Brit Hume Interviews Stephen Schwartz
by Brit Hume
HUME: The U.S. government seems caught these days between warning its old ally Saudi Arabia that needs to face up to terrorism in its country.
And at the same time, as you heard there, praising the Saudis for their cooperation. And that reflects a real debate about Saudi Arabia -- is it a U.S. friend and ally on the war on terror? Or is it a medieval dictatorship that has tried to cope with terrorism by both supporting and exporting it?
One who holds the latter view is Stephen Schwartz, of the Foundation of Defense of the Democracies, and author of the book, "The Two Faces of Islam.
Welcome to you, sir.
STEPHEN SCHWARTZ, AUTHOR, "THE TWO FACES OF ISLAM": Good to be here.
HUME: So, what is it that this recent terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia tells us that we should have known or at least didn't know before?
SCHWARTZ: Well, it seems to me we have to recognize the fact that this is a society suffused with the terrorist ideology. The Saudi state is based on a terrorist ideology, Wahhabism, which is the most extreme sect of Islam, and is the state sect, inside Saudi Arabia.
HUME: Now, stop. Let me stop you right there for a moment.
SCHWARTZ: Yes, sir.
HUME: Wahhabism, cast as you cast it, certainly threatens the Saudi royal family, doesn't it?
SCHWARTZ: No. There's a division in the Saudi royal family. Wahhabism supports the Saudi royal family. The section that's threatened is the section that doesn't want to go all the way with Wahhabism. But the historical alliance between the Saudi royal family and the Wahhabis goes back 250 years.
The thing is, that the royal family has managed Wahhabism until now. But now, on the one side, there are forces in Saudi Arabia pushing in the direction of reform and change, getting rid of Wahhabism. On the other side, the Wahhabis themselves are holding ever tighter and tighter. And the royal family is now divided between the main faction, which wants to continue to use Wahhabism as a form of social control, and the reform faction, which wants to turn the page.
HUME: Is there a succinct way that you can describe what it is about Wahhabism that makes it a -- conducive to terrorism?
SCHWARTZ: Yes, sir: Jihad against the whole world. Jihad against the other Muslims, who are not viewed as real Muslims, because they're not Wahhabis; Jihad against the Christians, even though the Saudi royal family depends on Christian armies to keep them in power. Jihad against the Jews, obviously; Jihad against Hinduism, for not being Muslims; Jihad against the world. That's Wahhabism. That's what it's always been for 250 years.
HUME: And how intensely is that adhered to by the vast majority of Saudis?
SCHWARTZ: Oh, It's not the majority of Saudis. My friend, Ali Al-Ahmed, the Saudi opposition leader, says 40 percent. I, from talking to other Saudi opposition people, I think no more than 25 percent. The problem though, the state bureaucracy of clerics, Wahhabi clerics, are supported by the government. And when they get up on every Friday, and deliver Friday sermons, inciting Jihad against the world; they're doing that as government employees.
When the Internet, the T.V. stations, the radio station, the talk shows, the textbooks, and the schools continue to spread this ideology, and to drum this ideology into the heads of Saudi subjects.
HUME: That's, in your view, what gives rise to...
SCHWARTZ: And that's what gives rise to the situation where the discontented people of Saudi Arabia, who want change, the government says, you want change; go die for Islam. You want change; go kill the Jews. You want change, go up to Afghanistan, and start a war.
HUME: All right now. The United States governments looks at the Saudi -- looks at Saudi Arabia and said, wait a minute, this is the country that has hosted our bases; that when we're worried by a major upswing in oil prices, the Saudis come in with their excess capacity, which is larger than anybody else has. They are the balance wheel in the world's oil supply. And they help the Western economies by maintaining stability in oil prices. And they do it with considerable reliability and they truly are a friend. What's your response to that?
SCHWARTZ: The Wahhabi-Saudi strategy for 250 years has been to maintain an alliance with the Western(Christian powers, in order to keep them in power; at the same time as they preach Jihad against the world.
That's the problem. The problem is the credibility gap. They say to the world's Muslims, we're the purest Muslims; we're preaching Jihad against the world. But the world's Muslims look and say, but wait a minute, you're in bed with the United States. They say to the United States, we're your friends. We'll control oil prices for you. We'll do whatever you want, but at the same time, they're preaching the Jihad.
HUME: So, this is a -- this is what has been described as the double game?
SCHWARTZ: It's hypocrisy. It's a simple word, hypocrisy.
HUME: So, what should the U.S. Policy be? How do you deal with this?
SCHWARTZ: From 9/11 on it was necessary, and it's still necessary, for our president to do three things. First of all, tell Saudi we have to have a complete accounting of this. We have to know who in the Saudi government supports these actions, who in the Saudi government made 9/11 and made these most recent bombings happen.
HUME: You think -- do you think the people in the Saudi government made 9/11 happen?
SCHWARTZ: Let's put it this way -- they didn't order it, but they didn't stop it.
HUME: Could they have, in your view?
SCHWARTZ: This is the most powerful police state, and most repressive police state in the world.
HUME: Boy, it couldn't stop that terrorist attack, though, could it?
SCHWARTZ: Well, that's because when a powerful bombing conspiracy takes place in the most repressive police state in the world, it's because somebody in the government is asking we acquiescing to it.
HUME: So, you're view is that the Saudis, in affect, winked at this attack? Somebody in the government...
SCHWARTZ: A faction -- a faction of the government winks at this attack.
HUME: Now, how bitter, how -- we think of the Saudi royal family at a distance, as a monolith. It's not.
SCHWARTZ: It's not a monolith. No.
HUME: And so -- I mean how factionalized is it?
SCHWARTZ: Well, it's very clear -- it's clear now, in my view, at least and in the view of the opposition people that I talked to from the kingdom, the Crown Prince Abdullah sees that the country is like a truck with no brakes heading for a cliff.
He wants a change to take place. He wants the country to turn a page in history -- in its history. Just to say, for example, the White South Africa said, apartheid must stand. Pinochet said, it's time to go back to electoral democracy...
SCHWARTZ: ... Abdullah wants a change to take place. But Naif, the interior minister, Sultan, the defense minister, the hard guys who are connected with Wahhabis, they don't want a change to take place.
HUME: And who has the upper hand at the moment? Last question.
SCHWARTZ: At the moment, Naif and Sultan have the upper hand because we're supporting them.
HUME: And so our -- we need to withdraw support from those guys...
SCHWARTZ: Well, these are the other two points that I was going to make. First of all...
HUME: Quickly. We don't have enough time.
SCHWARTZ: ... we need to support the reform effort in Saudi Arabia. And we need to tell them if they don't clean up their act, we will start looking at the assets they hold in the United States.
HUME: All right. Stephen Schwartz, nice to have you. Thank you.
SCHWARTZ: Thank you, Brit.
Related Topics: Saudi Arabia, Wahhabism receive the latest by email: subscribe to the free center for islamic pluralism mailing list
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