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11/08/2001

Wahhabism, Part II

"Those were not Afghans who flew into those towers of glass
and steel and crashed into the Pentagon. They were from the
Arab world, where anti-Americanism is fierce, where terror
works with the hidden winks that men and women make at the
perpetrators of the grimmest of deeds."
--Fouad Ajami

Last week we touched on the origins of Wahhabism, a puritanical
offshoot of Islam that promulgates violence and is the ideological
arm of the Saudi royal family. Going back to the days of its
founder, al-Wahhab (see last week''s edition of ''Hott Spotts''),
violence has been at the core of Wahhabism. And Saudi
Arabia''s connection has always been clear, even if the West
wasn''t quick to make it. Back in 1925, ibn Saud, the founding
father of modern-day Saudi Arabia, in the name of Wahhabism,
ordered the destruction of many of Islam''s sacred tombs and
mosques in Mecca and Medina, the two holiest sites in Islam,
and he authorized the wholesale slaughter of those suspected of
rejecting Wahhabism. That same justification and promotion of
violence against all who do not share the Wahhabi outlook has
continued ever since.

Since the Saudi government is tied to the Wahhabi brand of
extremism, and since the Saudis have been exporting it all these
years, it is no wonder that Senator Joseph Lieberman recently
said on "Meet the Press," "(The United States) can''t tolerate a
nation like the Saudis - whose government...continues to stand
because we support them - that promulgates hatred."

But one Middle East scholar told the New York Times'' Elaine
Scolino, "The Al Saud (the Saudi royal family) have always
based their so-called right to rule on conquest, co-optation
through the distribution of oil revenues and Wahhabism. But
coercion has fostered popular resentment, oil revenues have
shrunk dramatically and Wahhabism never reflected the diverse
reality of Saudi Arabia. There has been a convergence of dissent
as men and women, merchants and industrialists, Sunnis and
Shiites across the board are calling for a redistribution of wealth,
the rule of law and social justice."

Which means only one thing, the House of Saud will be ruthless
in protecting its power. And Crown Prince Abdullah, who
effectively runs the kingdom for the ailing King Fahd, has been
closely allied with Wahhabism and the terrorist connection. At
one point Abdullah even invited Syrian intelligence into Saudi
Arabia.

But the al Sauds speak out of both sides of their mouth and the
past few days the West has heard some words of support for the
war on terrorism. Nonetheless, influential Saudi Sheikh Hamoud
called on Muslims to wage jihad against supporters of the U.S.,
meaning that he was calling for an attack on the royal family
itself. And so it goes, around and around and around.

So while the Saudis use Wahhabism for their own purposes,
allowing this radical extremism to filter throughout the kingdom
and the whole region in exchange for peace at the top, it also
appears that the House of Saud is sowing the seeds of its own
destruction, by continuing to subsidize the Wahhabi reign of terror.
It may be backfiring, and the fear of this is why Crown Prince
Abdullah et al will refuse to cooperate with the U.S. from time to
time.

For example, it would appear that U.S. intelligence was
blindsided by Saudi support for the Taliban back in 1996, and it
would seem the West was slow to connect the dots between
Wahhabism and the royal family. Then in 1998, Saudi Osama
bin Laden issued his own ''fatwa'' (Islamic decree), even though
he had no religious standing to issue it. In the words of Fouad
Ajami, bin Laden "had grabbed the faith and called on Muslims
to kill ''Americans and their allies...in any country in which it is
possible to do so.'' A sacred realm apart, Arabia had been
overrun by Americans, bin Laden said. ''For more than seven
years the United States has been occupying the lands of Islam in
the holiest of its territories, Arabia, plundering its riches,
overwhelming its rulers, humiliating its people, threatening its
neighbors, and using its peninsula as a spearhead to fight the
neighboring Islamic peoples.'' Xenophobia of a murderous kind
had been dressed up in religious garb." [Translation of bin
Laden text was by historian Bernard Lewis.]

But, as is becoming increasingly clear, the threat the United
States faces on its own homeland may be as serious as that which
led to the terrorist acts on the Khobar Towers, the embassy
bombings, the USS Cole, and the Twin Towers. Sheik
Muhammad Hisham Kabbani, a moderate cleric based in
Washington, two years ago told the U.S. State Department that in
his travels throughout America, he estimated that 80% of the
mosques in the U.S. were subject to Wahhabi manipulation. This
figure, if true, is staggering, but many doubt its veracity.
Kabbani says that he came up with this number by looking at the
books, the subject matter of classes taught in the mosques he
visited, and the preponderance of Indian and Pakistani
immigrants in these mosques who controlled the funding. One
informant noted that Wahhabi imams in American mosques were
receiving salaries of $2,000 - $4,000 a month from Gulf States.
[Others say that the 80% figure is grossly exaggerated and that,
for starters, African Americans make up one third of the
mosques'' populations. To which I''d reply, ''Yoh, idiot, take a
look at Nigeria and the problems with extremists they are having
there!'']

