Reflections by the NYT, PBS, etc

NYT:

The reach of the Saudis has been stunning, touching nearly every country with a Muslim population, from the Gothenburg Mosque in Sweden to the King Faisal Mosque in Chad, from the King Fahad Mosque in Los Angeles to the Seoul Central Mosque in South Korea. Support has come from the Saudi government; the royal family; Saudi charities; and Saudi-sponsored organizations including the World Muslim League, the World Assembly of Muslim Youth and the International Islamic Relief Organization, providing the hardware of impressive edifices and the software of preaching and teaching.

There is a broad consensus that the Saudi ideological juggernaut has disrupted local Islamic traditions in dozens of countries — the result of lavish spending on religious outreach for half a century, estimated in the tens of billions of dollars. The result has been amplified by guest workers, many from South Asia, who spend years in Saudi Arabia and bring Saudi ways home with them. In many countries, Wahhabist preaching has encouraged a harshly judgmental religion, contributing to majority support in some polls in Egypt, Pakistan and other countries for stoning for adultery and execution for anyone trying to leave Islam.

Exhibit A may be Saudi Arabia itself, which produced not only Osama bin Laden, but also 15 of the 19 hijackers of Sept. 11, 2001; sent more suicide bombers than any other country to Iraq after the 2003 invasion; and has supplied more foreign fighters to the Islamic State, 2,500, than any country other than Tunisia.

the Islamic State adopted official Saudi textbooks for its schools until the extremist group could publish its own books in 2015. Out of 12 works by Muslim scholars republished by the Islamic State, seven are by Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, the 18th-century founder of the Saudi school of Islam, said Jacob Olidort, a scholar at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. A former imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Sheikh Adil al-Kalbani declared with regret in a television interview in January that the Islamic State leaders “draw their ideas from what is written in our own books, our own principles.”

Small details of Saudi practice can cause outsize trouble. For at least two decades, the kingdom has distributed an English translation of the Quran that in the first surah, or chapter, adds parenthetical references to Jews and Christians in addressing Allah: “those who earned Your Anger (such as the Jews), nor of those who went astray (such as the Christians).”

In 1744, Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, a reformist cleric, sought the protection of Muhammad bin Saud, a powerful tribal leader in the harsh desert of the Arabian Peninsula. The alliance was mutually beneficial: Wahhab received military protection for his movement, which sought to return Muslims to what he believed were the values of the early years of Islam in the seventh century, when the Prophet Muhammad was alive. In return, the Saud family earned the endorsement of an Islamic cleric — a puritanical enforcer known for insisting on the death by stoning.

NYT:

“Saudi Arabia is destroying Islam,” Zuhdi Hajzeri, an imam at a 430-year-old mosque here in the city of Peja, told me sadly. Hajzeri is a moderate in the traditional, tolerant style of Kosovo — he is the latest in a long line of imams in his family — and said that as a result he had received more death threats from extremists than he can count.

Hajzeri and other moderates have responded with a website, Foltash.com, that criticizes the harsh Saudi Wahhabi interpretation of Islam. But they say they are outgunned by money pouring in from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to support harsh variants of Islam through a blizzard of publications, videos and other materials.

“The Saudis completely changed Islam here with their money,” said Visar Duriqi, a former imam in Kosovo who became a journalist who writes about extremist influences. Duriqi cites himself as an example: He says he was brainwashed and underwent an extremist phase in which he called for imposing Shariah law and excusing violence.

I first encountered pernicious Saudi influence in Pakistan, where the public school system is a disgrace and Saudis filled the gap by financing hard-line madrasas that lure students with free tuition, free meals and full scholarships for overseas study for the best students. Likewise, in traditionally moderate, peaceful countries like Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger in West Africa, I’ve seen these foreign-financed madrasas introduce radical interpretations of Islam.

HuffPo:

It would be troublesome but perhaps acceptable for the House of Saud to promote the intolerant and extremist Wahhabi creed just domestically. But, unfortunately, for decades the Saudis have also lavishly financed its propagation abroad. Exact numbers are not known, but it is thought that more than $100 billion have been spent on exporting fanatical Wahhabism to various much poorer Muslim nations worldwide over the past three decades. It might well be twice that number. By comparison, the Soviets spent about $7 billion spreading communism worldwide in the 70 years from 1921 and 1991. This appears to be a monumental campaign to bulldoze the more moderate strains of Islam, and replace them with the theo-fascist Saudi variety. Despite being well aware of the issue, Western powers continue to coddle the Saudis

PBS:

