The world's fifth-richest man, billionaire Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal Abd Al-Aziz, launched the new Arabic Islamic channel Al-Resalah on March 1.
The Saudi Gazette reported on March 7 that Prince Al-Waleed said his new channel was family-oriented and created to "counteract the misconceptions about Islam" and to project it as a religion of tolerance. The channel's advisory committee is made up of leading Saudi religious figures from the Senior Ulema Commission, Muslim World Congress, and the prince's Kingdom Holding Company, among others.
As he worked on launching the channel last year, Prince Al-Waleed made headlines for giving tens of millions of dollars to Harvard and Georgetown universities; he also reportedly approached other East Coast universities about making donations. The prince's Kingdom Holding Company paid for advertisements on major TV networks, including CNN, and in the New York Times and Washington Post lauding the donations and the prince's "continuous efforts to serve ... religious understanding."
"Prince Al-Waleed, Avid Supporter of Peace" was the headline of a June article in the Middle East Times International that reported on his generosity, powerful supporters, and investments in America. The article noted the prince's $100,000 donation to New York's Institute for Middle East Peace and Development and a visit to the prince's Riyadh office by dignitaries including the recently appointed treasury secretary, Henry Paulson.
Given the millions the prince has spent on public relations, Al-Resalah's excessive anti-Western content is somewhat astonishing. It is no different from any other hate-filled Saudi TV channel. Take, for example, Sheik Ahmad Al-Kubeisi, who appeared on Al-Resalah on March 15 and said: "When there is no hope for peace, there is no alternative but to resort to the gun. ... The West's conflict with Islam and the Muslims is eternal, a preordained destiny that cannot be avoided until judgment day."
On March 7, the Arab News quoted Prince Al-Waleed as saying he plans to launch an English-language channel for a Western audience. As such, guests will include Muslim Americans - whom the channel aims to influence - such as Salah Sultan, who appeared May 17.
Mr. Sultan has been called one of America's most noted Muslim scholars. He is a signatory to the Council on American-Islamic Relations' fatwa against terrorism and is active in many American-Muslim organizations. In his appearance, Mr. Sultan praised a Yemeni sheik, Abd al-Majid Al-Zindani, whom the American government has categorized as a specially designated global terrorist for his loyalty to Osama bin Laden and his support of Al Qaeda. Mr. Sultan said of the attacks of September 11, 2001: "It was planned within the U.S., in order to enable the U.S. to control and terrorize the world."
Last year, Prince Al-Waleed also gave $20 million to France's leading museum, the Louvre, to establish a department of Islamic art. He told Agence France-Presse that the donation "will reinforce understanding between Western and Islamic cultures and civilizations."
Yet much of the content on his TV channel is overtly anti-Western. On March 31, the secretary-general of Al-Resalah, Sheik Tareq Al-Suweidan, gave a speech at Dialogue between Europe and Muslims, a convention in Copenhagen that the channel was covering. "The West have done strategic mistakes ... they underestimate the power of Islam," he said. Sheik Suweidan praised the election of Hamas and Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, warning: "The West have no chance but to deal with Islam, and we are extending our hands in peace and dialogue - you have slapped it. We do not accept insults."
On April 6, on a program on Al-Resalah produced by the Saudi Ministry of Religious Endowments, Daw'a, and Guidance, the Saudi author Muhammad Al-Arifi said the West is inhabited by "infidels" committing adultery. "If he [the infidel] feels like having any type of sexual relations, he does ... they have organizations for homosexuals, organizations for people who marry animals," he said. Mr. Arifi claimed that Dutch women are so promiscuous that most of them are not sure who fathered their children.
In "Alwaleed: Businessman, Billionaire, Prince," a 2005 biography of the prince, Riz Khan writes that Al-Waleed "has nothing against Jews. He had always been very open about doing high-level deals with heads of key companies, even though they were Jewish." Yet Al-Resalah frequently airs anti-Semitic content such as an April 14 interview with Sheik Hazen Sallah Abu Ismail, in which he said, "The Jews are determined to own the media in order to control the ears and eyes of the youth." Sheik Ismail cited "statistics by the U.N." to support his claim that "82% of all attempts to corrupt humanity originate from the Jews."
Prince Al-Waleed's biography details his hard work ethic, calling him "tireless" and a person who pays "attention to the minutest detail in every transaction." If this is true, he must be aware of the anti-Western content on Al-Resalah.
Mr. Stalinsky is the executive director of the Middle East Media Research Institute.