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.