A Saudi Asks, "Why?"

A journalist visiting the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia recently asked me why five out of six students he interviewed at King Saud University still believe that Al Qaida was not responsible for the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in America last year? Dealing with this question is increasingly frustrating for me, because I have run out of plausible explanations.

I used to believe that denial of Saudi complicity in the attacks reflected our distress with what happened on that dark day. I hoped that we would have the courage to overcome our perceived humiliation and start looking deep into our national psyche, asking the big question, "Why did 15 of our young men attack America in so brutal a way?"

So far, we are no closer than we were after the attack to answering to this question, because we cannot even find the nerve to ask it. Had we been more confident and less full of bluster, we would have organized seminar after seminar to analyze what happened, to understand the reasons behind it, and to plan for a future without a similar tragedy. After all, Osama bin Laden's hijacked planes not only attacked New York and Washington, they also attacked Islam as a faith and the values of tolerance and coexistence that it preaches.

But despite the enormity of what happened, we remain in denial. We still cling to conspiracy theories even after bin Laden and his fellow conspirators bragged about their great "achievement." We continue to close our eyes to the fact that 19 young Muslim men decided to leave home, head for what they described as jihad, and became criminals.