West by directing their admiration toward soccer teams instead of ulema.[7] He concluded that the only way to counter the Western onslaught would be to restore the hegemony of Islam in all aspects of life: Muslim states should annul any laws which contradict Shari‘a (Islamic law); Muslims should harness the press to further the Islamic cause; Muslims residing in the West must be recruited for the Muslim cause; and all Muslims must understand that any foreign presence on Muslim soil, even when disguised as academic or scientific, is part of a plot to shatter Islamic identity.[8]

The ulema who cautioned against the "cultural attack" regarded the House of Saud, at least rhetorically, as a potential leader, not an enemy, of the struggle against Western penetration. The House of Saud did not oppose this conception. The Saudis were even ready to accept some of the ulema's minor demands, such as increased allocations for proselytizing overseas, so long as the ulema did not violate certain red lines, such as challenging the Saudi kingdom's military alliance with the United States. The war against the "cultural attack" was fine, so long as its prosecution did not threaten regime stability.

The War in Afghanistan and the Legacy of the Armed Jihad

The 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was, in the eyes of those cautioning against a Western cultural attack, affirmation of their assumptions. The struggle for Afghanistan gave young, religious Saudis—graduates of the kingdom's new religious universities—an opportunity to defend Islam. A few hundred traveled to Afghanistan to join Muslim guerilla fighters, the mujahideen. The United States, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan assisted them financially and logistically.[9] For the Saudi regime, their activity was a blessing: not only did it portray Saudi Arabia as a leading force in the liberation of Afghanistan without the kingdom having to directly intervene in the conflict, but it also kept the most radical and adventurous young Saudis far from Saudi Arabia. Instead of fighting the U.S. presence on Saudi soil, the kingdom's young radicals fought Soviet penetration of Afghan soil.

There, many Saudis—including Osama bin Laden—became followers of ‘Abdallah ‘Azzam. A Palestinian who fled to Jordan after the Six-Day war, ‘Azzam joined the Muslim Brotherhood and obtained a doctorate in Islamic law from Cairo's Al-Azhar University in 1973 before settling down to teach Islamic law at the University of Jordan. He was fired for involvement with the Muslim Brotherhood and moved to Saudi Arabia where, in 1981, he joined the faculty of King ‘Abd al-‘Aziz University in Jeddah. He did not stay long and traveled to Islamabad and then to the Pakistan-Afghanistan frontier to organize the anti-Soviet jihad. Bin Laden became ‘Azzam's close ally, assisting him with finance and logistics.

‘Azzam argued that it was the personal obligation (fard al-‘ayn) of every Muslim to defend Islamic lands against the penetration of the infidels. This duty was no different than the responsibility to fast or pray. A son neither would need his father's approval nor a wife her husband's approval to fulfill it.[10] Primary responsibility for the fight against occupation of the infidels rested upon the victimized residents but, if they did not possess force enough to resist, every Muslim should join them in battle.[11] Waging war against Soviet-occupied Afghanistan and Israel were the highest priorities because these two states represented beachheads from which the infidels would expand. However, ‘Azzam argued Afghanistan was more urgent because the battles at the time were at their peak and because in Afghanistan the resistance was purely Muslim; there were no Christian populations, as there are on the West Bank.[12]

Several Saudi ulema endorsed ‘Azzam's ideas. He also claimed to have the endorsement of Sheikh ‘Abd al-Aziz bin Baz, head of the Council for Senior Ulema, the highest religious authority in Saudi Arabia, though he offered no proof for this claim.[13] However, he went beyond the concerns articulated by the Saudi ulema: he made the struggle an individual one, giving up on the idea that Muslim states are able to defend Muslim soil. He also shifted the struggle from the sociocultural to military dimension. While his colleagues in Saudi Arabia preached about the dangers of Western penetration into the Muslim world, ‘Azzam transformed his ideas into a successful armed struggle for which he eventually sacrificed his life, dying with two of his sons in a November 1989 explosion in Peshawar, apparently the work of Soviet agents. It was this legacy of an active, armed, and nongovernmental struggle against Western penetration that he bequeathed to bin Laden when the war in Afghanistan ended in a Soviet defeat.

