A spokesperson for the government of Saudi Arabia told a Des Moines business group today that his country is working hard to fight terrorism and the perception that it’s a terrorist haven. Nail Al-Jubeir is the director of the Information Office for the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Washington D.C. Al-Juebeir says he, like thousands of Saudis, went to college in the U.S. and return here to visit the small college towns. He says they feel this is their second home and that’s what they want their children to be exposed to. “Unfortunately, since the tragedy of 9-11 people look at Saudi Arabia as one person called it, the epicenter of terrorism.” He says they never had extremist terrorist views in Saudi Arabia until Osama bin Laden emerged in the 90s to try to undermine the Saudi state. But Al-Juebeir says most Saudis don’t follow Bin Laden’s views. He says the bin Laden idea of establishing a state like the Taliban had in Afghanistan does not resonate in Saudi Arabia. He says they have no interest in doing that. Al-Juebeir says his country has worked hard to deal with terrorism. He says they’ve arrested over 700 extremists. He says, “We’ve prosecuted people on money laundering, we’ve reformed our education system, we’ve taken out textbooks we find offensive, we’ve sent Imams for preaching extremism out.” Al-Jubeir admits some of it was their fault as the extremism crept into the society gradually and they suddenly woke up and said what’s happened. Al-Jubeir says his country is moving toward democracy, but he says it’s a slow process and people have to be brought to trust the electoral process.He says, “People in Saudi Arabia aren’t not thrilled about the concept of democracy. It doesn’t resonate for them. Their interpretation of democracy is not what most Americans here believe in democracy, what it means.” He says extremist says democracy is “Britney Spears” and what you see on television, but Al-Jubeir says that’s not what democracy is. Al-Jubeir says Saudis are learning about the U.S. through television, and it’s giving them the wrong picture.He says, “America is not Melrose Place, America and people in this country don’t live like people in Dallas (the t-v show) when I was there.” He says he fears that people learn about America through t-v. Al-Jubeir says it works the other way to, as without people-to-people contact, Americans only see what’s shown on t-v about Saudi Arabia. He says,”What you see on television on Saudi Arabia is not what Saudi Arabia is, and I know what I see on American television is not what America is about,and yet that’s the only communication people have.” He says, “Yes we’ve got our nutcases in Saudi Arabia, I mean who doesn’t. The only problem with our nutcases, is they make headlines. Al-Jubeir says the more reasonable voices in Saudi Arabia don’t make the headlines, and he says that gives a distorted view of what the country is about. Al-Jubeir made his comments at a luncheon hosted by the Greater Des Moines Partnership.
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