February 27, 2010

Saudi Arabia and its Wahhabi Fronts

By Ramashray Upadhyay


Historically, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia came into existence on the cradle of Jihadism. Its foundation stone was laid in 1744 AD when a group of Bedouin Saud bandits led by Mohammad bin Saud forged an alliance with Muhammad Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab an obscure fanatic Islamist and a champion of Jihad. The alliance was based on an agreement for formation of an Islamic State headed by a Saud King with an extremist puritan bent on dominating the Muslim world. With fusion of theology and imperial politics as strategy they launched a violent Jihad in Arabian Peninsula and succeeded in the brutal conquest of non-Wahhabi tribes in the region. Adopting a similar strategy they also captured Mecca, the international centre of Islam for the second and last time in 1924.

After the formal declaration of Saudi Arabia as a sovereign Kingdom of Saud in 1932, the prime concern of the monarchy was how to save their custodianship of the two holiest shrines of Islam and maintain superior status of the kingdom in the Muslim world. In fact, the absence of their credible history of becoming the custodian of the holiest cities of Mecca and Medina, the House of Saud always feared the non-Wahhabi Islamists. Accordingly, while adopting Jihad as a perpetual strategy they turned the Kingdom into the nerve centre of Islamic extremism. Since then, hegemonising the Muslim world under the Wahhabi brand of conservative Islam it became the prime agenda of its successive rulers for consolidating their leadership.

After the Second World War when there was a gradual sliding decline in colonial hegemony of the Christian World, the Saudi Monarchy became ambitious to colonise the Muslim world by preaching Wahhabi Islam and then to march towards expanding the Islamist power beyond their territorial boundaries. Discovery of a quarter of world oil reserve and its exploration in collaboration with western powers not only turned the kingdom into an economic power but also encouraged the monarchy for furthering their imperialistic ambitions.

However, in mid 1950s when Gamal Abdel Naseer became the president of neighbouring Egypt and emerged as an influential leader in the region by heralding a new period of modernization and socialist reform, the House of Saud took it as a danger signal to their monarchy. Therefore, with a view to protect the kingdom from the neighbourhood virus, they developed a watchful attitude against the emerging power of Nasserism and weaved a Jihadi strategy to meet their strategic aspirations in regional geopolitics. Accordingly, they founded Muslim World League or World Muslim League (MWL/WML) in 1962 as a parent body of various Islamist organizations for Wahhabisation of Muslim world. Completely funded by Saudi Government MWL gradually spread a large network of international non-governmental charities like International Islamic relief Organisation (IIRO), World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), SAAR Foundation and Rabita Trust with branch offices in number of countries of the world. Working as Wahhabi fronts these organisations played a key role to instil Jihadism in the mindset of Muslim society. Exploring the violent facet of theology they pumped an overdose of Jihad among the radical Islamists of Muslim world and thereby launched an undeclared war against the infidels.

Although, the Saudi sponsored Charity organisations claim to be non-governmental with the avowed objective for “the propagation of Islam, and refutation of dubious statements and false allegations against the religion”, a significant amount of the funds, they receive from the government invariably goes to Islamist terrorist groups directly or indirectly for adancing the cause of the on going Jihad. A substantial section of Islamic scholars has confirmed their role of cut-outs between the Jihadi terrorist groups and the Government of Saudi Arabia. Outwardly, they have been trying to emphasise the tolerant aspects of Islam by organizing interfaith dialogue but financial support to various terrorist groups like Hamas and Al Qaeda have exposed their real face. Overtly they are engaged in propagation of Wahhabist brand of Islam but various global intelligence organisations suspect them for working as agents for terrorist funding.

