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The Real History Of
Saudi Arabia & The
Roots Of Radical Islam

By Dr. Harrell Rhome
The Nationalist Times
Our focus is on Wahabist Islam and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, excluding other extremist factions and nations such as the interesting and intriguing Shiite movement and many others. The Arabian Peninsula is the original seedbed of Islamic extremism. Wherever one starts searching for the roots of present-day Muslim ultra-fundamentalism, the geographical trail eventually leads to Saudi Arabia and the intellectual/theological trail leads to the Wahabist ultra-fundamentalist interpretation of Islam.
It is already a fact that certain sects would dearly love to oust the corrupt Saudi royals and replace them with a Wahabist-inspired regime. May Yamani, a Saudi political analyst with Islam Online says: "They are clamping down not only on the jihadis but also on the reformists. If the [the Saudi royal family doesn't] win the support of the middle class ­ the educated class in the country ­ there will be more and more people who will throw themselves into the arms of the jihadis. The royal family is losing control of the situation... They have no solution for this violence."
The Saudi holy land is the seedbed of Islamic extremism. "The rise of Islam is perhaps the most amazing event in human history. Springing from a land and a people alike previously negligible, Islam spread within a century over half the earth, shattering great empires, overthrowing long established religions, remolding the souls of races, and building a whole new world ­ the world of Islam. Arising in a desert land sparsely inhabited by a nomad race previously undistinguished in human annals, Islam sallied forth on its great adventure with the slenderest human backing and against the heaviest material odds. Yet Islam triumphed with seemingly miraculous ease." (T. Lothrop Stoddard, The Rising Tide of Islam.)
The arid Arabian Peninsula was home to Muhammad and the first Muslims back in the 7th Century A.D. Geography and climate color the theology of Islam. It was born in a harsh environment, and is an ascetic severe and rigid desert faith. It is based on the Abrahamic heritage of the Old Testament, but old pagan moon gods, Talmudic Judaism, Gnosticism, and Christianity are part of the mix. Muhammad was a clever and functional religious eclectic. He put together a theological system, with its own unique book of holy writ, from many and varied influences. By the beginning of the 8th Century, it ruled the desert lands of Arabia.
During the time of Muhammad, Arabia was briefly the center of Islam, but by the end of the 7th century, the area was disunited. While Mecca and Medina retained their importance for pilgrims, Arabia was the cultural center for only a short time. The real flowering of Islamic culture found its expression in other locations ranging from Moorish Spain (Al-Andalus; perhaps the apex of The Renaissance) to Damascus and Baghdad. When Europe was in its dark ages, Islamic mathematicians, astronomers, physicians, and scholars of all types were not only preserving in Arabic the classical Greco-Roman learning, but making new discoveries as well. The oldest continually existing universities are not European, but those of the Islamic world. But while all this was going on, Saudi Arabia, as it had done for eons, continued to cook in the desert sun, and life changed little for the hardy, ascetic desert tribes who lived in a land with virtually no useable natural resources. Back in those days, they knew nothing of the hidden petrol-billions in a land where water was worth more than gold.
"Modern Saudi Arabia owes its existence to Ibn Saud, an adherent of the puritanical [Wahabi] Muslim sect. Beginning in 1902, he conquered Nejd, Al-Hasa and Hejaz regions, and in 1932 he proclaimed himself King of a united Saudi Arabia." (Concise Columbia Encyclopedia, 1983, p. 732.) The Saudis and their tribal allies eventually conquered and united most of the peninsula by 1932, when ibn Saud, with British backing, proclaimed himself monarch of a country named after himself and his clan.
The new nation was one of the poorest countries in the world. When it officially began in 1932, the new kingdom's treasury had less than £35,000, but oil reserves were located in 1936. Less than two years later, oil began to flow out of the barren peninsula and a non-stop pipeline of money began to flow back to the Saudi royals and their chosen aristocracy.
