EXTREMISTS: Wahhabism

From: natashavita@earthlink.net
Date: Wed Oct 10 2001 - 10:29:57 MDT


This morning on the Rhizome list (http://www.Rhizome.org), Joy Garnett posted the following piece:

The Spectator
22, September, 2001

COVER STORY: "Ground Zero and the Saudi Connection"
by Stephen Schwartz

(On the extreme Islamic sect that inspires Osama bin Laden as well as all Muslim suicide bombers - and is subsidised by Saudi Arabia.)

"The first thing to do when trying to understand 'Islamic suicide
bombers' is to forget the cliches about the Muslim taste for
martyrdom. It does exist, of course, but the desire for paradise is
not a safe guide to what motivated the appalling suicide attacks on
New York and Washington last week.

Throughout history, political extremists of all faiths have willingly
Given up their lives simply in the belief that by doing so, whether
in bombings or in other forms of terror, they would change the
course of history, or at least win an advantage for their cause.
Tamils are not Muslims, but they blow themselves up in their war
on the government of Sri Lanka; Japanese kamikaze pilots in the
second world war were not Muslims, but they flew their fighters
into US aircraft carriers. The Islamofascist ideology of Osama bin
Laden and those closest to him, such as the Egyptian and Algerian
'Islamic Groups', is no more intrinsically linked to Islam or Islamic
civilisation than Pearl Harbor was to Buddhism, or Ulster terrorists
 -whatever they may profess - are to Christianity. Serious Christians
don't go around killing and maiming the innocent; devout Muslims
do not prepare for paradise by hanging out in strip bars and getting
drunk, as one of last week's terrorist pilots was reported to have
done.

The attacks of 11 September are simply not compatible with
orthodox Muslim theology, which cautions soldiers 'in the way of
Allah' to fight their enemies face-to-face, without harming non-
combatants, women or children. Most Muslims, not only in
America and Britain, but in the world, are clearly law-abiding
citizens of their countries - a point stressed by President Bush
and other American leaders, much to their credit. Nobody on this
side of the water wants a repeat of the lamented 1941 internment
of Japanese Americans. Still, the numerical preponderance of
Muslims as perpetrators of these ghastly incidents is no coincidence.

So we have to ask ourselves what has made these men into the
monsters they are? What has so galvanised violent tendencies in
the world's second-largest religion (and, in America, the fastest
growing faith)? Can it really flow from a quarrel over a bit of land
in the Middle East? For Westerners, it seems natural to look for
answers in the distant past, beginning with the Crusades. But if
you ask educated, pious, traditional but forward-looking Muslims
what has driven their umma, or global community, in this direction,
many of them will answer you with one word: Wahhabism.

This is a strain of Islam that emerged not at the time of the
Crusades, nor even at the time of the anti-Turkish wars of the 17th
century, but less than two centuries ago. It is violent, it is
intolerant, and it is fanatical beyond measure. It originated in
Arabia, and it is the official theology of the Gulf states.
Wahhabism is the most extreme form of Islamic fundamentalism,
and its followers are called Wahhabis. Not all Muslims are suicide
bombers, but all Muslim suicide bombers are Wahhabis - except,
perhaps, for some disciples of atheist leftists posing as Muslims in
the interests of personal power, such as Yasser Arafat or Saddam
Hussein. Wahhabism is the Islamic equivalent of the most extreme
Protestant sectarianism. It is puritan, demanding punishment for
those who enjoy any form of music except the drum, and severe
punishment up to death for drinking or sexual transgressions. It
condemns as unbelievers those who do not pray, a view that never
previously existed in mainstream Islam. It is stripped-down Islam,
calling for simple, short prayers, undecorated mosques, and the
uprooting of gravestones (since decorated mosques and graveyards
lend themselves to veneration, which is idolatry in the Wahhabi
mind). Wahhabis do not even permit the name of the Prophet
Mohammed to be inscribed in mosques, nor do they allow his
birthday to be celebrated. Above all, they hate ostentatious
spirituality, much as Protestants detest the veneration of miracles
and saints in the Roman Church. Ibn Abdul Wahhab (1703-92), the
founder of this totalitarian Islamism, was born in Uyaynah, in the
part of Arabia known as Nejd, where Riyadh is today, and which
the Prophet himself notably warned would be a source of
corruption and confusion. (Anti-Wahhabi Muslims refer to
Wahhabism as fitna an Najdiyyah or 'the trouble out of Nejd'.)

>From the beginning of Wahhab's dispensation, in the late 18th
century, his cult was associated with the mass murder of all who
opposed it. For example, the Wahhabis fell upon the city of
Qarbala in 1801 and killed 2,000 ordinary citizens in the streets
and markets. In the 19th century, Wahhabism took the form of
Arab nationalism v. the Turks. The founder of the Saudi kingdom,
Ibn Saud, established Wahhabism as its official creed. Much has
been made of the role of the US in 'creating' Osama bin Laden
through subsidies to the Afghan mujahedin, but as much or more
could be said in reproach of Britain which, three generations
before, supported the Wahhabi Arabs in their revolt against the
Ottomans. Arab hatred of the Turks fused with Wahhabi ranting
against the 'decadence' of Ottoman Islam. The truth is that the
Ottoman khalifa reigned over a multinational Islamic umma in
which vast differences in local culture and tradition were tolerated.
No such tolerance exists in Wahhabism, which is why the concept
of US troops on Saudi soil so inflames bin Laden.

