Paper no. 3499 11-Nov-2009 SAUDI ARABIA: Ideological and Financial Epicentre of Jihad? By R. Upadhyay Jihadi terrorism which is inspired by the 260 year old tradition of extreme intolerance against the infidels flowing from the Saudi sponsored ideology of Wahhabism is the most challenging menace for the modern world. With fusion of religion and political control the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia derived religious legitimacy from being the custodian of the two holiest shrines and controller of annual Haj pilgrimage and positioned itself to be the authoritative voice of Islamic world. However, when it faced the challenge of the Jihadi terrorists in its own land in late seventies of last century, it started spending billions of dollars for spreading Wahhabism in different countries with the objective to developing a clout in Islamic establishments. Due to this persistent and ruthless endeavour Wahhabi thought and customs are not only taking root among sizeable section of world Muslims but are also making inroads even among the peace loving faithfuls. A cursory glance to the chronology of Jihadi terrorism gives an idea that empowerment to violent Islamists is not an overnight development. It is in fact a logical culmination of the politics of Arab imperialism which began after the death of Prophet Mohammad, the founder of Islam who in his first Jihad in 622 AD gave a command to his soldiers, “Fight and fear not, the gates of Paradise are under the shade of sword” (‘The Arabs’ by Anthony Nutting, Hollis & Carter, London, page 23). Similarly, in his last address before death in 632 he said, “I was ordered to fight all men until they say ‘there is no god but Allah’. (Prophet Mohammad’s farewell address, March 632 – Islamic Imperialism – A History – Efraim Karsh, Yale University Press London, 2006, page 2). Interpreting these two addresses as perpetual advice and Islamic sanction to the Arabic word Jihad which literally means struggle, his companions launched war not for the cause of Islamic spiritualism but for Arab Imperialism .Clubbing Islam with Arab culture and transforming it into a cleverly designed violent political ideology, the Arab warlords due to their mental make-up of ‘killed or be killed’ reminded their followers that so long all the Qafirs (Infidels that is non-Muslims) do not surrender to Islamic Empire and accept Allah as the One and Only God it is the obligation of each Muslim within his abilities to launch Jihad against the infidels. Pursuing such an interpretation of Islam, they turned the trail to the bloodshed, pushed the spiritual aspect of the faith to the back burner and conquered vast territories from Spain in West to the Indian sub-continent in South. Many scholars therefore call this Jihad as civilisational war against the non-Arabs. Wahhabism, which laid the foundation stone of Saudi Arabia in mid eighteenth century and is still its political ideology. It is also based on the same political interpretation of Islam by the medieval Muslim marauders and is still the root cause of the on going Jihadi terrorism. Historically, in between the reign of the first Caliph Abu Bakre from 632 AD to the abolition of the Ottoman Empire in 1924, it was the story of the rise and fall of Arabs. However, when this mighty Islamic Empire of last Caliph entered into a period of military reverses, a hardcore Islamist zealot namely Maulana Mohammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab (1703-92) from the Najd region of Arabian Peninsula rejuvenated the movement for revival of pristine Islam based on extreme Arab traditions of Prophet Era with an objective to restore the glory of Islamic power. While advocating purging Islam from modern innovation, he prescribed the imperialistic supremacy of Ummah (Muslim community) under the Arab leadership and recommended Jihad against the Qafirs, Shias, Sufis and the fellow Muslim heretics as the only solution to the evil being faced by the Muslims. For him worship to the tombs of Sufi saints was idolatry. Following the foot steps of the companions of the Prophet he also clubbed Islam with Arab culture and made these two words synonymous to each other. Wahhab’s worldview of extreme intolerance and belief in divine fiat of authoritarian state under the command of exclusively central Arabian power is also known as Sunni theo-fascism which continued and still continues to proliferate it across the globe. Like Prophet Mohammad who was forced to flee from Mecca region at the beginning of revelations to him, Wahhab’s preaching was also not acceptable to the ruler of his region. Accordingly, being expelled from his home town he took refuge in Ad’Dirjyyah near Riyadh then under the control of an Arab war lord of Al Saud clan named Mohammad ibn