It is the duty of every Muslim to share as he can with others, a duty of alms demanded by the Prophet himself, and the Saudi Arabian people (numbering 27 million, with 60 percent under the age of 21) also received benefits from the oil wealth. Life is good in the paternalistic and outwardly benevolent kingdom - for select groups. Certainly some women and dissidents of various types severely disagree with the regime. But many live a satisfied life, and the thousands of royals and their relatives hope to keep it that way.
But not so far beneath the surface, a stew-pot of extremist beliefs cooks on, slowly approaching an eventual boiling point - under the right conditions. The bloated, pompous, hypocritical and morally corrupt Saudi royals and their entourage could be replaced ­ and they know it. The visage of the Shah of Iran, another worldly monarch dethroned by fundamentalists, looms ominously over the not-so-old House of Saud.
While OPEC nations supply (in 2002) 57 percent of U.S. oil, Saudi Arabia only provides about 10 percent. Nonetheless, it controls a fourth to a third of the world's known oil supplies. Europe has practically no strategic reserves, so Saudi Arabia and other oil suppliers are crucially important. Oil-poor Europeans are dependent on Saudi oil reaching them smoothly.
As we see, even a slight change in production levels drastically affects world prices. Our crucial, but uncomfortable (for both sides) alliance causes the Saudi royals to abet our support of the Israeli ministate and its state-sponsored terrorism toward Palestinians. Yet this is only one element of our foreign policy and our dechristianized Western culture that devout Muslims oppose.
However, up to now, Saudi police and security forces have suppressed this opposition. Conversely, our dependence on Saudi oil and stable prices causes us to overlook a whole host of things: like the Saudi treatment of women (ranking near the bottom); restrictive laws and punishments for Christians; severe Sharia "justice" such as floggings and beheadings; a Saudi princess lost hers a few years ago. She was an adulteress; in 2007, a rape victim is to be flogged; few if any Saudis do menial work with hordes of indentured servants, virtual slaves, from the Philippines, Malaysia, etc.; there's more, including Saudi covert (and sometimes not so covert) moral and financial support for what we call terrorism.
As we see in recent events, decapitation appears to be a particular predilection for Islamist extremists. Naturally, the Saudi monarchy works hard to keep the lid on the extremist boiling pot mostly out of fear, hence purchasing "anti-terrorism insurance" against an extremist actions in their own country. But who are these Islamic purists, the fundamentalists who both so frighten and fascinate the aristocratic Saudi oil lords?
Extreme Wahabism is a Saudi Arabian religious phenomenon. "The first spark [of modern Islamic revival] was fittingly struck in the Arabian desert, the cradle of Islam. Here, at the opening of the 19th century, arose the Wahabi movement for the reform of Islam, which presently kindled the far-flung Mohammedan Revival, which in its turn begat the movement know as Pan-Islamism." (T. Lothrop Stoddard in The Rising Tide of Islam.) "Wahabi [or Wahabism; also Wahhabi): the religion of the ruling family of Saudi Arabia founded by Muhammad ibn al-Wahab (c.1702-1792) who converted the Saud tribe. He taught that all accretions to Islam after the 3rd century of the Muslim Era, i.e., after c.950, were spurious and must be expunged. The movement, although centered in Arabia, has also spread eastward to India [hence Pakistan, Central Asia and western China], and Sumatra and westward to North Africa and the Sudan." (Columbia Desk Encyclopedia, p. 902.)
Ibn Abdul Wahab was born near present-day Riyadh, becoming a revered and expressive Koranic scholar. In a little over 200 years, Wahab's strict and rigid interpretation of Islam gained far-reaching and widespread acceptance throughout the Muslim umma, or world community. Wahabism is rigid, intolerant and fanatical to the core, as well as hyper-aggressive and ultimately violent. It is the official doctrine of all the Arabian peninsular states, but its theological, intellectual and political influence is worldwide.