Kabbani, though, has a lot more to offer than just the estimated
levels of Wahhabis in U.S. mosques. He also claimed two years
ago that the Wahhabis had purchased 20 nuclear warheads and
were paying former Soviet scientists to "break them into chips
that could be carried in suitcases." [New York Times] This
charge, too, is deemed to be outrageous by many, but, these days,
who the heck knows?

Reporter Jeffrey Sheler writes that one of the problems of Islam
is that there is no authoritative hierarchy - no pope, for example,
or a central group of elders - that speaks to the world''s 1.3
billion Muslims. To say the least it''s depressing and it''s also
quite clear we are on a collision course with Saudi Arabia; either
the royal family, Wahhabis like bin Laden, or those who will
undoubtedly follow him should he be eliminated.

[One note on the origin of ''madrassas,'' the religious schools
where young people are inculcated in the Wahhabi belief system.
The Madrassa had its origins in the 11th century and was founded
by Nizam al-Mulk (wow your friends at the next cocktail party).
They are often attached to a mosque and normally include a
residence for students. Originally, each madrassa was
established by an individual donor (today, it''s probably more like
separate ''front'' operations); which gave it an endowment and
ensured its permanence. The endowment was then used for the
upkeep of the building, the payment of one or more permanent
teachers, and the food and care of the students. The main
purpose was not just the teaching of the Quran, but also of ''figh'';
a process of thought that ultimately came to be called ''sharia,''
and that''s not good, as we say, boys and girls. Of course, today,
madrassas are used for nothing else but brainwashing young boys
to hate the West.]

Sources:

"Oxford History of Islam," edited by John Esposito
"A History of the Arab Peoples," Albert Hourani
Stephen Schwartz / The Weekly Standard
Fouad Ajami / Foreign Affairs
"Islam," Karen Armstrong
"The Middle East," Bernard Lewis
Jeffrey Sheler / U.S. News and World Report
Isabel Post / National Post
David Warmser / The Weekly Standard
Karen De Young / Washington Post
Elaine Scoline / New York Times
Laurie Goodstein / New York Times
James Dorsey / Wall Street Journal

Brian Trumbore

Next week...more on the Middle East.


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Hot Spots

11/08/2001

Wahhabism, Part II

"Those were not Afghans who flew into those towers of glass
and steel and crashed into the Pentagon. They were from the
Arab world, where anti-Americanism is fierce, where terror
works with the hidden winks that men and women make at the
perpetrators of the grimmest of deeds."
--Fouad Ajami

Last week we touched on the origins of Wahhabism, a puritanical
offshoot of Islam that promulgates violence and is the ideological
arm of the Saudi royal family. Going back to the days of its
founder, al-Wahhab (see last week''s edition of ''Hott Spotts''),
violence has been at the core of Wahhabism. And Saudi
Arabia''s connection has always been clear, even if the West
wasn''t quick to make it. Back in 1925, ibn Saud, the founding
father of modern-day Saudi Arabia, in the name of Wahhabism,
ordered the destruction of many of Islam''s sacred tombs and
mosques in Mecca and Medina, the two holiest sites in Islam,
and he authorized the wholesale slaughter of those suspected of
rejecting Wahhabism. That same justification and promotion of
violence against all who do not share the Wahhabi outlook has
continued ever since.

Since the Saudi government is tied to the Wahhabi brand of
extremism, and since the Saudis have been exporting it all these
years, it is no wonder that Senator Joseph Lieberman recently
said on "Meet the Press," "(The United States) can''t tolerate a
nation like the Saudis - whose government...continues to stand
because we support them - that promulgates hatred."

But one Middle East scholar told the New York Times'' Elaine
Scolino, "The Al Saud (the Saudi royal family) have always
based their so-called right to rule on conquest, co-optation
through the distribution of oil revenues and Wahhabism. But
coercion has fostered popular resentment, oil revenues have
shrunk dramatically and Wahhabism never reflected the diverse
reality of Saudi Arabia. There has been a convergence of dissent
as men and women, merchants and industrialists, Sunnis and
Shiites across the board are calling for a redistribution of wealth,
the rule of law and social justice."

Which means only one thing, the House of Saud will be ruthless
in protecting its power. And Crown Prince Abdullah, who
effectively runs the kingdom for the ailing King Fahd, has been
closely allied with Wahhabism and the terrorist connection. At
one point Abdullah even invited Syrian intelligence into Saudi
Arabia.

