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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 10, 2003

SCHUMER: SAUDIS PLAYING ROLE IN SPREADING MAIN TERROR INFLUENCE IN UNITED STATES

At Judiciary Hearing, Schumer details how top officials in the Saudi government help finance schools and mosques in the US and Middle East that spread militant teachings

The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security held a hearing today on “Terrorism: Two Years After 9/11, Connecting the Dots.”

US Senator Charles Schumer discussed the role that top officials in the Saudi government, including Interior Minister Prince Naif , play in spreading militant Wahhabism in the United States and throughout the Middle East. Schumer detailed how prominent members of the Saudi royal family have set up charities that funnel money to mosques and madrassah schools that advance Wahhabi teachings. In the United States alone, Saud Arabia boasts of supporting over 18 mosques and schools, including the Islamic Center in Washington. The following is Schumer's statement:

On the eve of the second anniversary of the horrific attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, I think it is terribly important that we take stock of our efforts to root out terrorism. These hearings can play an important part in that process and I expect that after today we will have a better understanding of how the extremist ideology held by the 9-11 hijackers was spawned and where it has taken hold today.

Before I start my statement, however, I want to make one point crystal clear: mainstream Islam is a peaceful religion that deserves the respect of all Americans. It has a proud history and many of the people who follow its beliefs here in the United States are hardworking, patriotic citizens.

Wahhabism is known throughout the Muslim world for its puritanical and severe approach to the teachings of the Muslim prophet Mohammed. It preaches violence against non-believers or infidels and serves as the religious basis for Osama Bin Laden and al Qaeda.

Experts agree that Saudi Arabia is the epicenter of Wahhabist belief and its extremist teachings. Unfortunately, there is mounting evidence that Saudi sponsored groups are trying to hijack mainstream Islam here in the United States – in mosques, in schools, and even in prisons and the military – and replace it with Wahhabism.

As we will hear today, in the 1960s and 1970s, the Saudi royal family made a deal with the devil, offering to sponsor the teachings of Wahhabist clerics in exchange for their support of the Royal Family’s rule.
Wahhabi teachings include examples of Allah cursing Jews and Christians and turning some of them into apes and pigs; and warnings that Muslims must consider non-Muslims or infidels their enemy.

One of the terms of the dirty deal between the Saudi Royal Family and its Wahhabi partners has been the export of Wahhabist belief as part of Saudi foreign policy. Prominent members of the Saudi royal family – including Prince Naif, Saudi Arabia’s Interior Minister and anti-terror czar – have set up charities that funnel money to Wahhabi madrassah schools throughout the Middle East and Pakistan, making these areas hotbeds of anti-American sentiment and extremism.

Naif is a particularly bad seed. He’s made comments insisting 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.

He also oversees the Saudi Committee for the Support of the Al Quds Intifadah, which, like Saddam Hussein, has provided families of terrorists with millions of dollars through specially designated bank accounts. It seems impossible to expect cooperation in the War on Terror from someone who sponsors extremist and hateful religious belief and encourages terrorist actions. After the bombing of the Khobar Towers in 1998 that killed 19 Americans, it was Naif who single-handedly prevented the trial of 13 Saudis indicted for the crime.

Even as I speak, he 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.

It boggles my mind that on the eve of the second anniversary of September 11th, we cannot access someone who may have knowledge of a new 9-11 in the making, all because of the intimate relationship Saudi bigwigs have with extremist Wahhabi clerics.

That’s why I wrote to the Saudi Arabian ambassador Prince Bandar in July calling for Naif’s dismissal. Sadly, I was rudely dismissed. Earlier this week, I wrote to Secretary Powell asking him to make Naif’s removal part of US policy toward Saudi Arabia. I eagerly await the Secretary’s response. There are indications that Prince Sultan, the Saudi Defense Minister, may also be involved in activities similar to Naif since he has also set up charities that send money abroad for apparently humanitarian purposes.

