With the February 5-8 Saudi counter-terrorism conference approaching and the U.S. reportedly attending, it is important to understand the Saudi position vis-à-vis Jihad against U.S. troops in Iraq. While Saudi officials proclaim that Saudi Arabia does not support this Jihad, a look at the Saudi government media and statements by religious leaders and Iraqi government officials prove otherwise.
Dr. Yassin Al-Khatib, a professor of Islamic law at Saudi Arabia’s Um Al-Qura University, declared on Saudi/UAE Al-Majd TV on May 10 that, “the fact that [the U.S.] entered [Iraq] … makes it every Muslim's duty to go out against them, not only the Iraqis… Jihad today has become an individual duty that applies to each and every Muslim… When the Muslims fought in Afghanistan they destroyed the Soviet Union… It collapsed, and Allah willing so will [the U.S.] collapse.”
Many Saudis have been listening to religious figures such as Al-Khatib, who use the Saudi media to call upon Muslims to fight the U.S. in Iraq. This has been confirmed on numerous occasions by Iraqi media and government officials. The Baghdad newspaper Al-Mashriq reported on January 12 that the Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights published the names of 14 Saudis caught planning acts of terrorism. On November 1, Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi announced the arrest of a group of Saudi insurgents. On October 3, Iraqi Interior Minister Fallah Al-Naqib told a press conference that many insurgents killed in the previous weekend's fighting in Samaraa were Saudis. On July 29, the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat announced that Iraqi police arrested the head of one of Baghdad's terrorist groups – a Saudi.
According to a December 15 report in the Saudi Gazette, growing numbers of Saudis went to fight American troops following an internal crackdown against terrorists targeting the Saudi government. Having been spurred on by Saudi religious leaders, many reportedly went to fight U.S. troops in Fallujah. For example, Saudi cleric ‘Aed Al-Qarni stated on December 26 on Saudi Iqra TV: “The Jihad in Fallujah is a source of pride. It is astounding: a city of 250,000 residents opposing a superpower … downing their planes, destroying equipment, slaughtering them, taking them hostage, and proclaiming ‘Allah Akhbar’… Who can say even one word against this true Jihad against these colonialist occupiers?”
Dozens of reports in the Arab media have detailed the stories of individual Saudis going to martyr themselves by waging Jihad in Iraq. For example, "Abdullah," a Saudi fighter, was interviewed by the London daily Al-Hayat last year. He said he came to Iraq out of a religious obligation to wage Jihad against “American aggression… When I left Saudi Arabia, I was ready to become a martyr." A recent more well-known instance of a Saudi who martyred himself is the suicide bomber who killed 22 people in the dining hall of a U.S. army base in Mosul, Ahmad Al-Gamadi, who had been recruited in Saudi Arabia. Al-Sharq Al-Awsat reported that he is just one of hundreds of Saudis who have been recruited to fight American soldiers.
The families of Saudi Jihad fighters have expressed pride for the martyrdom of their children. Al-Hayat reported last year about two families in eastern Saudi Arabia. The father of Suheil Al-Sahili, who was killed in northern Iraq, told the paper: “I thank Allah that [our son] attained what he sought. For 14 years he sought [martyrdom]. He always pointed to his head and wished that a rifle bullet would split his forehead… We got a phone call from him finally, in which he said he was going to the Jihad in Iraq…" The brother of Abd Al-Hadi Al-Shehri told the paper: “From a young age he wanted Jihad… After fulfilling this commandment of pilgrimage to Mecca, there was no contact with him until news of his martyrdom reached us.” Another article from the same paper on April 12, 2004 reported that a Saudi national was "congratulated" by many for the death of his son as a martyr in Fallujah.
Over the past month this column has been dedicated to exposing Saudi Arabia’s hypocrisy for claiming that it is vigorously opposing Jihad and anti-Western incitement, when in reality hatred of the U.S. and support for Jihad against it is a mainstream Saudi view propagated by the government’s media and religious establishment. The upcoming Saudi terror conference must be viewed with suspicion, and as part of the ongoing game that the Kingdom has been playing regarding terrorism since before 9/11. The Saudis claim that they are opposing hatred and Jihad, when nothing could be further from the truth. Any country participating in the terror conference, including the U.S., must understand that is only helping the Saudis continue to play their game.
Steven Stalinsky is Executive Director of The Middle East Media Research Institute.