2004 June 07 Monday
London School Provides Insight Into Teaching In Saudi Arabia
What kind of school would follow a curriculum designed to keep the women down and the devout Muslims hostile toward the rest of us? A Saudi diplomatic school for Muslim kids in London.
The King Fahd Academy in Acton, west London, named after the current Saudi ruler, devotes up to 50 per cent of lessons to religious education and teaches almost all classes in Arabic, with boys and girls following different curricula.
Dr Mai Yamani, a research fellow at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, had two daughters at the school, but removed them when she became uncomfortable about the education they were receiving. "I moved my eldest daughter at the age of seven. Her new school said that, in their opinion, she had been 'totally untaught' to that point. They had to put her in a class with much younger children, which was terrible for her.
"The school is trying to make sure that the Saudis who go there abide by the system of state control in Saudi Arabia. The method is 'loyalty to the system and hostility to the outsider'.
Dr. Mai Yamani is daughter of the famous Saudi ex-oil minister Sheikh Yamani who cut such a big international figure back in the 1970s at OPEC meetings and in his announcements about oil prices..
The claims about this school provide insight into what schools in Saudi Arabia must be like. A country whose populace is taught a fundamentalist strain of Islam which has hostility toward non-believers is a country that not surprisingly produces a lot of terrorists. When the rest of the world buys oil it is funding a society, education system, and religious missionary effort that is spreading Wahhabi Islam all over the world. Shouldn't this be considered a national security problem by all Western liberal democracies? Shouldn't the US and other countries adopt energy policies designed to decrease the demand for Middle Eastern oil and to eventually obsolesce oil entirely?
Also, shouldn't US immigration policy be changed to keep Wahhabi Muslims from immigrating to the United States?
Americans need to start prodding their politicians to develop an effective strategy to deal with fundamentalist Islam. Not all religions or sects are forces for peace. Not all cultures are compatible with classical liberalism. Lets stop pretending.
The radical schools and mosques are a tough problem. They generate terrorists. And yet, how can the US force other countries to change. We don’t control what religious schools in the US teach.
One approach is to lean heavily on the foreign government as the US is doing with Pakistan.
Another approach is to cooperate with countries such as Thailand when they clamp down on their own extremists. In other words the US shouldn’t complain about government oppression and abuse of civil liberty when a foreign government attacks Islamists. Bush stopped complaining about Putin’s handling of Chechnya.
Another approach is to provide funding for moderate mosques and secular schools. The US is using this approach in South Asia and Afghanistan. Several European countries are setting up government-funded programs to train native, moderate clerics.
When persuasion and legal means fail, covert ops might be used. Encourage the assasination of radical leaders, e.g., Pakistan.
In the US, the government may not be able to shut down the radical mosques and schools but it should be possible to keep them under close surveillance. The radical centers might even serve as honeypots that help us detect and track terrorists. (I’ve wondered if radical Islamic sites online are used in this manner.)
Yes, the US has very limited means to force other countries to change. Given that this is the case we need to ask what else we can do to protect ourselves.
I argue for the development of technologies to obsolesce oil as a way to defund our enemies.
I also argue for much tougher immigration and visa policies to keep out Muslims.
I argue for these two approaches because we do not have policy tools that are capable of rapidly (or even not so rapidly) changing Muslim societies to make them far less hostile. Our government's failure to adopt these policy tools is in part a reflection of their Panglossian view of their ability to reshape the Middle East and Islam.
Providing funding for government-funded schools: The Bush Administration has made noises about this with regard to Pakistan and Indonesia. But the local fundies complained loudly that the US should not be able to dictate curriculums. I don't know that this strategy can work. Maybe it could work in Afghanistan.
But most of the Al Qaeda terrorists are coming from Arab countries, and Saudi Arabia in particular. Other Al Qaeda terrorists are coming from Europe now. I do not see how US money can change the education of these people or the sorts of messages they hear at mosques.
We aren't going to be able to assassinate our way to better schools and less hostile messages from mosques.
“But most of the Al Qaeda terrorists are coming from Arab countries, and Saudi Arabia in particular. Other Al Qaeda terrorists are coming from Europe now. I do not see how US money can change the education of these people or the sorts of messages they hear at mosques.”
Saudi Arabia is critical as it the source of both money and the ideology of hatred. I expect the country to dissolve in civil war. If the Islamists look like they will win then I expect the US forces to roll in from Iraq and occupy the oil fields. For PR purposes the oil income might be divied up among the various people in the region. (The US doesn’t need the money and developing the local economies would benefit the US.) Perhaps the control of Mecca could be handed over to Jordan or perhaps to a global Muslim council.
Other than jawboning I see little the US can do about Europe. On the bright side, more European countries are taking notice of the threat, e.g., recent events in the Netherlands. Most Europeans are far less tolerant of outsiders than is the US. I expect a major backlash against European Muslims within the next decade.
A major potential problem is the rising Anti-Americanism in Europe. The France-Germany alliance may (likely will) attempt to use Muslim anger against American interests. Could go either way. If the terrorists act with restraint in Europe (unlikely), France and Germany may tolerate their activities against the US, i.e., provide bases and money much as Irish Americans supported the IRA for years.
“We aren't going to be able to assassinate our way to better schools and less hostile messages from mosques.”
