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Wahhabism, an extreme form of Islam, has provided many foot soldiers for terrorist groups over most of the Middle East and much of the world. It is the state religion of Saudi Arabia and exerts much influence elsewhere in the Middle East.

From the Islam Daily

    "Modern Sa'udi Arabia is the result of a unification process of the Arabian Pennisula undertaken by 'Abd al-Aziz Ibn Sa'ud. To complete this process successfully, Ibn Sa'ud enlisted the support of the Ikhwan, a paramilitary religious movement which combined the fighting ability of the bedouin, respect for centralized government of the townsmen and traditional Islamic fanaticism of Wahhabism to create an effective fighting force."

    "... Taught by Ibn Sa'ud to be intolerant and uncompromising towards all other religious doctrines, and to be prepared to die for the expansion of Wahhabism, the Ikhwan launched an unsuccessful rebellion against Ibn Sa'ud when he ordered that their raiding must stop. This failed rebellion marked the last attempted by the Ikhwan to complete their aims, and demonstrated the fact that Ibn Sa'ud benefited far more from the alliance than they did. Ibn Sa'ud received a kingdom, managed to reconcile religious fervor, and achieved statesmanship of a sort; the Ikhwan won only token gains, and eventually became outdated."

Wahhabism takes its name from Muhammed Ibn Abd al-Wahhab. Born three hundred years ago on the desert of Arabia, he became something of an outcast to his family when he emerged seemingly from nowhere upon returning in 1737 from journeys to far places. He immediately began public preaching with calls to his strict version of Islam.

This was a time when the Islamic Ottoman Empire had ruled Arabia for three centuries and was past its zenith. Many argued that the decline was caused by insufficient adherence to Islamic fundamentals. Others blamed heterodoxy for the military setbacks. These were irrational, but the mere fact that the Caliphate was in something of a crisis nevertheless fueled a revolution of purism expressed in Wahhabism.

Wahhabism departs from mainstream Islam in some important ways:
  • Observance of ritual is more important than intentions. To not observe all the prescribed times for prayer is to be condemned as an unbeliever.
  • Reverence for the dead is not permitted.
  • Intercessory prayer through the Prophet or saints is also not permitted. Such are condemned as idolatry. Wahhabists ascribe a human form to God, in stark contrast with traditional Islam.

Note that the first bullet not only allows a phony element in the psyche of a practitioner, but requires it. The last bullet, with its "human form" requirement, parallels Christianity.

Wahhabism enforced strict forms of prayer and demanded a confession of faith a second time to Wahhabism. This was in the manner similar to: guess what? English-Puritan and American-born-again-Protestant practices. In these ways, Wahhabism was offensive to the Muslim mainstream. Furthermore, Wahhabism discouraged the display of the Prophet's name as well as pilgrimages to Mecca. In effect, strict Wahhabism downgraded the status of Mohammed. So powerful was the call of Wahhabism that it engulfed the Arabian Peninsula, and so it remains today. It is the chief recruiter for terrorist groups.

Within Saudi Arabia Wahhabism provides the harsh religious police that forced a group of school girls to their deaths by forcing them to go back into a burning inferno that had been their school. The girl's crime? Forgetting their head coverings in their haste to save themselves! Imagine living under such conditions. See Women for more on that story.

Needless to say, Wahhabism impedes modernization in Saudi Arabia. Elsewhere it is fueling changes that threaten the security of certain Middle Eastern states.

Within Saudi Arabia Wahhabism holds the political high cards. The royal House of Saud, a centuries-old "dynasty" maintains its power by using its vast oil money to support Wahhabi mosques and fuel Wahhabi expansionism. The House of Saud is known more for it ability to survive than for its wisdom. Unless it changes its ways, some commentators feel its end is near.

Nevertheless, the royal House of Saud includes all the tribal divisions in Saudi Arabia; it is the root of religious tradition. Religion is by far the dominant governance theme. The House of Saud has shown flexibility in its style. These two features lend long-term satiability to Arabia. Like the Israelis, the Saudis are canny in being able to manipulate Washington. Their reasons differ, of course. Oil is the crux.

Whatever that situation, Saudi Arabia is now in a period of decline with per capita income falling to less than half of what it was a generation ago. In part, that decline reflects a Saudi high birth rate. More importantly, the decline reflects an inability to modernize and build a middle class supporting and supported by an industrial base feeding a market economy. The heavy hand of Wahhabism is making sure modernization will never happen.

