17.02.2019 Author: Catherine Shakdam

What Wahhabism Looks Like From Up Close And Personal


How many times will we need to be reminded of the horrors of Wahhabism – that cult, which for lack of better words murdered and pillaged its way to the heights of power to better rationalise itself a school of thought under the umbrella of Sunni Islam, for our world leaders to seriously reconsider their alliances to Saudi Arabia?

In early February, away from the tumults of world media a child was beheaded in the streets of Madinah in Saudi Arabia, murdered by a religious zealot to assuage the self-proclaimed righteousness of an elite who has defined itself in bloodshed.

Zachariah Badir Al Jabir was seven years old … for Wahhabist Saudi Arabia his faith: Shia Islam, sat him outside humanity’s fold, and his death was a just act, a cleanse, an affirmation that under the skies of Al Saud all designated ‘apostates’ will suffer annihilation.

This is the nation our world leaders, our state officials and representatives have called and still call friend and ally.

How, can anyone, in the face of everything that has transpired over the decades — the unapologetic calls for genocide on the basis of faith, the en masse production of terror radical militants, and the countless heinous crimes against humanity, still contemplate an alliance with the kingdom?

Those questions are not meant to be rhetorical … they are crying out for an answer; preferably one that does not demand for the normalisation of sectarianism. Unless we are careful, we stand to soon resemble those very monsters we say to want to defeat. To tolerate the ideological abomination that is Wahhabism equates to the rationalisation of Terror on the basis of pecuniary greed, and that more or less put us on equal footing with some of the most debased of radical militants in existence today.

We hold that beauty exists in the eyes of the beholder; could it be now that both terrorism and fanaticism have become notions relative to the geopolitical purpose they serve as opposed to notions we ought to confront absolutely wherever and whenever they may lie or hide. I would like to think the latter … If not, then we may as well brace ourselves for the grand return of the Black Flag Army and resigned ourselves to a life spent in humiliation and fear. If Wahhabism was formerly confined to the kingdom, it is no longer bound by geography.

A report by the Henry Jackson Society in 2017 established that “Saudi Arabia has, since the 1960s, sponsored a multimillion dollar effort to export Wahhabi Islam across the Islamic world, including to Muslim communities in the west … In the UK, this funding has primarily taken the form of endowments to mosques and Islamic educational institutions, which have in turn played host to extremist preachers and the distribution of extremist literature.”

And: “Influence has also been exerted through the training of British Muslim religious leaders in Saudi Arabia, as well as the use of Saudi textbooks in a number of the UK’s independent Islamic schools.”

To the tune of several billions of dollars per year since the mid-Seventies, Saudi Arabia has exported its ‘faith’ to an only too blind world, ensuring that its literature would drown out all other other religious texts, and in a few swift decades rewrite millions of unsuspecting Muslims away from normative Islam and into the clutches of Wahhabism, ensnare them.

As a report published by Freedom House reads: “Adherents of Wahhabism constitute a small minority within world Islam, yet, Saudi Arabia is trying to assert itself as the world’s authoritative voice on Islam.”

Divorced from its context, rewritten to fit a violent and reactionary worldview Wahhabism, and its sister in faith: Salafism have defiled the Sunni world, to the extent today that it is almost impossible to differentiate them. As for the many communities that exist under its fold, the insidious miasmas of radicalism have tainted minds with an all-encompassing and paralysing fear.

And why are we even surprised when hate is being taught at school to be later on exported and disseminated across academia abroad, through a clever game of sponsorships and donations?

“What is being taught today in Saudi public school textbooks about how Muslims should relate to other religious communities will poison the minds of a new generation of Saudis,” said Nina Shea, Director of the Center for Religious Freedom back in 2006. A decade on and little has changed … if at all.

Wahhabism has grown so bold under our collective silence that acts of murder against Shia Muslims in the streets of Saudi Arabia are now if not common, expected.

Wahhabism is no longer contained though, and while we may still argue that such issues have nothing to do with us per se, that would be to ignore the elephant standing in all our living rooms.

Saudi Arabia is not just fanning hatred at home, it has built itself a network spanning continents. What we should ask ourselves today is how long it will take Saudi Arabia’s zealots to claim our children’s lives in our streets … all the while they are being dined by pampered into signing lucrative contracts by our elite.

In an article published in the Spectator, John R Bradley, puts the problem under an interesting light. He writes: “A recent report, suppressed by the UK government, revealed the majority of funding for UK mosques that promote Islamist extremism, and which play a crucial role in radicalising homegrown jihadis, originates from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab countries that also embrace the odious Wahhabi ideology. These findings tally with other exhaustive studies on the expansion of Islamist extremism, both here and in Europe, which have singled out the spread of Saudi-sponsored Wahhabism as the gravest threat to our security and values. All were similarly ignored by those who rule in our name.”

And: “Last month, the former head of MI5, Jonathan Evans, warned that Britain will face an Islamist terror threat for at least 30 years. Only the most blinkered observer would find it difficult to understand his concern. For with the near fall of Isis, thousands of jihadis steeped in the caliphate’s Wahhabi ideology are returning to Britain and Europe, determined to keep alive the dream of massacring infidels.”

Little Zachariah is one of the many lives that was claimed by Wahhabism, and while many still discuss and argue the validity of an alliance with wealthy Saudi Arabia we may want to consider building defenses against those zealots who so desperately dream of a grand crusade against our children.

Catherine Shakdam is a research fellow at the Al Bayan Centre for Planning & Studies and a political analyst specializing in radical movements. She is the author of A Tale of Grand Resistance: Yemen, the Wahhabi and the House of Saud. She writes exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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