End Muslim Terrorism by Ending Wahabism Influence in Saudi Arabia
Guest Column- by Hari Sud
Osama bin Laden, Talibaan Chief Mullah Mohammed Omar, Chief Suspect in Daniel Pearl’s murder, Omar Saeed are all followers of Mohammed Abdul Al Wahab, the eighteenth century fundamentalist Mullah (cleric) in present day Saudi Arabia. His view was, that since the time of Prophet Mohammed the followers of the faith have strayed away from his teachings, hence they have to be refocused back to what Prophet Mohammed said in Qoran. Influence of Wahab’s word, spread in Saudi Arabia during his lifetime. But the Ottomans, rulers of Arabia at that time, who originally are Central Asian Turks and Sunnis, did not encourage this firebrand Mullah. They set out to completely smash his small band of followers, locally called Wahabis. Ottomans did not succeed very well; hence Wahabi’s influence remained strong with Mullahs who control the Muslim holy sites and Mosques in and around Arabia. Wahabis have spent last 300 years waiting for an opportune time to gain political influence.
The opportunity came during WW I, when Britain looking for local support within Arabia, Transjordan and Iraq for war against Ottomans found two competing princes for power in Arabia. They had to choose one for their backing. Prince Ibn Rashid lorded over one era of the Arabia (close to present day Iraq) and Prince/Emir Faisal maintained influence in Western end of the desert. They spent their life as Bedouin nomads; hence Ottoman had difficulty catching them. Briton dispatched Gertrude Bell (later called Desert Queen) to prince Rashid’s camp. She was the first ever lady intelligence officer, Briton had sent on an overseas mission, partly because she had lived in Middle East and partly she was daring in the mold of the proverbial Indiana Jones. She undertook a four-week journey to reach Prince Rashid’s camp through an uncharted desert with a group of Bedouin guards. There she found Rashid’s camp divided and decimated by family feuds over women and spoils of raids. She reported her findings back to her British masters. Dissatisfied with Rashid, British sent a second mission lead by T.E. Lawrence (popularly called Lawrence of Arabia) to feel Prince Faisal. Lawrence found Prince Faisal a valuable ally, worthy of British military and technical aid. This alliance resulted in a series of victories for Lawrence & Faisal and a complete rout of Ottoman in Middle East. Thereafter states of Iraq, Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia were born (after a long difficult Paris conference in 1919).
Prince Faisal, to broaden his support, aligned himself with the Wahabi Mullahs of Arabia peninsula. With this alliance, Wahabis gained influence within the ruling circles of Prince later King Faisal and became the interpreter of the Islamic ideology in Arabia. King Faisal’s successors not only maintained this alliance but also with the arrival of Petro-dollars, enhanced it by giving them monies to build, maintain Muslim holy sites. This increased Mullah’s influence ten fold. Extra Petro-dollars at Mullah’s disposal gave them ideas of exerting influence outside Arabia in same manner as Pope exerts influence over the Roman Catholics world over from Rome.
B. Wahabis in Arabia and their Influence with the Ruling Princes
All Saudi princes including the king Fahad are Wahabis. They grew up in schools and education system run by Wahabis. Western education to some of them has not changed their outlook. Saudi King(s) have created a special government department which looks after all the religious affairs including Hajj pilgrimage, the up keep of Grand Mosques in Mecca and Madina, free printing and distribution of Qoran in native languages, distribution of cash within Arabia and outside Arabia. The latter is key to galvanizing Muslims in their home countries. With cash at their disposal the local Mullahs are free to open Madarssa (religious school), repair Mosque, build new Mosque and help terrorists find shelter, food money and training. Madarssa curriculum is based on Wahabi teachings.
From 1973 – 2001, the price of oil scaled new height; hence more money became available to be distributed through out the Muslim world. All teachers of the Madarassas, Mullahs of the Mosques under pretext of Hajj pilgrimage underwent Wahabi training in religious schools in Saudi Arabia. Care was taken not to indulge in political propaganda to alarm the home country government. The latter was left for the mullah’s and teacher to undertake after their return.
With the soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Saudis involved themselves in a, first war of the twentieth century against the infidel. To this, they were encouraged by the USA. Open call was given to Muslim all over the world to come to Afghan’s rescue. They did come and came in large numbers. The military hardware was paid for by USA, it was facilitated thru Pakistan by the Pakistani Government. Saudi’s paid for their religious indoctrination and recruitment thru the Mosques and Madarssas built by them all over the world.
C. What is Wahabism all about
Al Wahab in his teachings wished to arrest the decadence in the Muslim society and infuse vitality in it. In its original form it was a reformist movement. It rejected Sufism & saint worship and advocated return to the original teachings of Islam incorporated in the Qoran. He wished to liberate Islam from previous 1400 years of interpretations and distortions of the medieval times. He wished Muslim to go back to the fundamentals.
In a way he was turning the clock back on 1400 years of evolution.
To get a better understanding of Al Wahab message, please go to the following references:
In this simple message, Al Wahab set in motion events, which lead to present day religious and political alignment in Arabia and influence outside its borders. It is the interpretation, which matters. Theologians differ in its true meaning and the underline meaning. But there is only one conclusion – It is a fundamentalist challenge.
D. Where is the major concentration of the Wahabis in the World?
- Mostly in the Arabian Peninsula
- In Pakistan/Afghanistan
- In Indonesia
- Smaller proportions exist in Sudan, Gulf countries
It is the home of all firebrands Wahabis. Since they are allied to the ruling princes, hence their influence with in the Saudi society is the greatest.
To repeat, all this has been financed using Petro-dollars under the very nose of USA.
General Zia Ul Haq, the eighties dictator of Pakistan was the first convert to Wahabism in Pakistan. He imported the Wahabi philosophy to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan. His other motive was to drive India out of Kashmir under the pretext of freedom struggle.