Radicalizing the Defense against Cultural Attack

On August 2, 1990, shortly after bin Laden's return from Afghanistan, Iraq invaded Kuwait. Riyadh's subsequent decision to invite the U.S. military to protect the kingdom radically transformed the Saudi debate about the Western "cultural attack." Deployment of Western troops to Saudi soil fit the narrative of those ulema who said that Western cultural penetration of the kingdom was just a precursor to a Western military reconquest of the Middle East. To these young Saudis, the House of Saud was at best duped by the West and, at worst, complicit.

Aware of the risk, King Fahd urged the Council of Senior Ulema to issue an edict legitimizing the presence of U.S. troops.[14] But rather than appease many of the young ulema, their edict convinced them that the clerics of the senior religious establishment were pawns in the hands of the Sauds and had eschewed their sacred obligation to defend Islam. A movement against U.S. military presence grew rapidly at mosques and in religious universities. Its leaders were Salman al-‘Awda, a professor of Islamic law at Imam Muhammad bin Saud University in Riyadh,[15] and Safar al-Hawali, a charismatic lecturer who headed the department of theology at Umm al-Qurra University in Mecca.[16] Hawali's sermons were widely distributed on audiotape and became popular during the buildup to Operation Desert Storm.[17]

Hawali described the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait as part of a Western conspiracy to conquer the Muslim world. This conspiracy was, in Hawali's opinion, the result of a Western understanding that in the post-Soviet era, only the Muslim world could challenge Western hegemony, and therefore, the West must subordinate all Muslims to its rule. According to Hawali, Washington encouraged Kuwait to increase its oil exports to harm Iraq's economy. The U.S. government then not only gave the Iraqi leader the green light to invade Kuwait but later discouraged Saddam from compromise. Finally, Washington pressured the Persian Gulf states to agree to war against Iraq. His sermons reflected frustration with the Saudi blindness to U.S. plots and Washington's alleged goal to reshape the Middle East in accordance with U.S. strategic interests and ideals. They were imbued with a belief that given the opportunity, the average Saudi subject would fight the Western danger.[18]

Other developments in the run-up to Operation Desert Storm deepened the suspicions of young ulema that the conflict was part of a cultural attack. On November 6, 1990, a few dozen Saudi women in Riyadh sent their drivers away and, stating that nothing in Islam prohibits women from driving, drove their cars in a protest-rally against the social ban against women driving.[19] Riyadh ulema were certain that Kuwaiti and Western women had inspired their Saudi counterparts. In response to ulema demands, the government issued a ban on women driving.[20]

A month later, forty-three businessmen and intellectuals signed a petition to the king, demanding diminished authority for the ulema in Saudi society. This "Liberal Petition," argued that Qur'anic interpretations are, unlike the Qur'an itself, human and amendable. In addition, they demanded a new press law to parallel progressive legislation in other countries and called for women to have a greater role in Saudi society.[21] Then, as the war began, Saudi Channel 2 offered its viewers live CNN feed. To the ulema, this was an insult: not only was their country part of a Western-led coalition against another Muslim country, but Saudi television was also helping broadcast images demonstrating Western military and technological superiority to the Saudi public through Western eyes.[22]

When the war ended, many younger ulema sought a complete U.S. withdrawal from Saudi soil. When the king turned down this demand, they concluded that if the House of Saud could no longer protect Saudi Arabia from the Western cultural attack, then the ulema, not the House of Saud, should run the country.

