Prophets and Princes: Saudi Arabia from Muhammad to the Present

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9780470182574: Prophets and Princes: Saudi Arabia from Muhammad to the Present

Saudi Arabia: oil-rich, devoutly Muslim, and a vital ally

To many in the West, 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.

In Prophets and Princes, a highly respected scholar who has lived in Saudi Arabia contends that despite these serious shortcomings, the kingdom is still America's most important ally in the Middle East, a voice for moderation toward Israel, and a nation with a surprising ability to make many of the economic and cultural changes necessary to adjust to modern realities.

Author Mark Weston offers an objective and balanced history of the only nation on earth named after its ruling family. 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.

Filled with new and underreported information about the most controversial aspects of life in Saudi Arabia, Prophets and Princes is a must-read for anyone interested in the Middle East, oil, Islam, or the war on terror..

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From the Inside Flap:

Saudi Arabia is a land of contradictions. It is the economic center of the Middle East, yet almost thirty percent of its young men are unemployed. It has a quarter of the world's oil and a booming economy since prices began rising in 2003, yet it often increases its oil production to keep prices down and the global economy stable. It has been a staunch U.S. ally for more than sixty years, yet Americans across the political spectrum distrust the kingdom. One reason for this mistrust is the parade of hostile books and articles about Saudi Arabia that have been published since 9/11, most of them by people who have never visited this bewildering country.

In Prophets and Princes, Mark Weston presents a balanced, informative, and complete history of Saudi Arabia, from the birth of Islam to the discovery of oil, and from the founding of the Saudi-Wahhabi alliance in 1744 to the rapid changes that have taken place since 9/11.

This book offers insights into key people, events, and issues. It covers the lives and writings of Muhammad and his seventh-century successors; ibn Abdul Wahhab, the founder of Wahhabism; and Sayyid Qutb, the Egyptian whose writing has inspired al-Qaeda. Weston also tells the story of the Sunni-Shi'ite split and how it affects us today, and provides up-to-date information to give a nuanced picture of Saudi Arabia's more recent history. He describes in detail how the Saudi government has stopped Saudi charities from sending money abroad since 9/11, fired 1,300 radical clerics and forbade them to preach, and has nearly finished replacing more than a million textbooks that contained derogatory comments about Christians and Jews. Prophets and Princes also presents a thorough account of the terror-filled spring of 2004, when Westerners were being killed every few days, and of the police raids on terrorist hideouts that brought an end to this violent spree.

Weston covers events that have increased the suspicion that many Americans feel toward Saudi Arabia. He explains how and why twenty-two members of the bin Laden family were ushered safely out of the United States in the days after 9/11 and gives the most comprehensive account to date of the tragic girls' school fire in Mecca in 2002, when religious policemen prevented firefighters from entering the school because the girls were not wearing the full veil. He examines the thorny issue of women's rights in Saudi Arabia and discusses education, satellite television, Saudi attitudes toward Israel, and much more.

It is essential to learn about Saudi Arabia's past in order to understand its present. Weston's lively and important book may change your opinions about Saudi Arabia and will certainly leave you better informed.

About the Author:

Mark Weston, a former Visiting Scholar at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh, has worked for ABC News and has written for the New York Times and the Washington Post. He is the author of The Land and People of Pakistan and Giants of Japan: The Lives of Japan's Greatest Men and Women. A graduate of Brown University and the University of Texas Law School, he lives north of Manhattan.

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