As an example of severity, look at doctrinal disputes with fellow Muslims. Wahabism sternly opposed Shia Islam and the Sufi mystical movement. Both were reform movements and thus rivals of Wahabism. Both sects made more than a few innovations, regarded as illegitimate by the Wahabis. "Among those [Shiite] innovations was the reverence given to dead saints as intercessors with Allah, and the special [metaphysical, mystical] devotions of the Sufi orders. The reformers made an alliance with Muhammad ibn Saud, ruler [tribal chieftain] of a small market town, Dir'iyya, and this led to the formation of a state which claimed to live under the guidance of the Sharia Islamic law code and tried to bring the pastoral tribes all around it under its guidance too. By the first years of the 19th century the armies of the new (Wahabist) state had expanded; they had sacked the Shi'a shrines in southwestern Iraq and occupied the holy cities of Hejaz (1926)." (Hourani, Albert, A History Of The Arab Peoples, Harvard: 1991, p. 258.)
Actually, what most devout Muslims ultimately want is an Islamic World Order under Sharia law. This is seen by many as not only inevitable, but the rightful and natural successor to the outmoded and dysfunctional nation-states of the Western world order. Some devout ones maintain that the world has not yet seen a truly Islamic government, so differences exist as to precisely how this is to be carried out. Some moderates say that individual believers must establish the Islamic way in their hearts and lives, so that this personal regime, with hope and prayer, someday spreads over the world.
In this interpretation, the effort within oneself is a struggle, a jihad. First, it is established in the person, then in his family, then in the tribe and state, and later to the whole world. Suffice it to say, this is not the only interpretation. Jihad by war may be employed when all else fails, or more importantly, in response to attacks on Muslims and Islam.
Most of the 1.25+ billion Muslims believe the West is finished, in the last stages of decay. Are they right? Only time will tell, but the events of the early 21st century do not bode well. "The Western Age Is Finished." (Sayyid Qutb.) "The path to the creation of a truly Muslim society [begins] with individual conviction transformed into a living image in the heart and embodied in a program of action. Those who accept this program would form a vanguard of dedicated fighters, using every means, including Jihad, which should not be undertaken until the fighters had achieved inner purity, but it should then be pursued, if necessary, not for defense only, but to destroy all worship of false gods and remove all obstacles which prevent men from accepting Islam. The struggle should aim at creating a Universal Muslim Society in which there are no distinctions of race, and one which was worldwide. The western age is finished': it could not provide the values which were needed to support the new material civilization. Only Islam offers hope to the world." (Hourani, p.446.)
Wahabism is the direct ideological inspiration for Osama bin Laden and other extremist movements. Wahabi-influenced and inspired organizations include Al Qaeda networks, the USS Cole bombers, the Khobar Towers bombers in Saudi Arabia, the Egyptian radicals who slew Anwar Sadat and later massacred the European tourists at Luxor, Algerian fundamentalists, the first World Trade Center bombers led by Ramzi Yusef and the Blind Sheik, Abdul Rahman (whose son is with Al- Qaeda) all the way to the Taliban (means seminarians or religious students) of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
While the Taliban were in power, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan gained diplomatic recognition from only three states: the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, all of them directly inspired by Wahabism. It is lavishly supported by many Saudis, including the bin Laden family and every other rich family in the country, including the numerous wealthy and prolific royals (there are hundreds of them) and assorted sheiks of the aristocratic caste. Through private banking, these wealthy families can transfer all the funds they want to whomever they want and never be challenged or traced. When the various pundits talk about tracing terrorist funds, it is rarely mentioned that Saudi Arabia, for its entire existence, has consistently refused to allow any probe into its arcane financial connections and murky dealings.
Wahabist influence is intense and worldwide as it controls and dominates Islam's holiest shrines. Ironically, as they oppose most modern developments, the fortunes of doctrinaire Wahabism rose with the development of cruise ships and airlines. From shortly after the death of Muhammad, the holy places of Islam were controlled by the sophisticated, educated elites in Damascus, Baghdad and Istanbul. In 1926, the Saud family and the militant Wahabi sect seized control of Mecca and Medina.
