Here’s another mendacious article from Saudi-basher extraordinaire Stephen Schwartz. Schwartz, a recent convert to Sufism, see Saudi Arabia as the font of all Islamic extremism. Never mind that his starting point—Balkan Sufism—is hardly a touchstone for a ‘median’ in Islam. Never mind that the only Saudis he talks with are dissidents. Never mind that he’s never been to Saudi Arabia. None of this matters when the point is to bash Saudis.

His rhetorical devices are deceptive. Using his logic, one would have to conclude that what racism exists in the US today is based solely on 18th C. slavery. You’d have to forget things like the US Civil War, civil rights marches, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, and the ever-changing racial and ethnic diversity of the US.

I’m definitely in favor of historic preservation, the announced goal of a demonstration scheduled to be held in Washington, DC next week. But I am not in favor of historic preservation at all costs. Having lived in houses that fall under the purview of historic preservation societies, I’m well aware of the costs of preservation. The problem with societies like these is that they act on the presumption that everyone else should assume the costs of preservation, not them.

It’s historical fact that the Saudi Ikhwan of the early 20th C. destroyed historically important structures in Mecca and Medinah. They saw building associated with the Prophet Mohammed and his early followers as idolatrous: people worshiping buildings rather than God. They were, I’m sure, overconfident in their assessment. But they weren’t entirely wrong, either. Veneration of saints and holy places is not part of strict, Sunni Islam.

In any event, the Ikhwan were suppressed violently in the latter half of the 1930s. They do have spiritual descendants, but these have nowhere near the power of the originals. Instead, there is a different kind of power that is influencing decisions to destroy or preserve particular buildings: economic development.

Not all historically interesting buildings can be preserved, in Mecca as well as in New York City. Some would like to save everything, turning entire areas into museums. Others want to see the old disposed of in favor of the new. That’s what historic preservation societies try to sort out.

Mecca is growing by leaps and bounds, not only due to the Haj and Umrah pilgrimages, but also because of exploding Saudi populations. Monuments and buildings considered of lesser importance do fall to bulldozers. It’s possible that religious antipathy on the part of extremists plays a role in this, but the Saudi government and its own historical preservation societies are not extreme. They are instead focused on mainstream Sunni Islam and its rituals, not those of smaller or more heterodox groups.

Even purely civic buildings of historic interest fall to the bulldozers. There’s a terrific struggle to save Old Jeddah, for instance, from being redeveloped into high rise office buildings like those that surround the area.

Schwartz’s problem is that because there are some bad Saudis (he provides examples), then he concludes that all Saudis must be bad. If there are bad ‘Wahhabis’, then all ‘Wahhabis’ must be bad. His argument fails simple logic. But bashing-Saudis is still a good way to earn a quick buck. Attitude, not knowledge, is all that’s required.


NEXT Monday, Al-Baqee – a new coalition of American Muslims – will take an initiative that other citizens and leaders of our country should have begun immediately after 9/11: The group has called a protest against Saudi Arabia’s support – by preaching, money and recruitment – of terrorism in Iraq.

The demonstration is set for 1 p.m. outside the Royal Saudi Embassy in Washington next Monday.

Al-Baqee takes its name from a historic cemetery in Mecca devastated by fundamentalist radicals – the forerunners of al Qaeda – 200 years ago and again in the 1920s, when the House of Saud took over the Muslim holy cities of Arabia.

At, the group describes itself as “a coalition of concerned American Muslims across America which promotes the preservation of the religious, architectural and cultural heritage of Islam by fostering and advancing a peaceful understanding of Islam and denouncing acts of terrorism, vandalism and radicalism in the name of Islam.”

October:19:2007 - 13:33 | Comments & Trackbacks (4) | Permalink
4 Responses to “More Schwartzian Saudi-Bashing”
  1. 1
    AbuSinan Said:
    October:19:2007 - 15:02 

    Historical places are being destroyed as we speak in Saudi. These things didnt end in the 1930s, they are happening today.

    Having said that, the good thing about Schwartz is that no one, outside the neo-con community, takes him seriously. He has about a large a following in the Muslim community as Pat Robertson does.

    He gets nothing but abuse and scorn from almost every section of the Muslim community, from Sufis to Salafi, and rightfully so.

  2. 2
    Stephen Schwartz Said:
    October:27:2007 - 20:23 

    1,000 people attended the protest, at which I spoke twice. You hypocrites can look up the coverage on google or check out the photo in the new issue of THE WEEKLY STANDARD.

    As far as Burgessian logic goes, if I thought all Saudis were bad, why would I work with Saudi dissidents?

    I have defended the reforms undertaken by King Abdullah, as anyone who can use google will find out. I became an active Sufi 10 years ago, which is not that recent.

    My touchstones include the life of Sheikh Al-Maliki, a Saudi subject who died in 2004, and the ulema of Indonesia, where a translation of my TWO FACES OF ISLAM was just published with a preface by the former president and ex-head of the 40-million-member Nahdlatul Ulama, Abdurrahman Wahid. Between the Balkans and the history of Mecca — which you don’t challenge me on — and Jakarta I think I know the medians of Islam pretty well.

    Orwell never visited Russia but he understood Stalinism better than almost all of his contemporaries. One does not have to take a trip to the desert kingdom to know what Wahhabism is — it has invaded the Balkans and the U.S. — or to recognize Saudi Arabia as a tyranny. Tyranny is tyranny and everyone has been able to recognize it for all time, including in the time of Prophet Muhammad aleyhisalem.


  3. 3
    John Burgess Said:
    October:27:2007 - 23:05 

    Delighted you’re no longer demonizing all Saudis! That’s progress.

    Next is to recognize that not all ‘Wahhabis’ are terrorists. Keep working on it.

    Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there.

  4. 4
    AbuSinan Said:
    October:29:2007 - 05:54 

    Ah, Stephen Schwartz, the neo-con tool. I have been to his website before. It is rather pathetic. He spends the whole time trying to sell himself.

    Someone who has a following, someone who is valued in a community does not have to sell himself as Schwartz so obviously does on his site. No, a person who has a following and is a person of significance does not have to work so hard to toot his own horn, he’d have people from his own community standing in line to do so.

    Schwartz’s site is nothing more than self-propagandising. He will continue to remain an uninspiring voice with nothing of value to say, trying to be heard in a world that just doesn’t care for his nonsense. I have to say that in this day of self professed experts who have no real or practical knowledge on the subjects they expound upon he fits right in.

    Better luck next time Stephen.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

antalya escortizmir escort
  • Advertising Info

    Interested in sponsoring Crossroads Arabia? Contact me for more information.

  • Copyright Notice

    All original materials copyright, 2004-2014. Other materials copyrighted by their respective owners.

    The fact that this blog permits one to use RSS to read content does not constitute permission to republish content. All requests for republication must be submitted through the Contact form on the menu above. Violations of copyright will be dealt with through applicable law.