In March 1991, a group of ulema secretly drafted a "letter of demands" (khitab al-matalib) to demand the establishment of an independent consultative (shura) council to consist of ulema that would rule in all internal and external matters. They also demanded that special committees adapt all laws and regulations to Islamic law, that state organs be purged of corruption, that the collection of interest by financial institutions be banned, that the state build a strong and sophisticated military, and that Saudi Arabia relinquish any alliance—such as the Riyadh-Washington partnership—which in their view contradicted the Shari‘a.[23]

Signed first in Riyadh, the letter of demands circulated throughout the kingdom and gained approximately 400 signatures of preachers, heads of Islamic organizations, judges, and scholars, who represented the relatively younger religious establishment. Even bin Baz supported the petition.[24] Encouraged by this dramatic step, four of the petitioners traveled to Jeddah and submitted the petition to the king's chief of staff. Sympathizers distributed thousands of underground copies around the country.[25]

The letter of demands represented a clear, albeit rhetorical, rebellion against the House of Saud. But the king's hands were tied. Nothing in the petition contradicted Saudi law or official Saudi statements; in fact, King Fahd and his predecessors had often promised creation of a consultative council, albeit one without any structure or powers specified.

While the government rejected the ulema's specific demands, it sought to diminish their challenge and popularity with incorporation of notions of cultural attack in some of its actions and rhetoric. The king sharply increased allocations for religious activities. Even during the economic crisis of 1992, the government increased the number of religious establishment employees from 54,000 to 60,300.[26] The Saudi government also launched a number of initiatives to strengthen the Islamic identity of Muslim diasporas. The king himself described the establishment of the Middle East Broadcasting Center (MBC) as outreach to Muslims living in Europe.[27]

Rhetorically, too, the regime co-opted some ideas of Hawali and other dissidents. Since the end of 1991, the king's speeches have promoted the idea of a clash of civilizations between an aggressive, materialistic, hegemony-seeking Western civilization and a spiritual Muslim civilization led by Saudi Arabia.[28] Many Saudi newspaper opinion columns—all subject to state censorship if not representing endorsed views—suggested that Saudi Arabia must launch a counterattack against the Western civilization. For example, one column in the Al-Riyadh daily contended that, because taking the struggle into the enemy's territory is the key to victory, the Saudi regime should exploit ties to Muslim diasporas in the West to transform the Christian crusade against Muslims into a crusade to Islamize the Christian world.[29]

Still, the Saudi royal family did not adhere to demands to abandon its U.S. military alliance or expel foreign troops, nor were the kingdom's laws purged of all non-Muslim influences. The king's March 1992 decision to decree a Basic Law of government and a Law of the Consultative Council ridiculed the ulemas' most radical demand by creating a council devoid of any real power for religious authorities.[30] In so doing, King Fahd drew a boundary between legitimate and illegitimate dissent. The petitioners of the letter of demands could no longer call for the establishment of a meaningful consultative council and still claim to operate within the boundaries of state legitimacy.

Faced with the dilemma of further challenging the king or retreating, most oppositionists retreated. The number of declared supporters of the ulemas' demands diminished after 1992, and even many of those who remained relinquished the demand for the establishment of a powerful consultative council although they did continue to advocate for greater Islamization of Saudi society and foreign policy. While some scholars argue that a further petition, the Mudhakarat an-Nasiha (the memorandum of advice), circulated in March 1992,[31] represents radicalization of the Saudi opposition,[32] this view misinterprets the evolution of the movement and its relations with the House of Saud. While the memorandum of advice was more elaborate in its demands for Islamization of the Saudi society, it relinquished the more radical demand to transfer political power from the House of Saud to the ulema and so reflected the regime's success in marking the boundaries of legitimacy for the opposition. It was signed by far fewer than had signed the letter of demands. Not only was bin Baz not among them, but the memorandum of advice drew condemnation from the Council for Senior Ulema.[33]

The regime's attitude toward those who persisted in criticism became harsher. In the summer of 1993, the police searched Hawali's offices and froze ‘Awda's bank accounts. Teachers at King Saud university in Riyadh, who in May established a human rights committee (Lajnat ad-Dif‘a ‘an al-Huquq ash-Shar'iya, often translated as the Committee for the Defense of the Legitimate Rights, CDLR, but may also be translated as "Committee for the Defense of the Shari‘a Rights") were fired; a few fled to exile in London where they launched a campaign to overthrow the House of Saud.[34] The regime reestablished control of the debate and over its religious opposition without either serious concession or a shot being fired.

