The Saudis back the Wahhabi movement. Wahhabism, founded in the 17th century, seeks a return to the practice of original (i.e. salafi) Islam of Mohammad’s days. This is a jihadist movement against all non-Muslims (they supported jihad against the Sikhs in the 1820s, for example) and against the Shiites (Wahhab, himself, attacked Shiites in, what is today, Iraq).
Early in the 20th century, the British supported the Saudi family, who gained control of Mecca from the Hashemite family. Under Saudi control strict Islam was enforced through out Arabia. In 1963, the educational system came under Wahhabi control. But, more importantly, the 1960s saw the influx of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Muslim Brotherhood originated the Islamic Revival in response to Ataturk’s abolition of the caliphate. Sayyid Qutb, a key force in the Brotherhood (also see Paul Berman’s Terror and Liberalism) was executed by Nasser in 1966. The Brotherhood sought and found refuge in Saudi Arabia. Members of the Brotherhood assumed university positions in the newly created Islamic University of Medina and King Abdul Aziz University. It was at the latter that Muhammad Qutb, brother of Sayyid, taught a young Osama bin Laden true Islam.
Gold notes (as does Berman) that Sayyid Qutb lived briefly in America and was repulsed by modern culture. A feeling widely shared by devout Muslims. In “1957, Wilfred Cantwell Smith of McGill University wrote, ‘Most westerners have simply no inkling of how deep and fierce is the hate of the West that has gripped the modernizing Arab.’” (Gold p93-4).
At Aziz University was Abdullah Azzam, who taught the centrality of jihad to Islam. He hoped for a replay of Islam’s glory – when Muslims defeated the Byzantine and Persian empires and appeared to conquer the world. “Azzam saw his new jihad crushing the Soviet Union and the United States.” (Gold p98) At the Islamic University of Medina two influential faculty members (Jarishan and al-Zubayq) condemn Western secularism: “In the economic field that means the flag of capitalism, in the political field that means the principles of democracy, and in the social field it waves the principles of freedom.” And they damned “secularism in education and the mass media as ‘aggression against Islamic legitimacy.’” (Gold p101)
In the 1970s, with Saudi oil wealth, King Faisel’s Muslim World League spread the Wahhabi virus worldwide. “Saudi Arabia … embarked on a massive campaign to bring Wahhabi Islam to the world. Between 1982 and 2002, 1,500 mosques, 210 Islamic centers, and 20,000 schools to educate Muslim children were established in non-Muslims countries alone.” (Gold p126) Saudis funded Hamas, an out growth of the Muslim Brotherhood. They funded and co-opted Cairo’s oldest and most authoritative university, al-Azhar. They funded the Madrassahs in Pakistan and the Afghan fighters against the USSR.
“In fact, Osama bin Laden and Prince Turki al-Faisal, a son of King Faisal, knew each other during bin Laden’s university days. Turki would make use of his relationship with bin Laden after the prince became the Saudi intelligence chief in September 1977. After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, he put bin Laden in charge of moving Arab volunteers who wanted to fight the Soviets from Saudi Arabia to Peshawar, Pakistan.” (Gold p129-130)
The Taliban were not originally Wahhabi but that changed with Saudi influence. Dore Gold shows the ease in which Saudi-style Wahhabi Islam is welcomed and accepted worldwide. Islam doesn’t differ as much as various sects of Christianity. For example, 70-80% of American mosques are Saudi funded and staffed even thought the vast majority of Muslims in America don’t come from a country like Saudi Arabia. Imagine going to England and finding that 80% of the priests in the Church of England were ordained by the Roman Catholic Church. It’s unimaginable! The ease with which Wahhabi influence spreads shows the lack of doctrinal variations among various branches of Islam. (This is not a point Gold makes, however.)
Gold continue to document the Saudi influence and aid to the terrorists throughout the 1990s and even after 9/11. The Saudi family (and thus the Saudi government) funds the violence and the spread of propaganda. Our government completely ignores the spread of Wahhabi Islam. Gold notes: “But unless the ideological motivation for terrorism is addressed and, indeed, extinguished, then the war on terror will not be won. Saudi Arabia is the breeding ground for Wahhabi extremism and consequently the source of the hatred that impels international terrorist organizations.” (Gold p225)
I’ve just scratched the surface on Saudi complicity in the terror of the last 20 years. Read the book for the full details. This is a book that should be in every library.
Notes: Here is a biography of Dore Gold. His 2003 WSJ article argues that we must do more than fight military battles in Iraq – we must address the source of the jihad, Saudi Arabia. Daniel Pipes suggests there is one place to start if one wants to learn about Saudi Arabia. The Middle East Form sums up Dr. Gold’s thesis succinctly.