The Grassy Knoll Of 9/11: Saudi Arabia

The 9/11 terrorist attacks 14 years ago reshaped geopolitics, and not in a good way. Even if you did not lose loved ones on that dismal day, you know the world is still living with the consequences: millions fleeing Syria and Afghanistan; Iraq on the point of shattering into three ethnically-defined countries; and Islamist jihad threatening a swath of nations across Africa. The al Qaeda leadership may have been denuded, but what of the people who financed 9/11? The crucial twenty eight pages of the US Senate's 2002 report on 9/11 remain redacted: Bob Graham, the former Florida senator who chaired the Senate's foreign intelligence committee at the time, believes the hidden section of the report makes clear Saudi citizens were the principle financiers of 9/11.

What, also, of the society that produced 15 of the 19 hijackers? Under diplomatic pressure, the Saudi king commissioned a study of his nation's school curriculum. Published in 2004, it concluded that Saudi education "encourages violence toward others, and misguides pupils into believing that in order to safeguard their own religion, they must violently repress and even physically eliminate the 'other'."

The king promised a radical reform of the curriculum. Yet, all these years later, Saudi school text books continue to instruct children to hate "the infidel." Notably, they ignore passages in the Koran urging tolerance. While the regime has a program to re-educate some extremists, schools still teach that Christians and Jews are enemies worthy of hatred.

The independent group Freedom House analysed the Saudi school curriculum and found in the 8th grade Saudi children are taught Jews are apes and Christians are swine. In the following school year pupils learn it is part of God's wisdom that the struggle between Muslims and Jews should continue until the hour of judgment. In the 10th grade Saudi school children are taught the life of a non-Muslim (as well as women and slaves) are worth a fraction of that of a free Muslim male.

Jamal Kashoggi, editor of Al Arabiya, claims senior religious scholars in the kingdom have resisted moderating the curriculum, forcing authorities to postpone change because the matter is so "political."

The kingdom's Tatweer program was supposed to examine the curriculum and retrain teachers, but so far only a tiny proportion of Saudi's 500,000 teachers have participated. Nor is it clear teachers will accept reform. In the words of one, "The more officials make sweeping deletions from the Islamic curriculum, the more likely it is that teachers will ignore the mandate." Sold to the West as a reform, so far Tatweer has trained Saudi teachers to use computers and the Internet.

Ed Husain, a British Muslim who taught in Saudi Arabia, recalls the casual and unrepentant racism of his students: "Saudi racism was an integral part of Saudi society, accepted by most. My students often used the word 'nigger' to describe black people. Even dark-skinned Arabs were considered inferior to their light-skinned cousins."

It is debatable if Saudis consider even non-Gulf Arabs worthy of humane treatment. For instance, as their fellow Sunni Muslims flee violence in Syria, the borders of Gulf nations remain closed.

Of Saudi's 30 million inhabitants, almost nine million are foreign guest workers, most of them Muslims, from Indonesia, Pakistan, India, Egypt, and Chad . Human Rights Watch (HRW) describes conditions for foreign workers as "near slavery." "Asian embassies reported thousands of complaints from domestic workers forced to work 15 to 20 hours a day, seven days a week, and denied their salaries. Domestic workers, most of them women, frequently endure forced confinement, food deprivation, and sever psychological, physical and sexual abuse." HRW attributes their poor treatment to "deeply rooted gender, religious and racial discrimination."

None of this - the funding of 9/11, the systematic teaching of intolerance, the everyday racism - is a matter of purely historic interest: individuals in Saudi are "the main ideological, military and financial backers of Islamic State," according to Princeton's Seyed Hossein Mousavian. Patrick Cockburn, author of "The Rise of Islamic State," quotes Richard Dearlove, former head of the UK's foreign intelligence service, MI6: "Substantial and sustained funding from private donors is Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to which authorities have turned a blind eye, has played a central role in the ISIS surge."

Yet, with annual oil revenues of $285 billion it seems likely the West will continue to avert its eyes from the behavior of influential individuals in the Gulf while we buy their oil and sell them weapons, whiskey and bling.