Leaders in Saudi Arabia are forcefully speaking out in the global war on terrorism. “There is no room for neutrality or hesitancy” regarding those who commit terrorist acts, said Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah on August 14th. “He who protects or sympathizes with a terrorist is himself a terrorist, and will receive his just punishment.”
On August 16th, the Saudi Council of Senior Clerics said that participating in terrorism “is a dangerous criminal act. . .punishable by Islamic law.” The council is Saudi Arabia’s highest religious body. Its statement condemning terrorism was carried by the official Saudi press agency. The statement said that justifications for terrorism “have no religious grounds” and that “harboring or giving [terrorists] shelter. . .would be considered one of the greatest sins.”
These words are all the more welcome because fifteen of the nineteen al-Qaida terrorists who carried out the September 11th, 2001, attacks on the U.S. were from Saudi Arabia. And in the past, it has been all too common for Saudi religious leaders either to remain silent about the evil of terrorism, or, even worse, to make hateful statements that could encourage terrorist acts.
But Saudi attitudes about terrorism have changed markedly since nine suicide terrorists killed twenty-six people in Riyadh on May 12th. Since then, Saudi authorities have arrested more than two-hundred suspects and killed more than a dozen in police raids. Among those arrested was Abu Bakr al-Azdi, a senior al-Qaida operative.
President George W. Bush recently spoke on the telephone with Crown Prince Abdullah. As White House spokesman Scott McClellan said, they “talked about continued cooperation between the United States and Saudi Arabia in the war on terrorism, particularly the ongoing cooperation on cracking down on terrorist financing.”
President Bush made it clear that there will be no letup in the war on terrorism:
“This country will not rest, we will not tire, we will not stop until this danger to civilization is removed.”
Wherever the al-Qaida terrorists try to hide, said President Bush, “we are finding them and we are bringing them to justice.”