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Retraining for Saudi Arabian Clerics

Posted by vmsalama on March 24, 2008

This is really interesting, but I doubt it’ll be all that effective.  You cannot reprogram these clerics.   Their militancy is several years in the making and much of it is directed at the very government that now seeks to reverse this.  A few lectures isn’t going to accomplish much to convince these guys that the government of Saudi Arabia isn’t run by apostates. 


By Damien McElroy, Foreign Affairs Correspondent 

Saudi Arabia is to launch a retraining programme for 40,000 Islamic clerics as it struggles to remove militant sympathies in Osama bin Laden’s homeland.

Officials in the kingdom have sought to manage hardline beliefs within the state-sponsored Wahhabist tradition in the aftermath of the 2001 attacks on America. For years senior ministers alternated between outright denial of endemic militancy and the adoption of reforms demanded by the West.

Al-Sharq al-Awsat, a newspaper close to the reformist wing of the royal family, yesterday reported that Saleh al-Sheikh, the minister of Islamic affairs, planned to run seminars for every prayer leader.

Clerics will be required to attend lectures at the Centre for National Dialogue, which also operates a rehabilitation programme for former extremists, including those Saudis released from Guantanamo Bay.

Links between al-Qa’eda and Saudi Arabia’s religious hierarchy moved from diplomatic liability to national crisis after the group carried out terrorist attacks in the kingdom in 2004 and 2005. Until these attacks, Mr Sheikh ruled out wholesale reforms as unnecessary.

If Saudi Arabia was as bad as its critics alleged, he said, it would harbour “tens of thousands of terrorists”.

But in the past two years the leadership has had to sack up to 1,000 clerics, which has forced the adoption of a wider retraining programme.

Although few details of the retraining have been released, its impact could stretch across the Islamic world. Its outcome could be pivotal to the Saud dynasty, which owes its dominant position to an 18th century alliance with Wahhabism’s founder, Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab. Wahhabism maintains the orthodoxies of early Islamic preachers.

The surge of oil revenues in the 20th century saw Saudi preachers spread across Islamic communities, displacing the often more benign local religious practitioners


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