Strict followers of Islamic are complaining about how the country is run and questioning the wisdom of letting hundreds of thousands of foreign troops into the country, Saudi and diplomatic sources report.
The sources point to several incidents in which the Muttawa, or religious police, have cracked down on what they consider unacceptable behavior in this theocratic Islamic state.Conservatives have not dared criticize the ruling al-Saud family by name, but a Muttawa officer recently gave a princess a public tongue-lashing for the way her foreign maid was dressed.
A Muttawa raiding party recently scaled the wall of a perfume manufacturer's mansion in Jiddah after apparently being told there were unmarried women and liquor at a party there.
The Muttawa, usually armed with sticks but sometimes with guns, took along an Islamic judge who gave some partygoers jail sentences of up to two years. Among them were several Saudi military officers and an interpreter who translated for King Fahd during President Bush's Thanksgiving visit.
A diplomatic party in Riyadh was raided by the Muttawa in November.
Un-Islamic behavior like the consumption of alcohol, mixed socializing and immodest dress are particular targets.
Saudi Arabia's ruling princes must balance demands from the grassroots Moslem puritans who brought the al-Saud family to power and the desire for change among the educated elite.
Some liberals have come to believe the presence of so many foreigners can accelerate change in a kingdom that has clung doggedly to Islamic tradition.
Four months after Western troops arrived, a backlash may be developing.
Underground cassettes criticize the government. They ask indirect questions about state spending and use historical allegories to make political points.
One says an 11th century Islamic king in Spain invited a stronger king to protect him against a third and the stronger king decided to stay. In other words, it is questioning whether U.S. troops will leave when asked.
The tapes cite U.S. studies during the Arab oil embargo in 1973 on how to take over the oilfields, lending support to a theory that Washington planned the current crisis for that purpose.
Questions are being asked about the estimated $200 billion spent on defense. Despite a high-tech arsenal, the Saudi military was not able to confront Saddam Hussein when he took Kuwait.
That prompted government announcements that the army had been ordered not to fight Iraq in order to avoid spilling the blood of fellow Arabs.
After Fahd invited the Americans and their allies to defend the kingdom, he sought a ruling, or fatwa, from religious scholars that Islamic law allowed the use of non-Moslems soldiers in times of peril.
Like everyone else interviewed, he spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of political issues.
Last month, about 40 women drove cars through the capital in unprecedented protest of a ban on women driving.
No public means of debate is available. The press is muzzled and political parties are illegal.