Bin Laden and ‘Azzam: Synthesizing Ideology and Practice

What role Osama bin Laden had in those stormy events is not known; yet, he must have played some role because in the fall of 1991, he fled to exile in Sudan. Bin Laden likely identified with Hawali and ‘Awda's ideas objecting to the deployment of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia.

During his first years of exile in Sudan, bin Laden was a prominent Saudi opposition figure, known mostly for his antipathy to the Saudi alliance with the United States. In April 1994, after he identified with the CDLR, the Saudi Interior Ministry stripped him of his citizenship. In May 1996, the Sudanese government at Riyadh's urging expelled him. He found shelter in Afghanistan, protected by the Taliban.

From his Afghan exile, he issued "a declaration of war" and, in several press interviews, called for an armed struggle against U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia. He also claimed responsibility for the June 1996 explosions in Dhahran, which killed nineteen U.S. servicemen, saying they were a warning and a response to the collusion between the Saudi regime and the "Zionist-Crusade" alliance.[35] While he drifted apart from the mainstream Saudi opposition of the early 1990s, his emphasis on the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Saudi Arabia and his consistent criticism of the House of Saud reflected the concerns of Hawali and ‘Awda and made him merely a Saudi opposition figure.

In the late 1990s, bin Laden altered his political profile and embarked on an effort to become the leader of a global jihad against the United States and its allies. Using his fortune and his operational skills, he recruited radical Islamists willing to attack Western targets and trained several hundred in camps in Afghanistan. On February 23, 1998, bin Laden announced the establishment of "The World Islamic Front for the Jihad against the Jews and the Crusaders" (Al-Jabha al-Islamiya al-‘Alamiya li-Jihad al-Yahud w'as-Salabiyin) in the Arabic daily Al-Quds al-‘Arabi and positioned himself to head its supreme council. Joining him were jihadist leaders from Egypt, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, but their alliance was weak, and they did not agree upon the front's hierarchy and goals.[36] Six months later, bin Laden proved his organization's lethality when it simultaneously attacked the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es-Salaam, killing more than 220, injuring five thousand,[37] and gaining publicity for his organization and ideas.

Both the declaration of the World Islamic Front for the Jihad against the Jews and the Crusaders and bin Laden's audiotape aired on Al-Jazeera on December 26, 2001, explaining his reasons for the 9-11 attacks, demonstrate the synthesizing origins of his thought and operation. While the first signifies his claim to leadership of the global jihad, the second signifies the manifestation of this claim. Unlike a few other well-known documents attributed to bin Laden, there is no doubt as to the authenticity of either of these two documents. Still, bin Laden's ideology and modes of operation remain rooted in the legacies of ‘Azzam and the Saudi opposition and reflect a dynamic synthesis of the two.

The founding declaration of the World Islamic Front offered an analysis of the crisis the Muslim world faced. While the front claimed to speak for all Muslims, its analysis concentrated on the concerns of the Saudi opposition, resembling arguments articulated by Hawali less than a decade earlier. It suggested "three truths" to be evident: the first was that "for more than seven years [since 1991], America has been conquering the most sacred of all Muslim soil, that of the Arab peninsula, plundering its resources, dictating to its rulers how to act, humiliating its inhabitants, threatening its neighbors, and turning military bases on its soil into the spearhead of its war against the neighboring Muslim peoples." The second was that a "Crusading-Jewish alliance" would not settle for the immense devastation it brought down on millions of Iraqis (with U.N. sanctions) but now sought to kill the surviving Iraqi people and their Muslim neighbors. The third truth was that while U.S. goals were religious and financial, Washington's goal was also to serve the Jewish state and divert attention from Israel's occupation of the Al-Aqsa mosque and its killing of the Muslims residing in its territories.[38]

The declaration leaned heavily on the Saudi debate on the "cultural attack": the U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia was the original sin and the primary reason for the hardships faced by the Muslim world. The Palestinian problem, which ‘Abdallah ‘Azzam also emphasized, is of lesser importance and is addressed only in relation to U.S. policy in the Persian Gulf.