Zia aligned himself with the local Mullahs and invited Saudi aid to build Saudi style madarssas and other religious infrastructure. The famous Binori Madarssa in Karachi, Pakistan has been built with Saudi aid. It can boast of having Osama bin Laden, Daniel Pearl’s murders as its graduates.
The greatest damage General Zia did was to the Pakistani army. He instituted Madarssa graduate recruitment into the army. Army officers were promoted on the basis their religious beliefs. In this way he hoped that Pakistani Army would become “defenders of the faith”. In order to ensure that his successors are Wahabi, General Zia ensured that bright young army officers are posted in Saudi Arabia in a Pakistani sponsored army mission in eighties. Current crop of senior army officers in Pakistan are all Wahabis.
For Pakistani Army, like Saudi Arabian princes, 9/11 gutted a carefully constructed strategy. Things, which US did not wish to get involved, previously became issues of the day.
Indonesia is a Muslim country with a gentle form of Islam practiced for the last 400 to 500 years. Its post Dutch independence leaders like Sukarno, Suharto etc. were secular in their dealings. Until 1966, it had the largest Communist Party outside Soviet Union and China. Then why has militant Islam emerged in Indonesia? The answer lies in the economic failure of the politicians giving Mullah’s an opportunity aided by monies from Saudi Arabia. This was further aided by Afghan war which has let Osama bin Laden to establish contact with the local Mullahs.
Wahabi movements are strong in Sudan, Egypt and all of Gulf countries except Iran. The latter follows the Shia version of Islam, hence runs a foul with Al Wahab’s teachings.
E. Why is Wahabism on a Collision course with the West and Others?
Wahabis stayed in the background after WWII. They were thankful to the West for providing them help in exploring and exploiting its oil wealth. The problem first started with the Israel – Palestinian conflict. It galvanized the Mullahs and they began to preach anti Semitism, anti west and anti infidel message.
Second and more important cause of galvanizing Wahabis was the importing of the decadent western values (according to Wahabis) from the West. Oil revenues enriched the Saudi Arabian society. They traveled into the West and acquired modern amenities. Moral values suffered at the expense of Islamic teachings. Arrival of large number of workers from the west to exploit the oil wealth and to build and maintain their new cities further exasperated an already critical Mullah community.
Third, the Afghan War and preaching of Jehad against the Soviets further offered opportunity to the Wahabi Mullahs to take on a political stance more boldly. Princes in power supported it; hence the state and the religion combined their resources to meet the challenge of Jehad.
Fourth, the Gulf War I, resulted in a significant presence of American and British on the Arabian Soil. The former felt that it is a necessity to keep Saddam Hussain under control. The Saudi Arabian Mullahs felt it otherwise. They considered their presence, as an occupation of their sacred soil. USA, which had portrayed itself as liberator of Kuwait became occupiers of their holy land. They plotted to get rid of Americans from their soil and gain complete independence from the West’s economic hold on them.
Lastly, oil wealth provided them an opportunity to run an independent foreign policy with or without ruling princes’ approval by directly supporting Madrssas all over the Muslim world. With this they could preach Jihad on a minor pretext e.g. Jihad for the Palestinian cause, Jihad to get Soviets now Russians out of Chechnya, Jihad to get Kashmir liberated, Jihad to expel Americans out of Arabia etc.
All the above causes have now galvanized Wahabis into action. A major strike at WTC was there first such major act. Many more are threatened. God forbids, if they do succeed in acquiring crude nuclear technology, threat to the rest of the world will be the greatest.
F. What do we do to eliminate this Ever Present Threat?
Former British allies, turned enemies have grabbed the world headlines especially after 9/11. Prior to that, their support for East Africa bombing, USS Cole bombing brought them into the limelight. Osama bin Laden is one of the Wahabi who undertook all the aforementioned acts. In India, Chechnya, Philippines Muslim terror threat is ever present for worthless causes. West is now paying attention to Arabia because majority of the 9/11 terrorists hailed from there.
There is a little US can do directly to the policy making in Saudi Arabia. Indirectly they may be able to influence a few key princes in power to:
- Limit the amount of monies, which Wahabis get under the pretext of upkeep of holy places.
- Modify the school system in Arabia, Pakistan, Indonesia and elsewhere to prevent the Wahabis from affecting the young minds.
- Close down some of the premier Madarssas in above countries and replace them with better schools of study and learning.
- Mullahs to be relieved of their duties if they preach Jehad in Mosques and other places.
- Hajj is not to be used to recruit and indoctrinate people for worthless Jehadi causes.
- No monies outside Saudi Arabia’s border are to be handed over to the local religious charities. No matter what the cause.
- Israel- Palestine, Chechnya-Russia, India-Pakistan, Bosnia -Serbs are to be treated as bilateral local issues. Calls for recruits to join in the fight are to be thoroughly discouraged.
- Guerilla Fighters in Philippines, Talibaan in Afghanistan etc. are not to be given monetary or technical aid under any pretext.
- The West and US develop a policy of slowly disengaging from Arabian oil supply.
- No political support locally or in any world forums to be given to movements which have smiling face on one side and terrorist face on the other.
In the end, I must say, Wahabis are here to stay. Only Arabian government can control them. West can only help to reshape their education and prevent monies transferred to other countries to galvanize masses there. To end Muslim terrorism, the West has to influence Saudi policy. Only the latter can control the Wahabi influence in the Kingdom and outside it.
(The author is a retired Vice President from C-I-L Inc. and has lived in Canada for the past 34 years. A graduate of Punjab University and University of Missouri; Rolla, USA, the author is a former investment strategies analyst and international relations manager. The Views expressed are his own. email- email@example.com)