Despotic rule combines with Wahhabism and an arid desert to limit what the Saudi people can do.

Realize that 15 of the 19 World Trade Center hijackers were of Saudi origin. Realize also that nothing of consequence has occurred to stop that steady supply of recruits to the world terror market.

Then, ask yourself:

"What is Washington doing in Iraq?"

Protecting Big Oil interests, of course.

Where does that leave the war on terror? It leaves the American public terrified of terror, growing numbers becoming exasperated because of the huge debt, a debt that could destabilize the world's economy. This is one precise aim of Mr. bin Laden. And Mr. Bush has played into it.

Was that situation planned? Only the Administration knows with certainty -- assuming the prime movers are rational and not kidding themselves. It certainly fits the Neocon Manifesto . That possibility is now being voiced openly in several quarters.

Aside from the politics, which, along with propaganda, drives all Administration decisions, the fact remains that the roots of the tree of terror [Saudi Wahhabi Mosques preaching hatred of the West] remain alive and well. The House of Saud supplies the nutrients [Wahhabi fundamentalism] and water [oil money].

The fruit of terror ripens in Pakistan. Thanks to another master of Double Speak, and in spite of Pakistan's rapprochement with India, bin Laden has a haven, a safe harbor, to borrow a term from the Florida Five in the Supreme Court. Bin Laden, like Hussein, is of no consequence to the basic problem of terror. But, like Hussein, he is a symbol of how things are going. As long as he survives, one can assume terrorism conceived in the Arabian desert and spawned in Pakistan is alive and well.

But Pakistan is something else; it's an exporter of nuclear technology and materials.

Al Qa'ida is only one of some 60 organized terror groups, each of which has people ready for leadership when the big man falls. Only in Muslim Indonesia has the government openly gone after terrorism with effect. And, wouldn't you know, a country that held the US in high esteem in 2002, did an about face in 2003 because of Mr. Bush's high-handed lack of support for their efforts, which may well come now to naught.

The price of gasoline is increasing, but it is a debt paid on time, unlike the thousands of dollars of debt which Mr. Bush saddled on every American child born last year.

The war on terror still plays second fiddle to politics.

Saudi Arabia became an ally of the US and under al Qa'ida attack. Who used who and to what effect? From Prince of the Month -- Bandar bin Sultan.

"Bandar's relations with the United States started under the Presidency of Jimmy Carter where he built up strong ties with Carter's collaborators, Hamilton Jordan and Robert Strauss. He thus, gradually eased himself into the position of intermediary between his country and the American Administration by conveying messages and views between the two sides."

"...In 1979, during a trip to the United States, Bandar paid a visit to President Jimmy Carter who stressed his country's strong relationship with Saudi Arabia and promised assistance to Riyadh if the Iran-Iraq war threatened the Saudi Kingdom."

"...His success earned him the promotion of Ambassador to Washington. Bandar soon became very friendly with the Head of Operations at the CIA who was in charge of contacting foreign diplomatic missions in Washington. He reportedly involved himself in CIA activities and surprised diplomats with lavish parties organized by his wife Fiha, daughter of Faisal bin Abdelaziz, in defiance to the Kingdom's traditions and moral code."

"One of the missions entrusted to Bandar was to find a solution to the Palestinian issue and the recognition of Israel by the Arab States. Being involved with the CIA, Bandar also played a role in the Western Sahara in favour of Morocco in its dispute with Spain. Similarly, he played a role in the Lebanese conflict and was in charge of supplying the Phalangist movement with Saudi arms and armoured vehicles through Port Said and via Malta, but his plan was frustrated when the Maltese authorities intercepted the ship."

"In the Lebanon hostage crisis he stated to Al-Sharq al-Awsat (25/02/85) that he was making every effort to obtain the release of the hostages. In Sudan, he intervened on the side of the separatists of the South and provided them with financial and medical assistance. His relationship with the CIA led him to becoming entrusted with a mission to assassinate Sheikh Fadlallah of the Lebanese Hezbollah, but the bomb intended to kill the man missed its target. Bandar also involved himself in many other murky affairs such as with the Nicaraguan Contras."

"Saudi Ambassador and CIA agent - What a nice mix!"

Links to Wahhabism
  • Internal Dissension
  • Saudi Militancy
  • Wahhabi Terrorism

  • Who is a terrorist and who is a good guy depends on the mirror you are looking at.


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