However, bin Laden's suggested remedy is a far cry from that suggested by Hawali and other dissidents. It relinquishes all hopes that the Saudi regime or any other Muslim regime would challenge Western plots and also neglects the intellectual and cultural aspects of the struggle. According to the declaration, the struggle against the West is not to be a struggle of words, nor is it to be a struggle of state-armies; rather, it is to be a struggle of devoted Muslim individuals fighting against sporadic Western targets. Here the influence of ‘Azzam is clear: following in his footsteps, bin Laden's declaration ended with an edict, ruling that it is the personal duty (fard al-‘ayn) of any Muslim to kill Americans and their allies, citizens and servicemen, whenever and wherever possible.[39]

In his audio statement three years later, bin Laden reversed the list of grievances, yet a synthesis remained. In the audio declaration, bin Laden explained the logic of the attacks and called for a continuation of the struggle. While the geographical context of the armed struggle against the West resembled that of ‘Azzam, the modes of operation designed by bin Laden echoed many of the ideas articulated in the Saudi-oriented debate on the Western "cultural attack." He described the United States as engaged in a crusade against Muslims around the world. While he concentrated on the post-9-11 war to oust the Taliban, he also commented on what he regarded as U.S. complicity in what he perceived as atrocities committed against children in the West Bank and Gaza. He then contended that 9-11 was retaliation against the continuing deprivation (zulm) of the sons of Palestinians, Iraqis, Somalis, Sudanese, and Kashmiris and called on the Muslim nation to awaken and end Washington's global campaign, not only against Muslims but also the whole of humanity.[40]

The military presence of U.S. troops on Saudi soil was no longer the focus of bin Laden's counterattack; indeed, it was not mentioned in the declaration. Having been in exile for a decade and claiming the helm of a global jihad against the West, the geographical context he addressed went beyond his origins and concentrated, like that which ‘Azzam presented, on Afghanistan and Palestine.

Nevertheless, the modes of operation bin Laden recommended remained rooted in the Saudi opposition. He viewed the counterattack against U.S. influence as a combined effort, not narrowly restricted to an armed dimension. He showed pride at the immense economic damage inflicted on the United States by 9-11 and emphasized that damaging the U.S. economy was as important as damaging its military, explaining that should the U.S. economy collapse, then the U.S. government could not subordinate other peoples.[41] Bin Laden's roots also showed in his pride that fifteen of the nineteen hijackers were Saudis. He reminded his audience that he had warned previously that should the United States be involved in a conflict with the sons of the two holy places (Saudi Arabia), it would long for its days in Vietnam. He also contended that the reason for the Saudi dominance in the attack was that its citizens were the most devoted in belief.[42] Like Hawali and other Saudi dissenters, bin Laden clearly envisioned a Saudi leadership in the struggle against the West.

Perhaps most remarkably, the influence that the debate on the "cultural attack" had on bin Laden's mode of operation was evident in his attempt to launch the counterattack from the enemy's soil, using the enemy's technology and members of the enemy's Muslim diaspora. In the Saudi debate on the "cultural attack," it was often argued that the Muslim world should harm the West in the same way the West harms the Muslim world—that is, by penetrating its cultural and social identity and forcing its inhabitants to question their values and beliefs to the point that they would collapse. Bin Laden adopted this conception and extended it, recruiting Muslims residing for months in the United States to execute a grand terror operation. In the audio declaration, he boasted that the young men involved in the attacks "used the enemy's planes and studied at the enemy's schools."[43]

Indeed, bin Laden's success in terrorizing the United States is largely the result of the materialization of the conception of the "counterattack": while the 9-11 attacks had little direct strategic importance for the U.S. economy and society, the emerging threat of a few Muslim Americans or Muslim Europeans becoming a fifth column and of sophisticated technologies becoming self-destructive weapons not only struck fear and suspicion in many Western societies but also forced them to rethink long-held convictions on such issues as freedom of speech, immigration, due process, and multiculturalism.