But the al Sauds speak out of both sides of their mouth and the
past few days the West has heard some words of support for the
war on terrorism. Nonetheless, influential Saudi Sheikh Hamoud
called on Muslims to wage jihad against supporters of the U.S.,
meaning that he was calling for an attack on the royal family
itself. And so it goes, around and around and around.

So while the Saudis use Wahhabism for their own purposes,
allowing this radical extremism to filter throughout the kingdom
and the whole region in exchange for peace at the top, it also
appears that the House of Saud is sowing the seeds of its own
destruction, by continuing to subsidize the Wahhabi reign of terror.
It may be backfiring, and the fear of this is why Crown Prince
Abdullah et al will refuse to cooperate with the U.S. from time to
time.

For example, it would appear that U.S. intelligence was
blindsided by Saudi support for the Taliban back in 1996, and it
would seem the West was slow to connect the dots between
Wahhabism and the royal family. Then in 1998, Saudi Osama
bin Laden issued his own ''fatwa'' (Islamic decree), even though
he had no religious standing to issue it. In the words of Fouad
Ajami, bin Laden "had grabbed the faith and called on Muslims
to kill ''Americans and their allies...in any country in which it is
possible to do so.'' A sacred realm apart, Arabia had been
overrun by Americans, bin Laden said. ''For more than seven
years the United States has been occupying the lands of Islam in
the holiest of its territories, Arabia, plundering its riches,
overwhelming its rulers, humiliating its people, threatening its
neighbors, and using its peninsula as a spearhead to fight the
neighboring Islamic peoples.'' Xenophobia of a murderous kind
had been dressed up in religious garb." [Translation of bin
Laden text was by historian Bernard Lewis.]

But, as is becoming increasingly clear, the threat the United
States faces on its own homeland may be as serious as that which
led to the terrorist acts on the Khobar Towers, the embassy
bombings, the USS Cole, and the Twin Towers. Sheik
Muhammad Hisham Kabbani, a moderate cleric based in
Washington, two years ago told the U.S. State Department that in
his travels throughout America, he estimated that 80% of the
mosques in the U.S. were subject to Wahhabi manipulation. This
figure, if true, is staggering, but many doubt its veracity.
Kabbani says that he came up with this number by looking at the
books, the subject matter of classes taught in the mosques he
visited, and the preponderance of Indian and Pakistani
immigrants in these mosques who controlled the funding. One
informant noted that Wahhabi imams in American mosques were
receiving salaries of $2,000 - $4,000 a month from Gulf States.
[Others say that the 80% figure is grossly exaggerated and that,
for starters, African Americans make up one third of the
mosques'' populations. To which I''d reply, ''Yoh, idiot, take a
look at Nigeria and the problems with extremists they are having
there!'']

Kabbani, though, has a lot more to offer than just the estimated
levels of Wahhabis in U.S. mosques. He also claimed two years
ago that the Wahhabis had purchased 20 nuclear warheads and
were paying former Soviet scientists to "break them into chips
that could be carried in suitcases." [New York Times] This
charge, too, is deemed to be outrageous by many, but, these days,
who the heck knows?

Reporter Jeffrey Sheler writes that one of the problems of Islam
is that there is no authoritative hierarchy - no pope, for example,
or a central group of elders - that speaks to the world''s 1.3
billion Muslims. To say the least it''s depressing and it''s also
quite clear we are on a collision course with Saudi Arabia; either
the royal family, Wahhabis like bin Laden, or those who will
undoubtedly follow him should he be eliminated.

[One note on the origin of ''madrassas,'' the religious schools
where young people are inculcated in the Wahhabi belief system.
The Madrassa had its origins in the 11th century and was founded
by Nizam al-Mulk (wow your friends at the next cocktail party).
They are often attached to a mosque and normally include a
residence for students. Originally, each madrassa was
established by an individual donor (today, it''s probably more like
separate ''front'' operations); which gave it an endowment and
ensured its permanence. The endowment was then used for the
upkeep of the building, the payment of one or more permanent
teachers, and the food and care of the students. The main
purpose was not just the teaching of the Quran, but also of ''figh'';
a process of thought that ultimately came to be called ''sharia,''
and that''s not good, as we say, boys and girls. Of course, today,
madrassas are used for nothing else but brainwashing young boys
to hate the West.]

Sources:

"Oxford History of Islam," edited by John Esposito
"A History of the Arab Peoples," Albert Hourani
Stephen Schwartz / The Weekly Standard
Fouad Ajami / Foreign Affairs
"Islam," Karen Armstrong
"The Middle East," Bernard Lewis
Jeffrey Sheler / U.S. News and World Report
Isabel Post / National Post
David Warmser / The Weekly Standard
Karen De Young / Washington Post
Elaine Scoline / New York Times
Laurie Goodstein / New York Times
James Dorsey / Wall Street Journal

Brian Trumbore

Next week...more on the Middle East.