- Hardcover: 240 pages
- Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan; Fourth Edition edition (June 14, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1403964335
- ISBN-13: 978-1403964335
- Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,130,346 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Saudi Arabia Exposed: Inside a Kingdom in Crisis Hardcover – May 19, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
An Arabic-speaking Westerner who seized a rare opportunity to travel freely throughout Saudi Arabia, Bradley offers a dense, abstract study that reads more like the "culture and history" section of a guidebook than a juicy, insider account. But Bradley did get access to high-profile Saudis, most memorably to Osama bin Laden's nephew, with whom Bradley went on a picnic. An accomplished journalist and scholar who prefers facts to sensory-let alone salacious-details, Bradley successfully compiles research, information, geographical data and flat-footed descriptions of observed events to explain the political dynamics and historical roots of a strong authoritarian state, characterized particularly by the close relation between the Al-Saud ruling family and the conservative Wahhabis. He conveys a sense of a country fraught with fear, hostility and suspicion while remaining aloof from much of the drama he describes. Bradley is at his best when he writes about the press, providing what is truly an insider's look and untangling some of the knotted ties between the media, the Saudi government and the United States.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Bradley arrived in Saudi Arabia to work as a journalist from 2001 to 2003 for the -English-language Arab News just as a ban on internal travel by Western journalists was lifted. Recounting visits to Saudi Arabia's regions, Bradley underscores the quasi-imperial composition of the regime: rule by the centrally situated al-Saud clan, and acquiescence to varying degrees by the tribal south, the Shiite east, and the historically commercial Hijaz along the Red Sea. The al-Saud alliance with the Wahhabi clergy completes Bradley's picture frame of the regime, although the picture itself is provided in details from the day-to-day lives of ordinary Saudis whom the author meets. The image posits the modern alongside the medieval, and the attractively hospitable against the repellently barbaric, though Bradley remains curious and engaged throughout. The geopolitics of oil is beyond the author's scope, but for readers interested in the social forces at work in the country, including terrorism, Bradley provides perceptive access to current trends. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Top Customer Reviews
In an interview on FrontPage Com. in which he spoke about the book and the situation in Saudi Arabia Bradley said that what is needed now is a real effort to help democratic elements in Saudi Arabia come to the fore. He criticized the Bush Administration for caring only for oil supplies and short- term convenience, thus appeasing the Saudi ruling house, and not really being true to the Democratization of the Middle East program it itself has espoused.
As Bradley a veteran Arabic speaking journalist who traveled throughout the kingdom in his research on this book, sees it the Saudi people suffer from a regime corrupt as the former Soviet one, a regime in which privilege and power are held by one huge clan suppressing millions of people.
This work thus provides both a very detailed picture of the way people actually live in Saudi Arabia, and political prescriptions as to how to alleviate the situation of a disenfranchised and tyrannized majority.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
August 17, 2005
A Glimpse of Forces Confronting Saudi Rule
By WILLIAM GRIMES
Western reporting on Saudi Arabia has been in attack mode ever since Sept. 11. Not since the Borgias has a ruling family received such bad press as the House of Saud, and the United States-Saudi connection is probably the one that Americans would most like to sever, if it could be done without raising gasoline prices.
In "Saudi Arabia Exposed," John R. Bradley, a British journalist who spent two and a half years as a newspaper editor and reporter in Saudi Arabia, will not make Americans feel any better about the Saudi royals, whom he calls "perhaps the most corrupt family the world has ever known." But he does provide a highly informed, temperate and understanding account of a country that, he maintains, is an enigma to other Arabs, and even to the Saudis themselves.
The book's accusatory tabloid title does not reflect its tone. "Inside Saudi Arabia" might have been better. Mr. Bradley, although based in Jedda, traveled far and wide throughout the country in an effort to map the regional tensions and cultural distinctions that make Saudi Arabia much more diverse and complicated than the smooth propaganda of its government would allow.
The House of Saud and the religious establishment, fired by the puritanical form of Islam known as Wahhabism , hold sway in the central region, al-Najd; elsewhere rifts and tensions abound. Mr. Bradley's heart is in the Hijaz, and the lingering cosmopolitanism of Jeddah, whose great merchant families tend to take a much more worldly view of politics and religion, including (with one notable exception) the bin Ladens. When the Saudi religious police objected to the use of a plus sign instead of an ampersand in a company's name because it resembled a Christian cross, a writer for the region's main newspaper, Al-Medina, suggested that perhaps the symbol should be replaced with a "tasteful Islamic crescent" in the country's math books.
In the 1920's and 1930's, Ibn Saud created a unified state from the disparate tribes of present-day Saudi Arabia by force, imposing a brand of Islam that, in many areas of the country, is regarded as alien. In Asir, on the border with Yemen in southeastern Saudi Arabia, Wahabbism has been accepted only reluctantly. Mr. Bradley sees women driving pick-up trucks, and in the remote hills he encounters a strange sect known as the flower men, who wear garlands of flowers and herbs and douse themselves in perfume.
In the southwest, Shiites, who constitute a majority, chafe under religious oppression and an official policy intended to convert them to Wahabbism. One official put the matter starkly: "We don't eat their food, we don't intermarry with them, we should not pray for their dead or allow them to be buried in our cemeteries." In April 2000, armed Shiites in Najran rose up against Saudi security forces, and their co-religionists in the Eastern Province, site of huge oil reserves, are also restive.
Saudi Arabia's young people make up another worrying constituency. Mr. Bradley strolls the malls and sits in secluded bedrooms with many disaffected Saudis. Those who travel to the West seem to bring back little more than a degree and a pile of consumer goods. Those who do not travel sit and fester. Waited on hand and foot, they watch satellite television or, using illegal computer cards to bypass the censors, log on to X-rated chat rooms on the Internet. Parents, Mr. Bradley writes, have delegated traditional responsibilities to a despised class of mostly Asian drivers, servants and nannies. As never before, young Saudis have been left to their own devices and easily fall prey to jihadist recruiters.
It comes as a shock to find that Saudi Arabia has something like a gay scene and a nascent feminist movement. In severely repressing all forms of interaction between men and women, the country leaves a large social space open to men, who are free to pursue relations with one another. "I don't feel oppressed at all," one gay man tells the author. "We have more freedom here than straight couples. After all, they can't kiss in public like we can, or stroll down the street holding one another's hands."
Half inch by half inch, the government has been opening the professions to women, who can now obtain commercial licenses and who now account for more than half of the kingdom's university graduates. Since liberal arguments have failed to move the clerical establishment, a new wave of Saudi women have turned to Islam, and Muhammad's earliest teachings, to develop legal ideas that are, so to speak, more fundamental than Wahabbi fundamentalism.
Mr. Bradley tends to leap at the merest glimmer of light. His liberals and reformers, however attractive, hold very weak cards, and the regime has shown itself extraordinarily resistant to change. But modern communications, and the government's grudging baby steps toward democratic reform, he argues, may be the first cracks that, spreading inexorably, could bring down the House of Saud.
Saudis and their tribal leaders have been changed by the oil money that bought their loyalty in the 1970's. Expectations have risen, as well as disillusionment that so few benefited from oil revenues. The war in Iraq, Mr. Bradley argues, "will come back to haunt the Al-Saud." Already, home-grown terrorists have adopted the insurgent tactics being used in Iraq, and battle-hardened Saudi volunteers will eventually return home. Prince Turki bin Khalid, a member of the ruling family, recently bought two apartments in the Time-Warner Center on Columbus Circle in Manhattan for a reported $8.1 million. One is for friends; the other he plans to keep empty. Mr. Bradley has a strong suspicion that he may need it.
Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company
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