Bin Laden's synthesis of ‘Azzam's and the Saudi dissidents' ideas as well as the manifestation of this synthesis were unique. No other leader of the Saudi opposition followed in his footsteps. By claiming the helm of the leadership of a global, violent jihad against the West, bin Laden distanced himself from the mainstream Saudi opposition. Shortly after 9-11, Hawali and ‘Awda denounced bin Laden and urged Saudi youngsters not to follow in his footsteps. Hawali was even involved in the voluntary extradition of a young Saudi, whom the Saudi authorities sought to arrest in connection with his ties to Al-Qaeda, raising speculation about both his co-option by the religious establishment and whether he had the resolve to practice what he preached. [44]

Uriya Shavit teaches Middle Eastern studies at Tel Aviv University and is author of A Dawn of an Old Era: The Imaginary Revolution in the Middle East (Keter, 2003). He thanks Joseph Kostiner and Eyal Zisser for their assistance.

[1] Douglas A. Boyd, "Saudi Arabia Broadcasting: Radio and Television in a Wealthy Islamic State," Middle East Review, Summer and Fall 1980, p. 20.
[2] Ibid, pp. 22-3; Robert Lacey, The Kingdom (New York and London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Publishers, 1979), pp. 369-70.
[3] On Saudi Arabia's quick path to modernization, see Helen Lackner, A House Built on Sand: A Political Economy of Saudi Arabia (London: Ithaca Press, 1978), pp. 172-212.
[4] On ‘Utaibi's movement, see Joseph A. Kechician, "Islamic Revivalism and Change in Saudi Arabia," The Muslim World, Jan. 1990, p. 12; Lacey, The Kingdom, pp. 478-89.
[5] Muhammad ‘Abd al-‘Alim Marsi, Ath-Thakafa …Wal-Ghazu ath-Thakafi fi Duwal al-Khalij al-‘Arabia (Riyadh: Maktabat al-‘Abikan, 1995), pp. 129-72; "Min Sayhkim as-Saudiya: Al-Mal am as-Salafiya," Al-Bilad (Beirut), June 15, 1991.
[6] Hassan Muhammad Hassan, Wassa'il Muqawamat al-Ghazu al-Fikri lil-‘Alam al-Islami (Mecca: Rabitat al-‘Alam al-Islami, 1981), pp. 7-63, 149.
[7] Ibid., pp. 56-5.
[8] Ibid., pp. 79-176.
[9] Mariam Abu Zahab and Olivier Roy, Islamist Networks: The Afghan-Pakistan Connection (London: Hurst & Company, 2004), pp. 12-8; ‘Atef S‘adawa, "Mustaqbal al-Afghan al-Arab," Al-Dimuqratiya (Cairo), Jan. 2002, pp. 203-13.
[10]‘Abdallah ‘Azzam, ‘Ad-Dif'a ‘an Aradi al-Muslimin Ahamu Furudh al-‘Ayn (Amman: Maktabat ar-Risala al-Haditha, 1987), pp. 19-32, 42-9.
[11] Ibid., p. 33.
[12] Ibid., pp. 34-8.
[13] Ibid., p. 5.
[14] Jacob Goldberg, "Saudi Arabia," Middle East Contemporary Survey, XIV (1990): 607.
[15] Mamun Fandi, Saudi Arabia and the Politics of Dissent (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2001), p. 90; Mahmud al-Rif‘ai, Al-Mashru al-Islakhi fi as-Saudia: Kissat al-Hawali wal-‘Awda (Washington: n.p., 1995), p. 18.
