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August 01, 2005

King Fahd Dies

I've been told, frequently, that King Fahd was one of the "good guys" -- liberalizing, Western-oriented, etc. -- before succumbing to the stroke that removed him from decision-making, but this FoxNews piece makes clear that the story isn't so simple:

He assumed the throne just three years after two events in 1979 that would fuel extremism in Saudi Arabia: Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini founded the strictly religious Islamic Republic in Iran just across the Persian Gulf, and radical Muslims briefly took over the holy mosque in Mecca, proclaiming the Saudi royal family not Islamic enough to rule.

Those developments, coupled with Fahd's reputation as a former gambler and womanizer, made the liberal-leaning king move toward appeasing the powerful Saudi religious establishment, including the morals police who enforce strict social codes that oblige women to wear veils and ban men and women from mingling.

Saudi Arabia did not want Shiite Iran to be seen as more Islamic than the Sunni kingdom, birthplace of Islam. So Fahd took the title "custodian of the two holy mosques" β€” referring to Islam's holiest shrines at Mecca and Medina β€” and he poured millions of dollars into the religious establishment and into enlarging fundamentalist universities.

H/t to Blaster's Blog.

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posted by Ace at 12:36 PM

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