Saud. Inspired with the teachings of Wahhab which advocated the fusion of Islam and political power, Ibn Saud, then a principal tribal leader of Arabian Peninsula became ambitious to extend his political territory and therefore forged an alliance with the former in 1744/1745. The Alliance was based on an agreement in which Ibn Saud pledged to implement and enforce his teachings for cleansing the Islamic practices of heresy; the latter endorsed the legitimacy of Saudi monarchy to rule over the Islamic Empire though the latter had no credible claim over it. Accordingly, the Saudi king with the Jihadi followers of Maulana Wahhab launched Jihad against the different rulers in Arabian Peninsula and expanded his political boundary by conquering various regions. Their attempt to capture Mecca was however, frustrated by the forces of the Ottoman Empire in 1818. After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1924, the ambitious Saudi king re-launched Jihad against the kingdom of Hejaz then under the control of Ottoman representative Hussain, a Hashimite (A broader combination of a group of Arab clans including the Quraysh sub-clan of which Prophet Mohammad belonged). Defeating Hussain who was also the then Sharifs (Custodians) of Mecca shrine in 1926 the king became the custodian of the holiest place of Islam and his Saudi kingdom was duly recognised by United Kingdom under the Treaty of Jeddah in 1927 (The British then did not realize what they were doing). “For centuries Hashemites governed Mecca which was attacked and sacked by Ismaili Muslims in 930 CE and by the Wahhabis in 1803. In 1926, the Sharifs of Mecca were overthrown by the Saudis, and Mecca was incorporated into Saudi Arabia”. After conquering Mecca and Medina Ibn Saud united the different conquered regions of Arabian Peninsula in one political unit in1932, established the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and declared himself as king of the country. His legitimacy to lord over the region is thus questionable. Since Saudi-Wahhabi partnership was based on mutual interest, Abdul Aziz took Wahhabism which had been carrying forward the legacy of the Arab instinct of imperialism, justifying the Saudi Monarchy since 1744 AD and endorsing the royal family’s authority in political, security and economic spheres of the state, as key to the longevity of the rule of his dynasty. Accordingly while recognising the Wahhabi version of Islamic rule as political ideology of his kingdom, he granted the Wahhabi clerics the control over religious, social and educational institutions and also allowed them to enforce the Sharia (Islamic law) in the kingdom rigidly. Since then Wahhabism became an integral part of Saudi administration and therefore, the royal family was duty bound to spend a substantial portion of its oil-earned revenue for its promotion not only in the kingdom but also across the world. The present day problems of the Muslim could thus be tracked to the Saudis. Sharing a significant share in the political power of theocratic Saudi kingdom Wahhabi clerics have been enjoying the status of a much more privileged class in comparison to their counterparts during the medieval Islamic Empire. Today Wahhabism, a “most intolerant expression of Islam” is characterised as Islamo-fascist group due to its “ extremist, puritanical, contemptuous of modernity, misogynist and militant in nature” ( Wahhabi Islam: From revival and reform to global jihad by Natna J. Delong – Bas, page 3, I.B. Publishers). As a first step to consolidate their hold in the masses, the Wahhabi clerics framed the educational policy and prescribed the text books in schools with a view to inciting hatred and violence against the infidels. Now these textbooks having the potential to indoctrinate the students and youths are also found in the syllabus of Wahhabi madrassas in various parts of the world. “Saudi text books describe Jihad as the summit of Islam and one of the most magnificent acts of obedience to God and endorse its militant form for both for defensive and aggressive purposes” (Nina Shea and Ali al Ahmad, National Review Online, August 3, 2009). Dr. Shea, the director of the Hudson Institute’s Centre for Religious Freedom and Commissioner on the US Commission on Religious Freedom is also the author of “200 Update: Saudi Arabia’s Curriculum of Intolerance”.The writer in her earlier paper dated September 5, 2008 referred to the Saudi Education Ministry which “publishes and disseminates teachings that Muslims are to hate and treat as enemies other religious believers, including other, non-Wahhabi Muslims”. She added that “these text books assert that it is permissible for a Muslim to kill an apostate, an adulterer, those practicing major polytheism and homosexuals. They promote