Bin Laden is a Wahhabi. So are the suicide bombers in Israel. So
are his Egyptian allies, who exulted as they stabbed foreign tourists
to death at Luxor not many years ago, bathing in blood up to their
elbows and emitting blasphemous cries of ecstasy. So are the
Algerian Islamist terrorists whose contribution to the purification
of the world consisted of murdering people for such sins as running
a movie projector or reading secular newspapers. So are the
Taleban-style guerrillas in Kashmir who murder Hindus. The
Iranians are not Wahhabis, which partially explains their slow but
Undeniable movement towards moderation and normality after a
period of utopian and puritan revivalism. But the Taleban practise
a variant of Wahhabism. In the Wahhabi fashion they employ
ancient punishments - such as execution for moral offences - and
they have a primitive and fearful view of women. The same is true
of Saudi Arabia's rulers. None of this extremism has been inspired
by American fumblings in the world, and it has little to do with the
tragedies that have beset Israelis and Palestinians.

But the Wahhabis have two weaknesses of which the West is
largely unaware; an Achilles' heel on each foot, so to speak. The
first is that the vast majority of Muslims in the world are peaceful
people who would prefer the installation of Western democracy in
their own countries. They loathe Wahhabism for the same reason
any patriarchal culture rejects a violent break with tradition. And
that is the point that must be understood: bin Laden and other
Wahhabis are not defending Islamic tradition; they represent an
ultra-radical break in the direction of a sectarian utopia. Thus, they
are best described as Islamofascists, although they have much in
common with Bolsheviks.

The Bengali Sufi writer Zeeshan Ali has described the situation
touchingly: 'Muslims from Bangladesh in the US, just like any
other place in the world, uphold the traditional beliefs of Islam
but, due to lack of instruction, keep quiet when their beliefs are
attacked by Wahhabis in the US who all of a sudden become
"better" Muslims than others. These Wahhabis go even further
and accuse their own fathers of heresy, sin and unbelief. And the
young children of the immigrants, when they grow up in this
country, get exposed only to this one-sided version of Islam and
are led to think that this is the only Islam. Naturally a big gap is
being created every day that silence is only widening.' The young,
divided between tradition and the call of the new, opt for 'Islamic
revolution' and commit themselves to their self-destruction,
combined with mass murder. The same influences are brought
to bear throughout the ten-million-strong Muslim community in
America, as well as those in Europe.

In the US, 80 per cent of mosques are estimated by the Sufi
Hisham al-Kabbani, born in Lebanon and now living in the US, to
be under the control of Wahhabi imams, who preach extremism,
and this leads to the other point of vulnerability: Wahhabism is
subsidised by Saudi Arabia, even though bin Laden has sworn to
destroy the Saudi royal family. The Saudis have played a double
game for years, more or less as Stalin did with the West during the
second world war. They pretended to be allies in a common
struggle against Saddam Hussein while they spread Wahhabi
ideology everywhere Muslims are to be found, just as Stalin
promoted an 'antifascist' coalition with the US while carrying out
espionage and subversion on American territory. The motive was
the same: the belief that the West was or is decadent and doomed.

One major question is never asked in American discussions of
Arab terrorism: what is the role of Saudi Arabia? The question
cannot be asked because American companies depend too much on
the continued flow of Saudi oil, while American politicians have
become too cozy with the Saudi rulers. Another reason it is not
asked is that to expose the extent of Saudi and Wahhabi influence
on American Muslims would deeply compromise many Islamic
clerics in the US. But it is the most significant question Americans
should be asking themselves today. If we get rid of bin Laden, who
do we then have to deal with? The answer was eloquently put by
Seyyed Vali Reza Nasr, professor of political science at the
University of California at San Diego, and author of an
authoritative volume on Islamic extremism in Pakistan, when he
said: 'If the US wants to do something about radical Islam, it has to
deal with Saudi Arabia. The "rogue states" [Iraq, Libya, etc.] are
less important in the radicalisation of Islam than Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia is the single most important cause and supporter of
radicalisation, ideologisation, and the general fanaticisation of
Islam.' From what we now know, it appears not a single one of the
suicide pilots in New York and Washington was Palestinian. They
all seem to have been Saudis, citizens of the Gulf states, Egyptian
or Algerian. Two are reported to have been the sons of the former
second secretary of the Saudi embassy in Washington. They were
planted in America long before the outbreak of the latest
Palestinian intifada; in fact, they seem to have begun their
conspiracy while the Middle East peace process was in full, if
short, bloom. Anti-terror experts and politicians in the West must
now consider the Saudi connection."

http://www.spectator.co.uk/article.php3?table=oldžion=current&issue=2001-10-06&id=1104&searchText=

{Stephen Schwartz is also the author of _Intellectuals and Assassins_,
published by Anthem Press.}

Natasha

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