From then on, this desert sect has controlled the holy sites. They use these prominent pulpits to impress a single, extremely limited and intolerant version of Islam on the millions of pilgrims who come. Until the 19th Century, the pilgrimage (hajj) to Mecca was limited to those with time to walk there, or with time and money to go by sailing ship. Pilgrims were counted only in the thousands. Soon after the Wahabi conquest, modern transportation enabled increasing numbers of pilgrims, many funded by the Saudi state. There are now two million or more pilgrims each year. Increasingly, a large number are non-Arabs who read little or no Arabic and come from non-Arabic traditions, yet they are taught the strict Wahabi way, often taking the message home with them.
Severe Islamic fundamentalist militancy often seems baffling, especially if one cannot transcend cultural boundaries a bit. For instance, most Westerners do not understand the concept of Shahada, or active martyrdom. In the face of almost insurmountable public opinion, and ignorance, Islamist martyrs do not commit suicide in our Western sense of the term. Some Wahabis and related sects teach that Islam is justified in using Jihadist tactics because the West has attacked Islam, not only by aiding, abetting and enabling (we provide money, weapons and equipment) the atrocities against the Palestinians, but through our pagan, consumerist self-centered, sexually exploitative culture, which they see us forcing upon the world.
The believers, especially the impressionable young, are told that those who choose Shahada make a crucial contribution to the divine jihad, and will receive the greatest heavenly rewards. Westerners just do not "get" this concept. Just as hara-kiri is seen as an honorable and brave death by the Shinto Japanese, Shahada is never viewed as a disgraceful death, but as an act of supreme and glorious, hope, dignity, and deep faith. Even in the West, we make exceptions. Consider that Judaism celebrates and now teaches the doctrine of "Jewish Holocaust martyrs" in holy awe, and we must not forget the numerous martyr-saints of the Roman Catholic tradition. On top of that, the West has seen political and military martyrs (JFK, WWII heroes, etc.) at various times.
And, while I know some don't want to hear it, one might call the Shaheeds brave. We respect and honor military heroes from many wars. In reality, how does this differ? Our cultural blindness and deafness is why we do not understand this supreme sacrifice and dedication. What does Western civilization have that any of us would die for any more? Will you give your life for Wal-Mart, McDonald's, the now so gay and liberal Christian churches, the Democrat and Republican parties? The list could go on, but the point is clear. Other than our unfortunate military personnel, whom we allow to die for our rather curious way of life, only a miniscule few or willing to die or greatly sacrifice for anything at all!
Moreover, how long will we accept the civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan? We seem so aware of military deaths, yet we think nothing of the innocent victims, including children, we have killed - or helped kill - in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine. The Islamists see us with blood on our hands.
But more importantly, how do we intellectually and physically defend against such dedicated ­ and brave, if I may so opine - foes? They are willing to pay the ultimate price, relying that, in the long run, we will not stay the course. Suicide martyrdom has become an effective and useful tactic. Dedicated and serious Muslims are willing to die for principles they believe should govern the world. Christians once felt this way, but that is but a distant and faded memory. Stay the course, indeed! Who even knows where we were/are going?
"Islam is the solution" is the cry of the Wahabist-inspired modern- day international Islamic renaissance and revival movement. Billions of people have heard, are presently hearing, and will continue to hear this entrancing message. What is our reply? What does Western culture have to offer as an alternative? And if, sadly and regrettably, we have no viable alternatives, what does this mean for our eventual fate in this "war on terrorism"? Are we really in "for the long haul", as our leaders tell us? If not, then the most dedicated and faithful ones, the resistance forces with determination and patience, will eventually triumph. We do not demonstrate staying power ­ they do. Who cares how long it takes if you are devoted to a cause that has already triumphed over many obstacles. Frankly, it doesn't look promising.
This should be genuinely frightening, not only to my dear readers, but to our leaders. Since U.S. foreign policy will probably continue in its already well-established, arrogant, blundering and deadly paradigm, the sparks that light fires in the eyes of the Shahada martyrs will grow white-hot many more times. The next generation of Mujahadeen is already in place, and so is the one after that.
