October 21st, 2009
02:18 PM ET

LKL Web Exclusive: The Saudi Enigma

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Robert Lacey

I chose these words to open my new book Inside the Kingdom, because I needed to understand the tragedy of 9/11 and the nation that produced no less than fifteen of the nineteen hijackers on those planes. Saudi Arabia has never been a spot that wins much favor in the west. How can you love a country that charges you $70 or more for a product that costs less than $10 to get out of the ground – and then gives you terrorists as well?

But I wanted to go beyond that – to find out how the culture and religion of a society could go so wrong as to produce such a poisonous boiling-over of intolerance and hatred. In theory Saudi Arabia should not exist – its survival defies the laws of logic and history. Look at its princely rulers, dressed in funny clothes, trusting in God rather than man, and running their government on principles that most of the world has abandoned with relief. Shops closed for prayer five times a day, executions in the street – and let us not even get started on the status of women. For many the Kingdom remains one of the planet’s enduring – and, for some, quite offensive – enigmas.

But in these notorious distinctions lies an answer that I would urge you to consider – for when you look harder, the differences are not quite as great as they seem. It was not so long ago in the west, certainly in the memory of our parents and grandparents, that women were second class citizens denied the right to vote; most respectable people were devout and rather intolerant believers, scared and suspicious of other races and faiths: capital punishment was considered a necessity – with public lynchings of non-whites in the south; books and plays were censored (our movies still are); people dressed in stiff and formal clothes – a sort of uniform; father knew best, and ‘nice’ girls remained virgins until marriage. For centuries western life was lived within the comfort of those structures and strictures, and it is only in the last 90 years (one modern lifetime) that we have started to look for new values – which we sometimes seek to define by criticizing those who are reluctant to abandon the security of what went before.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • Larry King • Middle East • Terrorism
soundoff (One Response)
  1. Mari

    Its interesting that 15 out of the 19 9/11 attackers were Saudi, and yet Bush attacks....... Iraq!

    Bush couldn't attack the "kingdom"! God forbid! I pray for the day, that some brilliant American comes up with an alternative renewable green fuel.... and we can ALL, tell the Middle-Eastern Oil Cartel......... SEE YA!

    October 21, 2009 at 7:06 pm |