The Saudi Crown Prince made a sensational revelation last month during an interview with Washington Post, admitting that the Saudis were actively exporting Wahhabism-the extremist brand of Islam , considered by many as the source of global “Islamic” terrorism, to other Islamic countries at the behest of United States and other western countries. But is it “new”news really?
The Crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman stated that the Saudi government spent billions of dollars to support overseas mosques and religious schools, called Madrassas, along with other extremist organizations. He claimed this was done to combat the spread of Soviet influence during the cold war, which intensified following the Afghan invasion.
I said ‘revelation’ at the onset. To many, there was no revelation as many people around the world have known about it and have been writing about it for years.
Adam Weinstein had indicated the export of extremist and even terrorism to the Saudis in a post last year on Huffington Post.
wahhabiSaudi Arabia—not Iran—is the biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world today and Wahhabism remains the source of most radical Islamic extremism. For years Iran has borne the unenviable title of “world’s biggest state sponsor of terrorism.” However, out of the 61 groups that are designated as terrorist organizations by the U.S. State Department, the overwhelming majority are Wahhabi-inspired and Saudi-funded groups, with a focus on the West and Iran as their primary enemy. Only two are Shi’a—Hezbollah and Kataib Hezbollah, and only four have ever claimed to receive support from Iran. Nearly all of the Sunni militant groups listed receive significant support from either the Saudi government or Saudi citizens.
Fareed Zakaria, a leading expert on global affairs and the host of GPS on CNN pointed this connection in 2013 in an article on Time Magazine.
Go anywhere in the world–from Germany to Indonesia–and you’ll find Islamic centers flush with Saudi money, spouting intolerance and hate. In 2007, Stuart Levey, then a top Treasury official, told ABC News, “If I could snap my fingers and cut off the funding from one country, it would be Saudi Arabia.” When confronted with the evidence, Saudi officials often claim these funds flow from private individuals and foundations and the government has no control over them. But many of the foundations were set up by the government or key members of the royal family, and none could operate in defiance of national policy; the country is an absolute monarchy.
So the hateful, fire breathing speeches by the clerics, funded and supported by this ideology, during Friday sermons around the Islamic world were not random after all.
The suicide bombings carried out by these extremist organizations were not random either. Never mind the women and the children dying for no fault of their own.
In fact, Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State at the time, admitted this connection at a congressional hearing.
The Crown Prince further stated, the practice is going to be reversed now- at the behest of the United States, apparently because it has “backfired” and many of these global extremists turned against the west, and in some cases against the Saudis.
I hope he is true to his word. But the damage done by years of preaching and actively supporting extremist and fundamentalism, will take a very long time to undo. I am glad the new regime seems to move towards normalcy. But the proof is in the pudding.
It leaves you wonder if other forms of religious extremist are also funded- such as the right wing Christians in the United States, the right wing Hindu parties in India or the right wing Jews in Israel. Behind each, there seems to be politics, power struggle and financial support that may be we will find out years later.
All of this makes the work of interfaith and peace activists that much more difficult. The struggle is not between Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Christians. It is between the extremists of all faiths on one hand and descent silent majority of all faiths on the other hand. It is just that the descent silent majority is fighting an uphill battle against a well-funded machine.