[16] Fandi, Saudi Arabia, pp. 62-3; Rif‘ai, Al-Mashru al-Islakhi fi as-Saudia al-Islahi fi as-Saudiya, pp. 16-7, 30-1.
[17] S‘ad Rashid al-Fakih, Zalzal as-Saud (London: Al-Haraka al-Islamiya lil-Islah, n.d), pp. 31-2.
[18] See also, Safar al-Hawali, Haqa'iq hawl Azmat al-Khalij (Cairo: Dar Mecca al-Mukarama, 1991), pp. 110-5, 126-35.
[19] Fandi, Saudi Arabia, pp. 49-50; Goldberg, "Saudi Arabia," pp. 21-622.
[20] Rif‘ai, Al-Mashru al-Islakhi fi as-Saudia al-Islahi fi as-Saudiya, pp. 20-1; Fakih, Zalzal as-Saud, pp. 38-44.
[21] Al-Bilad, June 15, 1991.
[22] Fakih, Zalzal as-Saud, p. 49.
[23] Ash-Sh'ab (Cairo), May 21, 1991; Rif‘ai, Al-Mashru al-Islakhi fi as-Saudia al-Islahi fi as-Saudiya, pp 107-8.
[24] Rif‘ai, Al-Mashru al-Islakhi fi as-Saudia al-Islahi fi as-Saudiya, pp. 110-1.
[25] Fakih, Zalzal as-Saud, pp. 63-70.
[26]Joshua Teitelbaum, Holier than Thou: Saudi Arabia's Islamic Opposition (Washington: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2000), p. 101.
[27] King Fahd, interview on MBC, Foreign Broadcasting Information Service (FBIS), NES-223-91, Nov. 19, 1991; ‘Adnan Kamil, "At-Telefision al-Fadaa'i Keif wa Limadha," ‘Ukaz (Jedda), July 9, 1992.
[28] King Fahd, speech to the Muslim World League, ‘Ukaz, Jan. 26, 1992.
[29] Salih Muhammad al-Namla, "Hata la Yakun A'adaa'," Al-Riyadh, May 28, 1992.
[30] For the text of the Basic Law and the Law of the Consultative Council, see ‘Ukaz, Mar. 2, 1992.
[31] For a description of the events leading to the drafting of the memorandum and a summary of its contents, see Fakih, Zalzal as-Saud, pp. 88-106.
[32] R. Hrair Dekmejian, "The Rise of Political Islamism in Saudi Arabia," Middle East Journal, Autumn 1994, p. 636.
[33] For the text of the Council for Senior Ulema's condemnation, see Al-Riyadh, Sept. 18, 1992.
[34] Fakih, Zalzal as-Saud, pp. 106-35; Ann Elizabeth Mayer, "The Human Rights Debate," in Martin Kramer, ed., The Islamism Debate (Tel Aviv: Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, 1997), pp. 123-4; Teitelbaum, Holier than Thou, pp. 49-51.
[35] Teitelbaum, Holier than Thou, pp. 77-9.
[36] Esther Webman, "The Polarization and Radicalization of Political Islam," Middle East Contemporary Survey, XXII (1998): 129-30.
[37] The Washington Post, Jan. 8, 1999.
[38] "Nas Bayan al-Jabha al-Islamia al-‘Alamia lil-Jihad al-Yahud wal-Salbiyin," Al-Quds al-Arabi (London), Feb. 23, 1998.
[39] Ibid.
[40] "An-Nas al-Kamil li-Kalimat bin Ladin," Al-Quds al-Arabi, Dec. 28, 2001.
[41] Ibid.
[42] Ibid.
[43] Ibid.
[44] Joshua Teitelbaum, "Ha-dor ha-Hadash Shel ha-Ulama: Mish‘enet Hadasha la-Mishtar," in Esther Webman, ed., Ha-Mizrah ha-Tichon 2005: Be'siman Khilofei Be-siman Hilofei Dorot (Tel Aviv: Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African studies, 2005), pp. 113-5.


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