04 November 2010

"Inside the Kingdom" by Robert Lacey

Robert Lacey (the renown biographer of Queen Elizabeth II) lived in Saudi Arabia to understand its history and people and provides an amazing mixture of analytical history and anecdotal episodes in this book providing an insight into the Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia, as someone observed, is a living proof of the law of unintended consequences.

King Faisal is upset with American support for Israel and triggers an oil embargo. Oil prices rise. Saudi Arabia gets rich. Ostentatious lifestyle arrives into the Kingdom. So does modern education. Radicals use religion to decry both and capture the Grand Mosque. The Royal Family build consensus and its brave sons remove the terrorists from the Mosque. Though the radicals are dead, their policy is adopted by the rulers to diffuse popular anger. Religion and religion based education is accorded supremacy. A new generation of radical and poor youth arise. They are exported for jihad against the infidel communists. The jihadists taste victory and develop a sense of their destiny. A Sunni Arab brother invades another Sunni Arab brother. Americans are invited to protect the Kingdom. Jihadists see the Americans as modern day crusaders. A new King with better credentials of austerity tries to ameliorate radicalism and modernize the country without Americanizing the country.

The book provides an excellent insight into the Kingdom’s history. I cannot understand why Saudi Arabia should ban this book. My respect for Saudi Arabia and its rulers increases after reading this book. I disagree with several of the policies of Saudi Arabia. But I disagree with several of the policies of my beloved India too!

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