So, are you sure we're in for the long haul? Or is it time to consider some form of détente? That could be most meaningfully manifested by getting our troops out of the Muslim holy land, but most markedly by a fair and unbiased policy to obtain genuine peace in Palestine. Scrap the failed and so-called "Road Map to Peace", which was nothing more than the old, embedded and entrenched neo-con and pro-Zionist interests that are solidly aligned for Israel, not for the USA. Get honest, be fair, involve all parties, and something creative might happen. Americans must be spiritual and recapture our older values, or the next line is truth. "No one is more distant than the Americans from spirituality and piety", said Sayyib Qutb, after living in the U.S., 1948-50. What would he say now! Look at the vast cultural changes in just the last 50 years. Only a concerted effort and change of heart will prove him wrong.
Another media misrepresentation is to imply that Islamic warriors are ignorant peasants, trained in Madrassah schools, which are just "indoctrination centers". While this is true in some cases, it again turns a blind eye to the 21st century Islamic renaissance. Since most Westerners know nothing of this, let's take a quick look. In the 1930's, an era of political and cultural change movements of all kinds, radical Islam began to chafe under the colonialist yoke. Many of the writings and movements begun in those days are still with us, but one need not look to writers long gone. Probably not one Westerner in a thousand could name any of these men (no women), yet they are household names in Islamic world communities.
When Islamic Jihad assassinated Anwar Sadat in 1981, a small 54-page document was found, entitled "The Neglected Duty." This is apparently one of those explosive little books that pop up at various times and places when revolution and upheaval are in the air. While Islam, like Christianity, teaches subservience to rulers, the anonymous author(s) say it is the duty of good Muslims to overthrow a ruler who has abandoned true Islam. It is this philosophy, and resulting actions, that so frighten Islamic leaders who have sold out to the West ­ and Israel - like the Saudi royals, or those who have become inextricably and compromisingly entangled with the infidels, as are the rulers of Egypt, Pakistan, etc.
This all goes back to a medieval movement called Salafiyya, which gave rise to later Wahabism. Not only did Salafis believe hypocritical Islamic rulers should be overthrown, but that the Western, Christian world is equivalent to the state of barbarism (Jahiliyya) that existed before Muhammad manifested as the Prophet, and which he ordered Muslims to overthrow and displace.
A major exponent of this belief, and a spiritual godfather to Osama and many others, is Sayyib Qutb, executed in Egypt in the mid-1960s. His best-known work is Signposts On The Road. An influential theologian, Ibn Taymiyya, who lived in Damascus in the 13th and 14th centuries, was an inspiration for Qutb. Also circulating are pamphlets by the blind sheik, Abdul Rahman, now imprisoned for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and in 1996 A Declaration Of War Against America was released by Osama bin Laden.
Did you know that 80 percent or more of U.S. mosques and Islamic societies are controlled by Wahabist Imams, according to U.S. Sheik Muhammad Hisham Kabbani at a State Department forum held in 1999? We must assume similar conditions in Europe. More than a little of the money given to both legitimate charities and fronts that fund radical networks come from American Muslims. Funds are transferred both legitimately and through the underground network of informal Halawa Islamic money brokers, and over the Internet. This is not to say that all American Muslims support such groups, but it does beg the question of how many contribute alms - remember it is a religious duty - to organizations that are largely unaccountable, contributing to an ignorance-is-bliss mentality. The Saudi government provides millions each year. Where does it all go? Given our close relationship with the Saudis, does anyone in the chambers of power seriously care?
Will policies toward our unfriendly Saudi friends ever change? The royals don't think so. "I summon my blue-eyed slaves anytime it pleases me. I command the Americans to send me their bravest soldiers to die for me. Anytime I clap my hands a stupid genie called the American ambassador appears to do my bidding. When the Americans die in my service their bodies are frozen in metal boxes by the US Embassy and American airplanes carry them away, as if they never existed. Truly, America is my favorite slave." (King Fahd Bin Abdul- Aziz, 1993, in Jeddah.)
