FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Prophets and Princes – Saudi Arabia from Muhammad to the Present By Mark Weston
Presents a new, post – 9/11 history of Saudi Arabia
New York, NY – Saudi Arabia is easy to criticize. It is the birthplace of Osama bin Laden and fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers. Saudi women are not permitted to drive, work with men, or travel without a man’s permission. Prior to 9/11, the Saudis sent millions of dollars abroad to schools that taught Muslim extremism and to charities that turned out to be fronts for al-Qaeda. Yet the country is the economic and spiritual center of the Middle East, the source of one fourth of the world’s oil, and the cradle of Islam.
In PROPHETS AND PRINCES (Wiley, August 2008, $35.00), Mark Weston, a scholar who has lived in Saudi Arabia, writes that despite its serious shortcomings, the Saudi kingdom is still America’s most important ally in the Middle East. The country is a voice for moderation toward Israel and on the price of oil, and it is starting to make the economic and cultural changes necessary to adjust to modern realities.
Most books on Saudi Arabia focus on current events and give short shrift to the long history that is the key to understanding the Saudis. PROPHETS AND PRINCES begins with the birth of Muhammad in 570, but almost half of the book is a revealing portrait of Saudi Arabia today. Drawing on interviews with many Saudi men and women, Weston portrays a complex society in which sixty percent of Saudi Arabia’s university students are women, and citizens who seek a constitutional monarchy can petition the king without fear of reprisal.
PROPHETS AND PRINCES is loaded with new information about Saudi Arabia, painting a more complete picture of the country than other recent books on the topic do. For example:
· The Saudi government has stopped charities from doing any work abroad since 9/11, fired 1300 radical clerics and forbidden them to preach, and is completing the process of replacing over a million textbooks that had hostile references to Christians and Jews.
· The terror-filled spring of 2004, when Westerners were getting killed every few days, came to an abrupt end in June of that year when the Saudi police raided several terrorist hideouts after receiving tips from “disgusted neighbors.”
· 22 members of the bin Laden family were able to leave the U.S. in the days after 9/11 because the FBI had already thoroughly investigated the entire family, with their full cooperation, after the 1998 African embassy bombings.
· The outrage following the tragic girls’ school fire in Mecca in 2002, when fifteen girls were trampled to death as religious policemen prevented fire fighters from entering the school because the girls were not wearing the full veil, has led to a freer press and the transfer of the administration of the nation’s girls’ schools from religious authorities to the Ministry of Education.
Weston also brings to life the story of Muhammad, his successors, and origin of the Sunni-Shi’ite split in the 7th century; ibn Abdul Wahhab and the rise of Wahhabism in the 18th century; the discovery of oil in the kingdom in the 1930s, and the influence of the Egyptian writer Sayyid Qutb on al-Qaeda in 20th and 21st centuries.
Mark Weston, a former Visiting Scholar at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh, has been a lawyer for ABC Television and a journalist for ABC News. His articles have been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times. He is the author of Giants of Japan, The Lives of Japan’s Greatest Men and Women and The Land and People of Pakistan.
Filled with new and underreported information about life in Saudi Arabia, PROPHETS AND PRINCES is a must-read for anyone interested in the Middle East, oil, Islam, or terrorism.
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