Not in Europe or the US or the ME. It may be the only approach in areas of the world where law and order has broken down, e.g., areas of Pakistan and Africa. (I don’t really know. I’m just tossing out ideas and seeing how the affect the mix.)
In the mean time another strategy is to make their infrastructure as open as we can. We should impose trade penalties on nations that restrict sattelite ownership or internet searches. We should reward the ones who are open. We can't force them to learn new ways, but we can least require they keep the door open. Some percentage of their people will take the bait, and that should get the ball rolling.
In the mean time the cognitive dissonance between what the mullahs promise and what they deliver should become more and more unbearable. Remember your Orwell. As long as we let the Mullahs control the past and present of their citizen's knowledge, they will direct the future.
Fly, Revolutions and civil wars happen rarely. Saudi Arabia's government is more likely to survive than to be overthrown.
Think about it. When is the last time an Arab government was overthrown by civil war? Even military coups have become extremely rare. Many of the countries are ruled by families which control them for generations.
Suppose Saudi Arabia did dissolve into civil war. Would there be a non-Islamist faction? Which faction would be that exactly?
We can't count on events to save us. Hence my advocacy of energy research, border control, tough visa and immigration policies, and a strong increase in our covert action and spying abilities.
Brock, Satellite disk ownership is widespread in Saudi Arabia and has been for years. But they have Al Jazeera and other channels to watch that are not exactly liberalizing influences.
“Saudi Arabia's government is more likely to survive than to be overthrown.”
But the government itself is split. It is not commoners who will overthrow the princes. The princes are split. (I don’t pretend to understand the local politics in Saudi Arabia. I’m merely repeating the predictions of a person who has lived there and follows the local events closely. Even he says he doesn’t really know whats going on.)
“We can't count on events to save us.”
I think our government is forcing events in Saudi Arabia. The US will end the spread of Wahabism and the financial funding or terror by Saudi Arabia by one means or another.
I think that Fly is right about the Saudi gov't. The 'government' is the Saud family, but they do not act with unity. The two 'big whigs' seem to be Abdullah (pro-reform) and ??? (The head of the Secret Police; strict Wahabbist). There's a show-down coming between those factions. Whatever government exists afterward will be quintessentially different than the one that exists now.
Re: Satellite Dishes - Without disputing your point (because it's absolutely right), you forgot to mention that Saudi Arabia heavily monitors & firewalls internet usage. That needs to stop. Other nations have to be pressured into this too, and allowing satellite dishes (they aren't all permissive in this regard).
I understand that Radio Free Europe was one of the best things we did during the Cold War, letting reformers in Iron Curtain nations know that they were not alone ideologically. The same needs to be done in the ME. Mainly however, once the Iraqi gov't gets up & running, people will see how much better life is there. Expect Baghdad to become a hub of Sunni culture. Southern Iraq may also come to have a relationship with Iran that Miami now has with Cuba.
See here: http://www.iraqpress.org/homepage.asp?fname=ipenglish/2004-05-07/0.htm
10,000 Iranians are crossing into Iraq every day. The Iranian toman is more widely used than the Iraqi dinar in some southern cities. Many of these Iranians are NOT in Iraq to foment chaos - they're moving in, buying houses and setting up shops. They are committing themselves to the future of a safe and prosperous Iraq. This will be beamed back to Iranians still in Iran about what its like to live in a Free nation, and will contribute to the instability of the Iranian regime. That's why the Internet & TV signals have to be kept open. al Jazeera can only spin this so far.
Getting back to the point of the article however, a couple good documentaries on the education Iraqi girls are getting, and how they then go on to be successful will enrage Saudi conservatives but also inspire Saudi reformers. We can't force them to change - be we can make them envious of their neighbor's success. The human urge to out-do the Jones' will then take over.
This is also a shorter term solution than overcoming dependence on oil.
But Saudi Arabia's government is not going to stop blocking access to some internet sites any more than the Chinese government is going to do so.
What is this shorter term solution you say exists?
Regards people committing themselves to the future of a free and prosperous Iraq: Do you really think they are motivated by liberal impulses? Did you read the post I made here about the differences between Kurds and Arabs in Iraq on the subject of womens' rights?
America's insatiable dependence on oil is indeed a threat to national, and global security. The pentagon has even admitted this. In a puplic report from the Pentagon the funding of America's enemies is not described as the threat. It describes global warming as a greater threat to global security than terrorism has ever posed. Sorry I don't have a link to this report, but rest assured it is not a lone voice, and global warming is real. The refusal of the US and Australian governments to ratify even the Kyoto protocol clearly shows their misguided fear. If America was not dependent on Middle Eastern oil there probably wouldn't this necessity to sit around planning things like the education systems of Arab nations, in short meddling where we are not wanted.
Reducing the west's dependence on fossil fuels is our greatest priority. Hopefully Americans can see this, as well as the fact it is unlikely to occur under the current administration. An administration whose immense power and wealth is based on oil.
Of course global warming is real, and it has been going on for ten thousand years or so. Without it, where I am sitting right now would still be under a couple kilometers of ice.
I suppose then Bob, that you are suggesting global warming is a constant in this world and therefore attempting to cull it is useless. Valid point, however have the repercussions been considered and addressed. We have seen in Africa what happens when fertile nations become arid, how will the first world react when food becomes scarce? You can bet militarily. How will Australia react when nearby thousands of Pacific islands are covered by the sea, causing millions of refugees?
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