Transcript: Saudi King Abdullah Talks to Barbara Walters

WALTERS: President Bush has said that one of his goals is to spread democracy in your region. Is this realistic?

ABDULLAH: If you look at democracy in the United States, you will see that it took many, many, many years to develop.

WALTERS: A flash point for Westerners is that Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world in which women are not allowed to drive. It seems to be symbolic of a women's lack of independence. Would you support allowing a woman to drive?

ABDULLAH: I believe strongly in the rights of women ... my mother is a woman, my sister is a woman, my daughter is a woman, my wife is a woman. I believe the day will come when women drive. In fact, if you look at the areas in Saudi Arabia, the deserts and in the rural areas, you will find that women do drive The issue will require patience. In time, I believe it will be possible.

WALTERS: But there are so many restrictions against women. Do you see this changing?

ABDULLAH: Yes, I believe we can. But it will require a little bit of time ... Our people are just now beginning to open up to the world, and I believe that with the passing of days in the future everything is possible.

WALTERS: Why do you think Saudi Arabia is becoming fertile ground for al Qaeda?

ABDULLAH: Madness. ... Madness and evil, it is the work of the devil. ... Such acts cannot be perpetrated by any individual who has a sense of decency or humanity or justice or faith.

WALTERS: Do you feel that you have eliminated the threat here in your own country?


WALTERS: You're still worried about it?

ABDULLAH: I have stated after the first terrorist attack that we will fight the terrorists and those who support them or condone their actions for 10, 20 or 30 years if we have to until we eliminate this scourge. I believe that the world must stand shoulder to shoulder with each other if we are to eliminate this evil from our midst.

WALTERS: Terrorism to some degree starts with extremism, and there are people who feel that the educational system here in Saudi Arabia has in the past contributed to extremism and hatred. When we were here three years ago, we found textbooks that called for the killing of Jews. What is being done to stop this ... extremist teaching?

ABDULLAH: I will not deny that such extremism existed in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, but such extremism exists in almost every country in the world. If you look at the United States and what people have said about Islam I ask myself why the focus is only on Saudi Arabia when it comes to such matters when we all should be fighting such extremist talk everywhere. Muslims are not bloodthirsty people. Islam is a religion of peace that forbids the killing of the innocent. Islam also accepts the Prophets, whether those prophets are Mohammed, God's peace and blessing be upon Him, or Moses or the other prophets of the Books.

WALTERS: In this country, however, you cannot practice a religion other than Islam publicly, although there are 5 million foreigners in this country.

ABDULLAH: Public worship is not allowed -- you are correct -- because Saudi Arabia, as you know, is the birthplace of Islam. To allow the construction of places of worship other than Islamic ones in Saudi Arabia it would be like asking the Vatican to build a mosque inside of it. However, people in Saudi Arabia are free to practice their faith in the privacy of their homes.

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