Top positive review
5 people found this helpful
Puzzled and intrigued by vast wealth meeting muslem fervour? Read it?
on 9 May 2013
Even though I am visiting the Middle East fairly frequently at the moment, I never expected to read a book like this wanting to turn the pages to find out what happens next.
How does a Royal Kingdom of such overt wealth and power encompass Mecca , the home of the Muslem faith, and sustain such fierce religious adherence.
The skills and wisdom with which the successive kings worked with and listened carefully to the powerful religious leaders is dissected - Robert Lacey certainly seems to have developed exceptional access to the leading players. The kings are elected in an unexpectedly democratic manner from the various strands of nobility and come with different strengths. As the Saudi proverb goes:
If you did not go hungry in the reign of King Abdul Aziz, you would never go hungry (This is the king who conquered surrounding kingdoms to create the vast Saudi Arabia as recently as 1932)
If you did not have fun in the reign of Kin Saud, you would never have fun
If you did not go to prison in the reign of King Faisal, you would never go to prison
If you did not make money in the reign of King Khaled, you would never make money
If you did not go bankrupt in the reign of King Fahd.....
That is about as far as it goes although, for my money, King Abdullah, the present king comes out the shrewdest.
Starting in 1977, Islam fundamentalism, organised by Juhayman, rose against the Saudi royal family: "The Al-Saud had exploited religion as a means to guarantee their worldly interests, putting an end to Jihad , paying allegiance to the Christians (America) and bringing evil and corruption upon the muslims". The ambitions of the Muslim Brotherhood were to re-establish the order of Allah. But the rhetoric dealt in change -promoting concepts like social justice, anti colonialism and the equal distribution of wealth. Politically they were prepared to challenge the establishment in a style that was unthinkable to mainstream Wahhabis (religious leaders), who were reflexively deferential to the House of Saud.
The Muslim Brothers were stamped on firmly by the Saudi state. Unlike Osama Bin Laden, who was financed and supported by the Saudi's in his fight first against the Soviet infidels in neighbouring muslim Aghanistan, and then in bringing his trained fighters to resist Sadam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait and threat to Saudi Arabia itself. But Osama bin Laden turned against the royal family, enraged by the Saudi cooption of America onto Saudi territory to help invade Iraq. The story of Osama bin Laden's bombing of the Tanzanian and Kenyan embassies and the explanation of why the majority of the 9/11 bombers were disaffected Saudis is related in a series of interviews with those involved on all sides.
The position of women in Saudi society, the power of the fundamentalist clerics, the relations with the USA, the importance and influence of the tremendous oil wealth and the tensions within the society are all examined.
This thoughtful and enlightening book must be on anybody's reading list if they are perplexed and intrigued by the position of one of the world's most powerful religious and economic states.