An Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) Seminar was held September 10th, the eve of 9/11, dedicated to those that died that day. Sarah Stern, President of EMET, reminded attendees that, out of the fifteen terrorists involved in the attack, eleven were from Saudi Arabia. The conference’s topic, consequently, was Saudi penetration into America’s national infrastructure.
The common theme among many of the speakers she invited to attend was oil and Islam. Islam, as former CIA director James Woolsey pointed out, is not inherently a violent religion but Saudi Arabia is home to one of the most threatening branches of Islam—Wahhabism. In spite of Saudi Arabia’s religious repression and undeniable human rights violations, the United States is still brazen enough to refer to them, according to Stern, as “our moderate allies in the war on terror.” She asserted that the reason the U.S. is loathe to decry Saudi Arabia’s faults is because of “our craven addiction to their fuel.”
Stern’s first speaker, Ali Alyami, pointed out that the Saudi people “are still among the most oppressed, marginalized people in the world.” The Saudi people have absolutely no say in what the Saudi government does, he argued. He also said that the government is to blame, and that is where U.S. officials’ focus should lie. Mr. Alyami, Executive Director for the Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, said that the United States developed its relationship with Saudi Arabian royals by pursuing “stability at the expense of democracy” and has achieved neither. Sharia, the Saudi’s form of law and the Qur’an are designated as the state’s constitution. Alyami pointed out, for example, that in Saudi Arabia, that “movie theaters are prohibited,” and warns that “the Saudi’s foreign policies are extensions of their domestic practices.”
Sharia, though not the official law of many countries, is still followed to varying degrees by many Muslims. An example of this is Sharia-compliant finance, a growing world-wide trend. Sharia forbids usury or, interpreting the law more loosely, any form of interest. Unfortunately for many Muslims, having a bank account necessarily involves some sort of interest. According to Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy, banks are providing the “ethical finance” option as a means “to pay for jihad.” Gaffney pointed out that by “jihad” he meant the violent kind, not stealthy actions.
Sandra Stotsky, author of “The Stealth Curriculum,” spoke out against misinformed teachers mis-educating many K-12 students about the Islam. It was not surprising to hear that most teachers take few, if any, courses on Islam. Stotsky says that, when it comes to Islam, teachers rely nearly entirely on the texts provided and on professional development workshops. Dr. Stotsky’s concern was that supplementary resources are not subject to official scrutiny and so packets like the Arab World Studies notebook, sent to many U.S. schools post-9/11, might contain falsehoods. The notebook begins with sections on Islam, the Qur’an, and the Hajj, and later features sections on Arab culture and U.S.-Arab relations. An estimated 10,000 teachers have received this rather lengthy notebook as a teaching aid.
Saudi money has influenced more than just public schools, many of the speakers pointed out. Alyami and Stern both mentioned that Saudi Arabia gives generous contributions to U.S. prestigious colleges, most notably Harvard and Georgetown, as well as others including the University of Arkansas. Saudi oil money has also found its way into the pockets of any number of nonprofits and think tanks. According to Kyle Shideler of EMET, the Middle East Policy Council received $1 million from King Abdullah in 2005. Rachel Ehrenfeld described how she felt the impact of Saudi money quite personally when Saudi billionaire Khalid bin Mahfouz used libel tourism to sue her in a British court for her book, Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Finance— and How to Stop It. She lost the case because, as she said, she felt it invalid since her book was not written or published in the United Kingdom. Ms. Ehrenfeld has since been working to increase protection of Americans from foreign libel judgments.