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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 25, 2003

SCHUMER: SAUDIS ARE MAIN FINANCIERS OF TERROR

Schumer says terrorist financing investigations must focus on money that funds extremist madrassa schools across Middle East, Pakistan and Indonesia

Schumer says efforts to stop Saudi terrorist financing will go nowhere if Prince Naif who administers Saudi charities is not removed from power

"It has been said so many times that it seems like old hat – money is the lifeblood of terrorism. Cut off the funds that allow terrorists to carry out their diabolical deeds and you can go a long way toward shutting down their operations. This is why I think the focus of today’s hearing – Saudi Arabia – is so appropriate.

As has been well publicized since September 11th, Saudi Arabia has funneled millions of dollars in the form of charitable donations to terrorist organizations around the world. I think many of the experts here today will agree that this is also not a new phenomenon, but rather has a long history dating back to the 1970s.

It was then that the Saudi Royal family struck a deal with the devil, offering to sponsor the teachings of the country’s hardline clerics in exchange for their support of the Royal Family’s rule. Since that time, Saudi Arabia has been the epicenter of terrorist financing.

Successive American administrations have put the Saudis on notice about this dangerous behavior, some more forcefully than others. For example, reports indicate that in 1999 and 2000, then Vice President Al Gore warned powerful members of the Saudi Royal Family to end this flow of money to terrorists, even going so far as threatening to use economic sanctions if the Saudis refused.

The lack of cooperation we have received from Saudi Arabia on this issue is not surprising. As we have heard in other Congressional hearings, several prominent members of the Saudi Royal family, including Prince Naif, Saudi Arabia’s anti-terror czar, have supported and even administrated these supposed charitable donations.

Naif in particular seems to enjoy thumbing his nose at the United States at every turn. He single-handedly blocked the trial of 13 Saudis indicted in American courts for killing 19 Americans in the bombing of Khobar Towers in 1998.

He insisted that Zionists were responsible for 9-11 and claimed that Saudis citizens could not have been involved in the attack, even after the Saudi government admitted that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi.

Even as I speak, Naif appears to be up to his old tricks as reports indicate that Saudi officials have for months denied American agents access to a Saudi with knowledge of extensive plans to release poison gas into the New York City subway system.

Until the usual suspects like Naif are removed from power, I am highly skeptical that we have any chance of ending Saudi Arabia’s involvement in terrorist financing.

Another important point to make is that it is not simply the incredible scale of money funneled to terrorist organizations that makes Saudi Arabia’s activity so dangerous.

Terrorism results from a dangerous cocktail of ideology and arms. People, dissatisfied for one reason or another, fall under the spell of extremist belief and turn to arms to resolve their dissatisfaction.

If we are to be successful in any effort to clamp down on terrorism by choking off the money that serves as its lifeblood, we must take aim at money that not only supports the purchase of arms but also the spread of extremist ideology. We must end the incitement.

Experts agree that the Saudi Arabian government is the world’s primary sponsor of a puritanical and severe approach to Islam known as Wahhabism. This extreme form of Islamic belief is way out of the mainstream, preaching violence against non-believers or infidels and serving as the religious basis for Osama Bin Laden and al Qaeda.

Unlike the vast majority of American Muslims who are hardworking, patriotic citizens and who practice moderate and peaceful Islam, followers of Wahhabism subscribe to teachings that show Allah cursing Christians and Jews and turning some of them into apes and pigs; and warn Muslims to consider non-Muslims or infidels their enemy.

The Saudi government takes an aggressive approach to sponsoring Wahhabism, providing millions of dollars to madrassa schools throughout the Middle East, Pakistan and Indonesia in order to spread this extremist ideology. Accordingly, it is no coincidence that these areas are hotbeds of anti-American sentiment and extremism.

So as we discuss ongoing efforts to clamp down on terrorist financing today and focus in on Saudi Arabia, we must not simply look at money that goes toward buying guns, ammunition and explosives. The flow of money that supports the spread of extremist, violent and intolerant beliefs such as Wahhabism must also be stopped. Only then will our efforts to end terrorist financing have the opportunity to succeed.”

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