Apart from MWL, the Saudi Kingdom with a view to balance the role of Islamic educated Wahhabi clerics in the government also provided sanctuary to widely traveled and modern educated Muslim Brotherhood (MB) fugitives from Egypt and placed them in important positions in the Wahhabi controlled educational institutions. “Some were provided Saudi stipends. Others were given positions in the Saudi educational system, including the universities, or in the large Saudi charities, like the Muslim World League that was created in 1962. For example, while Egyptian President Abdul Nasser had the Muslim Brotherhood ideologue, Sayyed Qutb, executed in 1966, his brother, Muhammad Qutb, fled to Saudi Arabia and taught at King Abdul Aziz University in Jiddah. He was joined in the 1970s by one of the heads of the Muslim Brotherhood from Jordan, Abdullah Azzam. In 1979, both taught Osama bin Laden, a student at the university”. Muslim Brotherhood due to its experience in world politics is known to be the guide of all these organisations in their dealings with foreign countries. MB activists Abdullah Azzam was deputed as head of the Muslim World League in Peshawar, Pakistan to serve in the War against Soviet Union in Afghanistan.

The Wahhabi fronts receive a substantial portion of huge Zakat (Charity) funds estimated annually around $10 billion in the kingdom from the state revenue, Royal Family as well as from individual donors as donations. “The Saudi Grand Mufti, who is also a Saudi cabinet member, chairs the Constituent Council of the Muslim World League.

In Islam Zakat money is meant for helping the needy and poor people. But its use for self-seeking political interest and Jihadi politics have exposed the successive Saudi Kings for violating the spirit of the humane aspect of Islam which is often propagated by the Wahhabists. “In the decade up to 2002, according to a report to the UN Security Council, al- Qa'ida and other Islamist bodies collected between £150m and £250m, mostly from Saudi charities and private donors. (Paul Cochrane reports in INDEPENDENT, Sunday, 30 September 2007).

With such a huge fund under their disposal, all these organizations in cooperation with Wahhabi clerics started working as a syndicate. By opening their branches in different parts of Muslim world as well as in democratic countries, they established ties with Islamist establishments there and transferred Wahhabist ideology towards native Muslims. Preaching “Wahhabi brand of Sunni Islam as the only correct path and Jihad as the proper instrument to disseminate Islam and only solution to the ills of Islamic people”, they succeeded in creating sleeper cells of Islamist terrorism among the faithfuls of the respective country.Extremely intolerant of non-Wahhabis like Shias, Sufis, Christians, Jews and Hindus these fronts are determined to destroy all of them by extending financial support to Al Qaida and other terrorist groups. “The Saudi charities became the chosen instrument for Riyadh's support of the continuing global jihad. An IIRO employee from Bangladesh, Sayed Abu Nasir, led a cell broken up by Indian police that intended to strike at the U.S. consulates in Madras and Calcutta; Abu Nasir explained that his superiors told him of 40 to 50 percent of IIRO charitable funds being diverted to finance terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and Kashmir.

Summarizing this history, former CIA operative Robert Baer wrote: "When Saudi Arabia decided to fund the Afghan mujahidin in the early 1980s, the IIRO proved a perfect fit, a money conduit and plausible denial rolled into one”. (Saudi Arabia’s Dubious Denials of Involvement in International Terrorism by Dore Gold in ‘Jerusalem View points’ –October 1, 2003). Similarly, Joel Mowbray in National Review Magazine on line, December 20, 2002 confirmed the role of these organisations in charity based-financing of al Qaida .

The global rise in oil price in 1970s boosted the economy of Saudi Kingdom which facilitated it to export Wahhabism to the Islamic establishments of the Muslim world. Formation of International Islamic Relief Fund in 1978 was primarily meant for countering of Soviet influence in Muslim countries particularly Afghanistan. However, during Afghanistan –Soviet Union war (1979-1989) these charity organisations managed to transport Jihadis from the Islamist establishments from Muslim world to fight against Soviet army. The victory of Mujahideens (holy warriors) in this war not only emboldened Saudi Arabia to expand its Jihadi base in Pakistan, Bangladesh and other parts of South Asia but its syndicate of charities also emerged as the chosen instrument for preaching Jihadism as ideological roots of Islamist terrorism around the world. In fact a branch of MWL was specially created in Pakistan to support Osama bin Laden who formed Al Qaeda and also founded International Islamic Front of Jihad against the Jews and Crusaders in January 1998. IIRO on the other hand “donated more than $60 million to Taliban”. “The IIRO charity has used more than 70% of its fund to purchase weapons, thereby securing its status as a front for al Qaeda’s illegal activities”. (Funding Evil by Rachel Ehrenfeld, 2005, page 39).

