(JEWS and ARABS from WW2 to 1967 – continued)

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JEWS and ARABS from WW2 to 1967 (9 of 10)

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King Faisal of Saudi Arabia

In February, 1957, President Eisenhower invited King Saud (the second King Saud, 1953-64) to Washington. Eisenhower wanted to renew the lease on the airbase in Saudi Arabia at Dhahran on the Persian Gulf. King Saud agreed, and this agreement maintained a US military presence in Saudi Arabia.

This second King Saud was a disappointment to the other members of the Saud royal family. They found him too interested in leisure and spending money. He was, moreover, a heavy drinker. His behavior was good copy for Egypt's anti-Saudi propaganda, which was finding a receptive audience. King Saud and his brother, Prince Faisal vied with each other over who was to use the Royal Guard against the other. The family worked it out peacefully. On 2 November 1964, Faisal was elevated from foreign minister and became Saudi Arabia's third king. An unhappy Saud went into exile, first to Switzerland.

King Faisal began economic development and improvements in education. Oil revenues were increasing, and with these Faisal was able to start building programs and a system of welfare for all citizens. Faisal had a reputation as pious, and this enabled him to introduce cautious social reforms such as female education. In 1965, he approved television broadcasts of recitations of the Koran. Conservative Muslims protested, citing Islam's opposition to images.

Modernization brought Faisal into conflict with Saudi Arabia's religious leaders, who saw innovation as a threat to Islam. To appease them, King Faisal allowed his realm to become a sanctuary for Muslim scholars escaping from Egypt and Syria, where the governments were persecuting troublesome Muslims. Faisal invited them to teach Saudi Arabia's youth fundamentalism, and many of Saudi radicals were to study under these Egyptian and Syrian fundamentalists. Amid all the new luxury, Saudi Arabia remained devout in religion. Wahhabi clerics controlled education. Sophistication and avant guard attitudes remained among some of those who did a lot of travel abroad, while devotion to a strict fundamentalism continued to be expected of the common Saudi Arabian.

Following Islam's devotion to charity for the needy, the Saudi regime spent substantial wealth on welfare on Saudi subjects, and then they began looking abroad for places to make a contribution. In addition to contributing money to help the Muslims in Afghanistan in their war against the Russians, charity from Saudi Arabia contributed to the creation of schools in poor Islamic neighborhoods in black Africa, in Pakistan and other places. These schools were like the schools in Saudi Arabia: devoted to Wahhabi fundamentalism. Saudi Arabia for the time being was contributing to a new growth in Islamic fundamentalism.


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