Can you show me an example of what the [religious teaching is in the schools? Well, here, this is a book, hadif, for ninth grade. Hadif is a statement of Prophet Mohammed. This is a book that start for ninth graders. This is talking about the victory of Muslims over Jews. This is a hadif that I truly believe it’s not true, as a Muslim: “The day of judgment will not arrive until Muslims fight Jews, and Muslim will kill Jews until the Jew hides behind a tree or a stone. Then the tree and the stone will say, ‘Oh Muslim, oh, servant of God, this is a Jew behind me. Come and kill him.’ Except one type of a tree, which is a Jew tree. That will not say that.” This is taught for 14-year-old boys in Saudi Arabia…Bin Laden learned this in Saudi Arabia. He didn’t learn it in the moon. That message that Bin Laden received, it still is taught in Saudi Arabia.

NYT:

in February 2004, two American investigators interrogated a man they believed might hold answers to one of the lingering mysteries of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks: What role, if any, did officials in Saudi Arabia’s government play in the plot?

The man under questioning, Fahad al-Thumairy, had been a Saudi consular official based in Los Angeles and the imam of a mosque visited by two of the hijackers. The investigators, staff members of the national 9/11 commission who had waited all day at the United States Embassy before being summoned to the late-night interview, believed that tying him to the plot could be a step toward proving Saudi government complicity in the attacks.

They were unsuccessful. In two interviews lasting four hours, Mr. Thumairy, a father of two then in his early 30s, denied any ties to the hijackers or their known associates. Presented with phone records that seemed to contradict his answers, he gave no ground, saying the records were wrong or people were trying to smear him.

When the two hijackers reappeared in early February, they were eating at a restaurant, Mediterranean Gourmet, near the mosque. There, they encountered Omar al-Bayoumi, a fellow Saudi who was on the Saudi government payroll through the country’s civil aviation authority, possibly with an assignment to keep an eye out for Saudi dissidents in California.

Mr. Bayoumi later told the F.B.I. that the meeting was happenstance — that he overheard Mr. Hazmi and Mr. Mihdhar, noticed their Gulf accents and struck up a conversation. But the bureau believed that Mr. Bayoumi had met with Mr. Thumairy at the mosque just before he met the hijackers in the restaurant, and investigators wondered whether Mr. Thumairy had arranged the meeting.

At the time, Mr. Thumairy was part of a network of representatives of the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs, which finances mosque-building, trains clerics and proselytizes the conservative and intolerant strain of Islam known as Wahhabism. During his interview in Riyadh in 2004, Mr. Thumairy spoke fondly of his six years in Los Angeles, praising the warm weather and friendly people. His job at the consulate and the nearby mosque, he said, was to answer religious questions. Mr. Thumairy denied knowing Mr. Bayoumi, despite telephone records that showed 21 calls between them over two years.

HuffPo:

You Can’t Understand ISIS If You Don’t Know the History of Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia

Atlantic, from 2003:

The Saudis have repeatedly used their surplus production capacity to stabilize the international oil market. They used it to break the opec embargo (but not before they had enriched themselves by tens of billions of dollars), in 1974. They used it again during the protracted Iran-Iraq war, to keep oil flowing to the industrialized West. They used it during the Gulf War, in 1990?1991; with help from a couple of other Gulf states, they produced an extra five million barrels a day, making up for the loss of Iraqi and Kuwaiti oil.

And they used it again on September 12, 2001. Less than twenty-four hours after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the Saudis decided to send nine million barrels of oil to the United States over the next two weeks. The result was that the United States experienced only a slight inflation spike in the wake of the most devastating terrorist attack in history. Had that same surplus capacity been taken out of play with twenty pounds of Semtex, all bets would have been off. The U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve can support the domestic market for only about seventy days. And if Saudi Arabia’s contribution to the world’s oil supply were cut off, crude petroleum could quite realistically rise from around $40 a barrel today to as much as $150 a barrel.

Popular preachers all over Saudi Arabia call openly for a jihad against the West—a designation that clearly includes the royal family itself—in terms as vitriolic as anything heard in Iran at the height of the Islamic revolution there. The kingdom’s mosque schools have become a breeding ground for militant Islam. Recent attacks in Bali, Bosnia, Chechnya, Kenya, and the United States, not to mention those against U.S. military personnel within Saudi Arabia, all point back to these schools—and to the House of Saud itself, which, terrified at the prospect of a militant uprising against it, shovels protection money at the fundamentalists and tries to divert their attention abroad.

Seems like a pretty consistent picture. So are the supporters of these thugs (they chop your head off for apostasy) on the take, stupid, or both?

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