global Jihad as an effort to wage war against the unbelievers including for the purpose of calling (infidels) to the faith”. Curtin Winsor, Jr. Special Emissary to the Middle East during Regan administration in his paper (2001) entitled “Saudi Arabia, Wahhabism and Spread of Sunni Theo-fascism” observed: “While Saudi citizens remain the vanguard of Islamic theo-fascism around the world, the growth potential for this ideology lies outside the kingdom. The Saudis have spent at least $ 87 billion propagating Wahhabism abroad during the past two decades and the scale of financing is believed to have increased in the past two years as oil prices have sky rocketed. The bulk of the funding goes to the construction of mosques, madrassa, and other religious institutions that preach Wahhabism. It also supports the training of Imams; domination of mass media and publishing outlets; distribution of Wahhabi text books and other literatures; and endowment to universities”. Wahhabism has taken such a deep root in Saudi Arabia that “any attempt by Saudi Royal family under international pressure to curtail the Wahhabis could lead to terrorist attack on country’s vulnerable petroleum infrastructure or lead to the collapse of monarchy” (Ibid.). The annual report 2004 on Saudi Arabia under ‘International Religious Freedom Act 1998 stated: “Government prohibits public non-Muslim religious activities. Non-Muslim worshippers risk imprisonment, lashing, deportation and sometimes torture for engaging in religious activities that attract official attention. Prosylytising by non-Muslims including the distribution of non-Muslim religious materials such as Bibles is illegal” (Saudi Arabia: People-Politics- Policies By Gulshan Dietl, National Book Trust, India, 2006, page 22). Although, the US Congress took note of this report but except declaring Saudi Arabia “a country of Particular Concern” it maintained silence on the issue. ‘Liberation’ a French daily in a debate published in early 2003 observed: “All over the world Imamas trained in Wahhabi school preach hatred and violence in mosques paid for with Saudi money” (The Saudi Enigma by Pascal Menoret, ZED Books London & New York, 2005, Page 62). Dr. Sami Alrabaa, an ex Muslim and an Arab Muslim culture specialist in an article dated January 26, 2009 ( islam-watch.org) entitled “Saudi textbooks incite hatred & violence against non-Muslims” suggests that so long Saudi Arabia and the other Arab oil countries on the Persian Gulf are not forced by the free world the war on Islamic terror will remain futile. Referring to Ahmad Al Sarraf a renowned columnist in Al Qabas (June 2, 2007), a Kuwaiti daily Dr. Sami cited the teachers manual in Grade 8 textbook which says, “ Command Muslims to hate Christians, Jews, polytheists and other unbelievers including non-devout Muslims” (Page 14 in Grade 8 textbook). In his another article dated February 10, 2009 the writer observed that the “Saudi King and his clan are the law. They rule whimsically, supported by Wahhabism, a stone-age Islamic version of Islam”. In another article on the Wahhabisation of Saudi people he observed, “A hatred-inciting education system and lack of contact with the secular world in terms of books and culture have generated a fanatic population” “All that being said, we should not wonder that 15 of the 9/11 terrorists were Saudis”. He also wrote that Wahhabi books are also “printed and funded by Saudis for schools in Pakistan, Indonesia, Deobandi madrassas in India and elsewhere”. Despite such curriculum of intolerancee one should not wonder that the Saudi kingdom organized an interfaith dialogue with some of its trusted Christian and Jew leaders. (A paper of this writer can be seen in the site of saag.org). It is said that ever since the exposure that out of “15 of the 9/11 terrorists were Saudis” the USA no longer considers Saudi Arabia its trusted ally as the latter is suspected for funding Osama bin Laden in lieu of the latter’s assurance to protect the monarchy from terrorist attacks. However, despite being aware of the situation , it is the compulsion of the USA to protect the oil-giant as the alliance between the two countries is based on their mutual interest of protecting the Arab-American oil companies which are running the cycle of the oil linked economy of the both. This politics of convenience is known to the entire world but except raising some mild voice against it the international community is helplessly suffering from their game of self-seeking interest. Now USA is talking about launching ‘war on terror’ which hardly makes any sense so long Saudi Arabia is not out of the ideological ring of Wahhabism. (The author can be reached at e-mail [email protected]) SAUDI ARABIA: Ideological and Financial Epicentre of Jihad?