National Geographic : 2003 Oct
Islam's animating principle is a direct government official told me. "We allowed them to grow up in pampered emptiness, until they turned to the bin Laden extremists in an effort to find themselves." Saudis claim that al Qaeda deliberately fills its ranks with the kingdom's alienated young. Bin Laden's goal, they believe, is to topple the Saudi royal family, partly by convincing the West that its principal source of oil is fatally infected with extremism. "We are not a nation of terrorists and fanat ics. You cannot blame an entire people for a crime perpetrated by a small number of mar ginal individuals," contended Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz, the governor of Riyadh. 12 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC * OCTOBER 2003 "The crazies around my age, the people who say, 'We should go out and kill Ameri cans,' are maybe one or two percent of us," said "Mustafa," a 22-year-old I met during my tour of Jeddah's Ramadan nightlife. But Mustafa, like so many in his age group, has no job and no discernible ambition. Estimates of unemployment among Saudis top 15 percent, and approach 30 percent among those between ages 20 and 24. Each year about 340,000 Saudi men enter the workforce, vying for just 175,000 jobs. The unsuccessful drift into an ever grow ing army of the bored, spending their days and nights in the prolonged adolescenceof the shop ping mall circuit, numbering and street cruising.