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Symposium will address Saudi-American relations

Middle East scholars to explore recent trends November 7

Current Saudi-American relations — along with the social status of women in Saudi Arabia — will be among the topics discussed at a symposium titled Inside Saudi Arabia on Monday, November 7, at the School of Management.

The daylong event, cosponsored by BU’s International History Institute and King Saud University, will feature Middle East scholars from both the United States and Saudi Arabia.

The symposium, divided into three sessions, includes 11 speakers. Session one, Social, Legal, and Educational Reform in Saudi Arabia, will be chaired by Abdullah Al-Askar, a professor of history at King Saud University. The second session, chaired by Charles Dunbar, a CAS professor of international relations and a former U.S. ambassador to Qatar and Yemen, addresses Recent Trends in the Political, Economic, and Security Relationship Between the United States and Saudi Arabia. The chair of session three, Women and Culture in Saudi Arabia, will be Husain Haqqani, a CAS international relations associate professor and director of the Center for International Relations, who is a former Pakistani ambassador to Sri Lanka.

The United States and Saudi Arabia have been allies for generations, but their relationship has been tested by recent anti-Saudi sentiment in the United States, and vice versa. Of the 19 al-Qaeda hijackers responsible for the 9/11 attacks, 15 were Saudi citizens — a fact that bothers many Americans, says Cathal Nolan, executive director of the International History Institute.

“Saudi Arabia is the number-one exporting country of Wahhabism,” says Nolan, a CAS associate professor of history. Many U.S. officials claim that Wahhabism, a narrow interpretation of Islam that promotes fundamentalist readings of the Koran, encourages terrorism.

In turn, the U.S. position on Israeli-Palestinian violence has been criticized by the Saudi government and its citizens. “The conversation will be frank and wide-ranging,” Nolan says.

The International History Institute emphasizes the importance of history to a full understanding of international affairs. “In the symposium, we’ll look at the modern relationship of two countries through a historical lens,” says Nolan. “No subject will be off limits. We welcome open discussion on any topic, and some of them are controversial topics, often with diametrically — or at least strongly — opposed views.”

The November 7 symposium is from 9:15 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in SMG’s fourth-floor Executive Leadership Center. The event is free and open to the BU community, but seating is limited. For more information, call 617-353-1165.