And the money we are talking about here is not small potatoes. According to the Saudi Arabian Information Resource, between 1975 and 1987, Saudi Arabia sent $48 billion overseas in development aid, second only to the United States.

While all of this is terribly alarming – and no doubt contributed to the events of 9-11 – the most disturbing news is that Wahhabism – backed by truckloads of Saudi oil money – is now making inroads here in the United States. Saudi Arabia boasts of directly supporting over 18 mosques and schools across the country, including Islamic Centers in Washington and New York.

Experts who we heard from at the previous hearing suggest the real number is much higher, reaching into the hundreds, as intermediary organizations like the Saudi-sponsored World Assembly of Muslim Youth, provide financial support to American mosques and schools. In exchange, they demand that these mosques and schools toe the Wahhabi line. Saudi textbooks that preach violence against infidels can be found in some American Muslim schools.
And that’s not all. Grass roots political organizations that claim to act as the official voice of the American Muslim community here in Washington are also major recipients of Saudi money.

The Council on American Islamic Relations – perhaps the most famous of these groups – reportedly received financial support from Saudi-funded organizations to build its $3.5 million headquarters here in Washington.

This may explain why in April 2001, the Council released a survey saying that 69% of Muslims in America say it is “absolutely fundamental” or “very important” to have Wahhabi teachings at their mosques.

Now I don’t believe that these figures reflect the true feeling of the American Muslim community because the extremist Wahhabi ideology is violent, exclusionary and intolerant. It denigrates not only Christianity and Judaism, but also Shia and moderate Sunni Islam. Yet the leaders of these extremist organizations are smart and have public relations savvy. They know how to promote their cause and are willing to do what is needed to get backing from Saudi oil money.

To make matters worse, prominent members of the Council’s current leadership – people who were invited to the hearings today but declined to testify – also have intimate connections with Hamas – a group that receives substantial funding from Saudi Arabia and subscribes to Wahhabist teachings. I wish they had taken us up on our invitation so that they could explain themselves.

Other Muslim community groups in the United States – the Islamic Society of North America, the Graduate School for Islamic Social Sciences and the American Muslim Foundation to name a few – also receive money from Saudi sources and exhibit Wahhabi influence. The Graduate School and the American Muslim Foundation are both currently under investigation by the US government for terrorist financing

As I noted during the previous hearings we held, this is why it is so disturbing that these groups – and only these groups – are used by the US military and the Federal Bureau of Prisons to help select imams to minister in their ranks. These groups, with their Wahhabist tenets, clearly do not represent mainstream Islam, a system of belief that is peaceful and preaches respect and tolerance of other religions. But there should be no doubt that these organizations are on a mission to claim the American Muslim community as their own.

Official Washington can do much to counteract this movement by recognizing American Islamic groups that do not take Saudi money and which do not endorse Wahhabist teachings. These are the people who should be invited to White House prayer breakfasts instead of those who have publicly praised suicide martyrdom.

The Bush Administration can also help by striking at the source of these organizations’ support: Saudi oil money. Secretary Powell and others must make it clear to the Saudi Royal Family that if it does not end its dirty deal with the extremist Wahhabi clerics, it will ends its relationship with the United States.

I pray they act before it’s too late.

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Some of the institutions in the United States that have gotten funding from Saudi Arabia:

Dar al-Salam Institute
Fresno Mosque in California
The Islamic Center in Colombia, Missouri
The Islamic Center in East Lansing, Michigan
The Islamic Center in Los Angeles, California
The Islamic Center in New Brunswick, New Jersey
The Islamic Center in New York
The Islamic Center in Tida, Maryland
The Islamic Center in Toledo, Ohio
The Islamic Center in Virginia
The Islamic Center in Washington
The Islamic Cultural Center in Chicago
King Fahd Mosque in Los Angeles
The Mosque of the Albanian Community in Chicago
South-West Big Mosque of Chicago
Umar bin Al-Khattab Mosque in Los Angeles


 
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