- The Washington Times - Monday, March 7, 2005

The government of Saudi Arabia has begun a major media blitz — including billboards, television ads and cartoons for children — designed to combat popular support for terrorists and Islamic extremism.

Adel al-Jubeir, foreign affairs adviser to Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, compared the campaign to U.S. efforts to change social habits and attitudes during efforts such as the anti-drug “Just say no” campaign.

“Very few Saudis are under the illusion that we don’t have a problem. We acknowledge we have a problem,” he said.

But he said Saudi support for terrorism came from a “small but very, very vocal extremist minority” and that the kingdom was determined to not have that minority define Saudi culture, politics or Islamic faith.

U.S.-Saudi relations were strained when it was determined that 15 of the 19 September 11 hijackers hailed from the kingdom. Many Saudi mosques were centers of anti-U.S. and anti-Western thought, and Saudi funds helped bankroll schools throughout the Islamic world promoting a severe version of Islam.

Mr. al-Jubeir said Saudi Arabia has made major strides since the September 11 attacks in the United States and a string of terrorist incidents inside the kingdom. Two-thirds of the country’s top al Qaeda and Islamist leaders have been captured or killed, and the government has moved to cut off the flow of unregulated Saudi funds sent abroad.

The Saudi spokesman said the public relations campaign, begun last month in the wake of a major international terrorism conference in Riyadh, is the “most complicated” part of the counterterror campaign.

“We are going after the mind-set that promotes or condones violence in total contradiction to Islamic faith,” he said.

A range of Saudi government ministries, including the defense, education, interior and Islamic affairs offices, are participating in the campaign.

The effort includes full-length documentaries on faith and tolerance, short films and commercials about fighting terrorism, billboards and cartoons that “reinforce the tolerance intrinsic to Islam and encourage patriotism as a means of fighting terrorism.”

Anti-terror and anti-extremist messages are being placed at the bottom of automated teller machine receipts and utility bills.

In one television ad spot, a man seated on a bed flips through a scrapbook with pictures of his son. His eyes well with tears as it becomes clear that his son was killed in a terrorist attack.

The commercials were made by Saudi production firms, Mr. al-Jubeir said.

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