Those of us following the development of Islam in America have for years worried about the unhealthy influence of Saudi money and ideas on American Muslims.
We watched apprehensively as the Saudi government boasted of funding mosques and research centers; as it announced its support for Islamist organizations such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations; as it trained the imams who became radicalized chaplains in American prisons, and as it introduced Wahhabism to university campuses via the Muslim Student Association.
But through the years, we lacked information on the content of Saudi materials. Do they water down or otherwise change the raw, inflammatory message that dominates religious and political life in Saudi Arabia? Or do they replicate the same outlook?
Now, thanks to excellent research by Freedom House (a New York-headquartered organization founded in 1941 that calls itself "a clear voice for democracy and freedom around the world"), we finally have specifics on the Saudi project. A just-published study, "Saudi Publications on Hate Ideology Fill American Mosques," provides a wealth of detail on the subject.
(Two points about it bear noting: This important study was written anonymously, for security reasons, and it was issued by a think tank, and not by university-based researchers. Once again, an off-campus organization does the most creative and timely work, and Middle East specialists find themselves sidelined.)
The picture of Saudi activities in the United States is not a pretty one.
Freedom House's Muslim volunteers went to 15 prominent mosques from New York to San Diego and collected more than 200 books and other publications disseminated by Saudi Arabia (some 90% in Arabic) in mosque libraries, publication racks, and bookstores.
What they found can only be described as horrifying. These writings - each and every one of them sponsored by the kingdom - espouse an anti-Christian, anti-Semitic, misogynist, jihadist, and supremacist outlook. For example, they:
Reject Christianity as a valid faith: Any Muslim who believes "that churches are houses of God and that God is worshiped therein is an infidel."
Insist that Islamic law be applied: On a range of issues, from women (who must be veiled) to apostates from Islam ("should be killed"), the Saudi publications insist on full enforcement of Shariah in America.
See non-Muslims as the enemy: "Be dissociated from the infidels, hate them for their religion, leave them, never rely on them for support, do not admire them, and always oppose them in every way according to Islamic law."
See America as hostile territory: "It is forbidden for a Muslim to become a citizen of a country governed by infidels because this is a means of acquiescing to their infidelity and accepting all their erroneous ways."
Prepare for war against America: "To be true Muslims, we must prepare and be ready for jihad in Allah's way. It is the duty of the citizen and the government."
The report's authors correctly find that the publications under review "pose a grave threat to non-Muslims and to the Muslim community itself." The materials instill a doctrine of religious hatred inimical to American culture and serve to produce new recruits to the enemy forces in the war on terrorism.
To provide just one example of the latter: Adam Yahiye Gadahn, thought to be the masked person in a 2004 videotape threatening that American streets would "run with blood," became a jihadi in the course of spending time at the Islamic Society of Orange County, a Saudi-funded institution.
Freedom House urges that the American government "not delay" a protest at the highest levels to the Saudi government about its venomous publications lining the shelves of some of America's most important mosques. That's unobjectionable, but it strikes this observer of Saudi-American relations as inadequate. The protest will be accepted, then filed away.
Instead, the insidious Saudi assault on America must be made central to the (misnamed) war on terror. The Bush administration needs to confront the domestic menace that the Wahhabi kingdom presents to America. That means junking the fantasy of Saudi friendship and seeing the country, like China, as a formidable rival whose ambitions for a very different world order must be repulsed and contained.