Most dangerous aspect of Afghan Jihad against the Soviets was the Saudi contribution to the explosive growth of madrasas including kindergartens in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh which hardly had any concern of scholarly education. Factually, these madrasas became the breeding ground of Jihadi terrorists.

Some reports suggest that in recent years in a small country like Bangladesh there are 64000 madrasas mostly funded by Saudi money. One can understand their Jihad against Soviet army for its intervention in Afghanistan, but a careful examination of violent terror attacks in USA, England, Israel and India suggest that the Christians, Jews and Hindus became their subsequent targets of Saudi sponsored Jihadism.“As of September 2003, Saudi clerics were featured prominently on Hamas websites as providing the religious justification for suicide bombings. Of 16 religious leaders cited by Hamas, Saudis are the largest national group backing these attacks.” IIRO has been suspected of terrorist funding in the Philippines, Russia, East Africa, Bosnia, and India.

MWL leadership often gives statements in support of suicide bombings or other terrorist attacks against the enemy. Abdallah Al-Muslih, Chairman of MWL’s Scientific Signs in Quran and Sunnah in an appearance in Saudi TV channel Iqraa justified suicide bombing saying: “Regarding a person who blows himself up, I know this issue is under disagreement among modern clerics and jurisprudents…There is nothing wrong with [martyrdom] if they cause great damage to the enemy. We can say that if it causes great damage to the enemy, this operation is a good thing." Since infidels are the main enemy of Wahhabists, the MWL leader justifies the martyrdom causing damage to the former.

These charity organisations with their branches in various parts of world have enrooted so deeply in Islamic society by developing link with cross section of Muslims including educated, uneducated and even criminals and connecting them in the wide net work of different Islamist terror groups operating with Wahhabist ideology that Saudi-Wahhabi axis has emerged as a threat to international community.
Stephen Schwartz, a senior policy analyst with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies based in Washington DC said, “The Saudi-Wahhabi threat must not be underestimated; it requires our grave attention” (Saudi Arabia and the rise of Wahhabi threat, February 27, 2003).

Involvement of modern educated youths, professionals and ill educated youths of criminal background in various terrorist operations including World Trade Centre in USA and Students Islamic Movements of India (SIMI) in different cities of India confirm this threat.

The most ironical part of the scenario is that “the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) announced a partnership in June 2008 with the IIRO to cooperate on issues related to child developments and children’s right. The MWL maintains an observer status at the UN as an NGO, as well as membership at the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation(UNESCO)”.(Paul Cochrane reports in INDEPENDENT, Sunday, 30 September 2007).
Non-Muslim world particularly the USA may have a rosy relation with Saudi Arabia obviously for their oil requirement but the militant interpretation of Islam and its execution against the Christian, Jews and Hindus by MWL and its associated organisations demand full accounting of Saudi complicity in the various terror attacks by the Wahhabist terrorists. Global export of Saudi brand of ultra-conservative Islam and its support to al Qaeda and other Sunni fundamentalist groups responsible for islamist terror wars around the world need the honest intervention of Muslim intellectuals to prove Saudi Arabia wrong.

(The view expressed are his own. The author can be reached at e-mail ramashray60@rediffmail.com)


American Delight said...

Great expose of the Saudi exportation of jihad. Thanks for the details about the IIRO's involvement.

What disturbs me is IIRO's latest initiative to fund madrassas & mosques. Their perfidy is well-documented yet nothing is being done to control their new waqf endeavors...

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