In This Review

Saudi Arabia and the Politics of Dissent
Saudi Arabia and the Politics of Dissent
By Mamoun Fandy
St. Martin's, 1999, 240 pp

Fandy surveys the range of religious and political opposition in Saudi Arabia in this study of the six most important Saudi dissident leaders. In addition to the well-known Usama bin Ladin, stripped of his Saudi citizenship and holed up in Afghanistan, Fandy discusses two religious sheikhs, Safar al-Hawali and Salman al-Auda, remembered for their sermons against Western domination during Desert Storm. His account also includes the expatriated dissidents Muhammad al-Mas'ari and Sa'd al-Faqih, who are now adding a cyberspace dimension to classic exile politics in London, and the Shiite leader Sheikh Hasan al-Saffar. Situating these six men in the context of Saudi politics, with its emphasis on family, tribe, and personal networking, Fandy concludes that these dissidents pose only a slight threat to the Saudi regime. They are either marginal figures from lesser tribes, not viewed as "true Saudis," or simply have less religious prestige than the leading establishment ulema. Hasan al-Saffar is even committed to change within the system. And the Saudi government, Fandy notes, has offered modest reforms providing somewhat more political representation.