Riyadh Endures Extremist Rhetoric and Bids for Time

By Joseph A. Kéchichian

Dr. Joseph A. Kéchichian is a Senior Fellow at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies located in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. His latest books include From Alliance to Union:  Challenges Facing Gulf Cooperation Council States in the Twenty-First Century; 'Iffat Al Thunayan:  An Arabian Queen; and Legal and Political Reforms in Saudi Arabia.

If Donald Trump, the Republican Party nominee for the presidency of the United States, found it convenient to propose a ban of all Muslims from entering the country, his vision on how to go about his deed shocked one of America’s closest allies.  Hundreds of thousands of Saudis who studied in the U.S. during the past 75 years, and who brought back with them much more than diplomas, were livid that a candidate for office in an allied country could be so prejudiced, even if most assumed that Trump’s uneducated biases would wither at the proverbial vine.  Muslims in general, and Saudis in particular, remained confident that the Republican contender would not win even if many voiced concerns over the sectarian discourse.  Many looked forward to turning the hatred page on November 8, though some were concerned that a great deal of time was required to heal damaged ties.

Given what was at stake, a security alliance against extremism along with an unparalleled economic association that sustained contemporary capitalist engines, Saudis were as preoccupied as Americans with the presidential elections that, regrettably, empowered fanatics.  A few high-ranking personalities, men like Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the billionaire who bailed Trump out on two separate occasions, first in 1991—when he bought a yacht Trump had put up for sale—and second in 1995—when he bought a stake in Trump’s Plaza Hotel—advised him to withdraw from the race.  Prince Alwaleed asserted that the New Yorker was a “disgrace not only to the GOP but to all America,” after the mogul suggested that all Muslims be banned from entering the country. 

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