The Saudis never allowed us direct access to the alleged Khobar Towers bombers, who were beheaded, making further interrogation a bit difficult. Did they merely round up "the usual suspects"? This same scenario was repeated with the June 2004 beheading of an American contractor. It seems reasonable to say that if all Saudi funding and moral support for extremist Islamic groups were cut off, the problem would ease considerably.
This will likely never happen because the corrupt royals know they would be signing their own death warrants. Indeed, radical Islamists in the Kingdom are already boldly striking out. The Saudi royals are not real friends as the history of this ill contrived nation shows. First, it is against the Koran to be friends to either Jews or Christians (Sura 5:51) and secondly, they are not going to suffer and die for the corrupt and depraved West. But more importantly, if the regime is to survive at all, it must not be perceived by their subjects as being any worse than the willing lackeys they already are. Given this mindset, meaningful change from the Saudis is unlikely. Given our dependence on Saudi good will to keep the pipelines open and the prices from skyrocketing, it is unlikely we will put any significant pressure on them. Business as usual continues.
We must be even more wary than ever of excessive energy dependence on, among others, this unreliable and ill-intentioned "partnership". They do not like us nor approve of our culture. If they could withdraw without consequences, and if they were able to raise the same money through sales strictly to the Islamic world, they would do so, and turn their vast resources against us.
However, they are somewhat afraid. Osama predicted that if Western infidel troops came to the holy Arabian lands, they would never leave - and they have not. They are, of coarse, there to protect the oil, but is this guaranteed always and forever to include bailing out the royals if an Islamic revolution sweeps over them? Remember, we betrayed the Shah. This is the root of their fears. After all, an American-led blitzkrieg with naval and air power could seize the strategic Arabian Peninsula without much trouble. And we could oust the royals, renting local armies and political blocs as in Afghanistan. But they are more afraid of their own fundamentalist Islamic people, who, without the presence and threat of Western military action, might overthrow the fat cat, fake, self-appointed royals and set up a strict Islamic state.
The Saudi "petrol pashas" exist in a rich, opulent - albeit increasingly uncomfortable - nether world, drifting precariously between the worldly West and the eternal asceticism of their desert Wahabi faith. Will this Humpty Dumpty kingdom eventual fall from its precarious wall and shatter? As we know, revolutionary events sometimes happen in the blink of an eye.
Under the two Bush regimes, even deep in the midst of "wartime", the same winking dealmakers play cozy bedfellow games, as they always have. The rich Bushes, their Halliburton allies, the bloated Saudis and their protégés, such as the bin Laden family, grow richer and richer while the larger Islamic world is left in the economic backwaters. And all the while, the American people/sheeple get stupider and stupider, believing the lies and con games thrown at them 24 hours a day in the media, the schools and the churches. No one among The Powers That Be is really serious about alternative energy, and Europe is even more vulnerable. For the foreseeable future, we seem solidly and irrevocably wed to these odd - but perhaps not so inscrutable - oriental bedfellows. The facts are there ­ if you want to see them. Are there solutions?
Is it all too brief and simplistic to say that peace in the Middle East is not that difficult to understand? It's a two-part plan. Get our troops out of Islamic countries, especially the Saudi holy places, and then bring a fair, genuine and lasting peace to Palestine. Hey, I said it was short and simple, not easy! But, the badly needed foreign policy changes regarding either Palestine or Saudi Arabia is unlikely to come from what some are calling a pro- Zionist, Judeo-centric American government. Albeit unlikely, freedom and fairness in Middle Eastern policies could, indeed, work wonders. However, without major regime change in certain Western governments, this is unlikely to happen.
# # #
Dr. Harrell Rhome, an investigative writer and researcher, contributes to print and on-line publications, including The Nationalist Times newspaper, www.anu.org. He is a Contributing Editor for The Barnes Review historical journal, www.barnesreview.org, and also an English-language contributor on Tsunami Politico, a multilingual on-line nationalist magazine out of Buenos Aires. See articles on rather diverse topics at www.tsunamipolitico.com/truth9.htm .
Comments and questions are welcome: EagleRevisionist@aol.com.
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