Friday, January 28, 2005

The government of Saudi Arabia is spreading “hate propaganda” in religious tracts sent to mosques throughout America, telling Muslims to hate Christians and Jews and to kill any Muslim who converts to another religion, a leading human rights group charged yesterday.

Saudi government literature collected during the past year from American mosques also tells Muslims living in the United States to “behave as if on a mission behind enemy lines,” says an 89-page report released by the Human Rights Group Freedom House.

The report, titled: “Saudi Publications on Hate Ideology Fill American Mosques,” is based on a yearlong study of more than 200 original documents, all published and disseminated by the government of Saudi Arabia.

“When a government agitates hatred and intolerance, when it counsels people in an authoritative voice to kill other people, that’s a human rights violation. That’s not protected by First Amendment or free speech,” said Nina Shea, director of the Freedom House’s Center for Religious Freedom and the editor of the report.

Abdulmohsen Alyas, a spokesman for the Saudi Embassy in Washington, said he had not seen the Freedom House report.

When told of the report’s contents, Mr. Alyas said, “Saudi Arabia recognizes that extremism is part of a worldwide problem that all nations must work on diligently to bring to an end.

“Saudi Arabia condemns extremism or hateful expression among people anywhere in the world.”

Freedom House, which was founded by Eleanor Roosevelt, is one of the oldest human rights groups in the United States. It is headed by James Woolsey, who was director of the CIA during the Clinton administration.

The organization examined literature available in more than a dozen mosques and Islamic centers in Los Angeles, Dallas, Oakland, Calif., Houston, Chicago, New York and Washington, including the Institute of Islamic and Arabic Sciences in Fairfax.

It collected more than 200 books, brochures and other publications, about 90 percent written in Arabic with some publications in English and others in languages such as Urdu, the national language of Pakistan.

The texts promote the views of the extremist Wahhabi sect of Islam, the official religion of Saudi Arabia and the primary source of teachings espoused by Osama bin Laden and his followers.

Mrs. Shea said that the mosques themselves were not scrutinized in the report, only the actions of the Saudi government.

In most instances, the report said, involvement by the Saudi government was immediately evident from the seal or name of a government department emblazoned on the cover of the literature.

Materials examined were easily identifiable as originating from the Saudi Embassy in Washington, the Education Ministry, the Saudi air force and other branches of the Saudi government.

The literature contained statements from Saudi religious figures appointed to government positions, and it was disseminated through mosques with known associations with the Saudi royal family, the report said.

These documents advised Muslims in the United States on how to snub Jews and Christians, for example by refusing to greet them and congratulate them on religious holidays.

In addition to demonizing “nonbelievers,” documents call Muslims who practice a moderate interpretation of Islam and embrace tolerance traitors deserving of punishment, even death.

Says one document: “Those who reside in the land of unbelief out of their own choice and desire to be with the people of that land, accepting the way they are regarding their faith, or giving compliments to them, or pleasing them by pointing out something wrong with the Muslims, they become unbelievers and enemies to Allah and his messenger.”

One particularly chilling tract urges Muslims to kill any Muslims who convert to another religion.

It says of Muslims who accept Judaism or Christianity: “If you do not repent, you are an apostate and you should be killed because you have denied the Koran.”

This tract, published by the Saudi Ministry of Religious Affairs and written in Urdu, was collected at the King Fahd Mosque in Los Angeles and it quotes Sheik Bin Uthaimin as preaching this policy.

Tajuddin Shuaid, director of the King Fahd Mosque, said by telephone that his organization does not seek to promote Wahhabi Islam.

“Absolutely not,” he replied, “the center is open to Muslims of all faiths … without tolerance, Islam cannot survive.”

He said he did not know of the existence of texts in the mosque’s library such as the one quoted in the report.

Saudi Arabia, which initially refused to concede that 15 of 19 September 11 hijackers were Saudi citizens, has gradually come to recognize that militant Islam is a threat to the survival of its own royal family.

After a period of denial following the suicide attacks on the United States, the kingdom provided belated cooperation with the United States in the war on terrorism, especially after militant Islamists began bombing Saudi cities and attacking foreign oil workers.

But the underlying Wahhabi teachings that give legitimacy to the Saudi royal family remain largely unchallenged in the desert kingdom and the outside world.

In the United States, Mrs. Shea said, Saudi hate ideology has been able to escape notice because of America’s “innate respect for other people’s religions.”

“Americans aren’t comfortable attacking or criticizing other people’s religion,” she said. “But this isn’t religious dogma as much as it is political doctrine.”

In a way, Mrs. Shea said, the Saudis “have worked out an arrangement that exports the conflict within their own society. … They reflect the wrath of their own radicals by propagating some of the most extreme doctrines around the world.”

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