4:12 PM, Oct 21, 2014 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
Recently, some media commentators have argued that, rather than the product of a simple confrontation between Sunni and Shia Muslims in Syria and Iraq, the rise of the so-called “Islamic State” should be perceived as an eruption into those countries of Wahhabism, the only interpretation of Islam recognized as official in Saudi Arabia.
David Gardner of the Financial Times, for instance, blamed Saudi Arabia indirectly for the growth of ISIS, writing, “Jihadi extremism does present a threat to the kingdom. But in doctrinal terms it is hard to see in what way it ‘deviates’ from Wahhabi orthodoxy.” Others have implied or alleged that Saudi Arabia helps finance ISIS.
On September 30, Financial Times writers Heba Saleh in Cairo and Simeon Kerr in Dubai asserted, “in contrast to the tacit official encouragement of more liberal voices after 9/11, any debate within Saudi Arabia over the role of [Wahhabism] in fostering [ISIS] extremism has been timid and largely confined to social media.”
Yet in analyzing radical Islam, we should make distinctions, not confuse them. Looking back at Saudi Arabia’s reaction to the atrocities of September 11, 2001, we would find little public dialogue over the role of Wahhabism in the origins of al Qaeda. The Saudi monarchy and their representatives denied a linkage and discouraged investigation of it. After the U.S.-led Iraq intervention in 2003, Saudi media and websites were replete with praise for Saudi citizens who had died as terrorist combatants north of the kingdom’s border. The Saudis created an ineffective anti-terrorist “rehabilitation” program before “deporting” al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) to Yemen. Later, however, the Saudis declined to support the Wahhabi Nour party that emerged in Egypt after the fall of Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
Saudi Arabia had begun to change in 2005 with the death of King Fahd Abd Al-Aziz and ascent to the throne of his half brother, the currently-ruling King Abdullah. Abdullah commenced a series of reforms that while small, nonetheless marked a new direction for the desert realm. In 2007, the so-called “religious police” or “morals patrols,” titled officially the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (CPVPV), and known among the populace as the mutawiyin (volunteers) or hai’a (commission), came under official scrutiny.
Previously, the “morals patrols” had roamed the streets of Saudi cities, carrying leather-covered sticks with which they beat women whose all-covering garment, the abaya, slipped an inch and revealed an ankle, pushing ordinary people toward mosques at prayer times, raiding houses where they suspected alcohol was present, monitoring the highways to prevent women from driving and unrelated couples from riding together, harassing members of the Shia minority, including a rape victim who was punished by lashing, detaining hajj pilgrims who engaged in metaphysical rituals prohibited by the Wahhabis, and killing people in especially-brutal incidents. Thanks to King Abdullah, the morals patrols were subjected to court authority for the first time.
In 2009, King Abdullah established a ministry for women’s education and dismissed the then-head of the morals patrols, Ibrahim Al-Ghaith. Two years later, Saudi women were granted limited electoral rights, to become effective in 2015. Further, King Abdullah announced in 2011 the foundation of the world’s largest university for women, named for his aunt, Princess Nora Bint Abdulrahman, and located near the capital, Riyadh.
11:22 AM, Sep 1, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
CNN host Brian Stelter told terror-supporting cleric Anjem Choudary that he "respect[s] that you try to get your message out however you can." He made the comments after Choudary said sharia was coming to America:
Stelter made the comments after Choudary said, "I believe that the sharia is the best way of life. I believe one day it will come to America and the rest of the world."
8:42 AM, Aug 22, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
General John Allen, who is retired from the military, says that the Islamic State (known as ISIS, ISIL, or IS) must be destroyed now.
2:45 PM, Aug 20, 2014 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
The president is appalled. Indeed he said this afternoon that "the entire world is appalled by the brutal murder of Jim Foley by the terrorist group, ISIL." The act of violence that killed Jim Foley, the president continued, "shocks the conscience of the entire world."
12:02 PM, Aug 12, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Comforting as it is to speak of the world in the language of policy and politics, strategy and tactics, there is this other element. This chord of madness that stirs the enemy as, for instance when, as Reuters reports:
7:29 AM, Jan 31, 2013 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
In nearly all the Arab revolutions in North Africa and the jihadist offensives that followed them, incursions against Sufi shrines have preceded the onset of wide-scale radical aggression. As they initiate their invasive strategies, terrorists linked to al Qaeda and inspired by Saudi-financed Wahhabism (alias “Salafism”) start by targeting the spiritual Sufis and their ancient tombs and monuments for murder and destruction. This devastation has several motives.
Leading from the front, and with no legal hassles.4:01 PM, Jan 16, 2013 • By ROGER KAPLAN
Determined not to lose Mali to Islamist forces, France’s president Francois Hollande ordered a rapid deployment of air and ground forces in Mali to block well-armed and motivated fighters of the Ansar Dine movement led by the veteran Tuareg leader Iyad Ag Ghali from crossing the Niger river and marching on Bamako.
1:31 PM, Nov 18, 2012 • By JONATHAN SPYER
The crisis now under way in Gaza represents the moment when the wave of Sunni Islamism that has been achieving triumph after triumph in the region since early 2011 finally crashes up against the Jewish state.
2:11 PM, Nov 16, 2012 • By DANIEL HALPER
President Barack Obama spoke on the phone with the Islamist leader of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, about the Israel's retaliatory strikes on the terrorist group Hamas in Gaza, according to the White House.
The two leaders, according to a White House read-out of the call, seemed to agree on much. "Today, the President called Prime Minister Erdogan to discuss the escalating violence in Israel and the Gaza Strip," the White House read-out of the call states.
12:55 PM, Nov 15, 2012 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
With Barack Obama’s reelection, withdrawal of U.S. and other NATO combat troops from Afghanistan in 2014—except for trainers of an Afghan national army—remains high on his agenda. The leading rival Islamic powers, Saudi Arabia and Iran, are meanwhile competing for future influence over the mountainous Central Asian country.
Nigeria’s Islamist war on Christianity. Mar 19, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 26 • By PAUL MARSHALL
In Nigeria, thousands of people have been killed in recent months, and tens of thousands in the last decade. It is a fissiparous country whose conflicts have been exacerbated by the increased influence of radical Islam—beginning with attempts to apply Islamic law, then the growth of militias, and now the depredations of the vicious al Qaeda-linked Boko Haram movement.
3:35 PM, Jan 23, 2012 • By DAVID SCHENKER and ERIC TRAGER
Two years ago in Cairo, Nobel laureate and former International Atomic Energy Agency head Mohamed ElBaradei was the talk of the town. Newly retired from the IAEA, ElBaradei returned to Egypt in February 2010 after living abroad for decades. He began criticizing the Mubarak regime, hinting that he might run for president, and almost overnight he became Egypt’s great liberal hope. And yet when ElBaradei announced last week that he was ending his presidential bid, the news was met with a collective yawn.
4:47 PM, Dec 9, 2011 • By LEE SMITH
Now that runoff results are in from the first round of Egypt’s parliamentary elections, it’s clear that the Islamists are running the board.
5:05 PM, Dec 1, 2011 • By LEE SMITH
Earlier in the week Israel Hayom reported that the new Tunisian constitution may include “a section condemning Zionism and ruling out any friendly ties with Israel.” Yesterday Rached Ghannouchi, the leader of al-Nahda (Revival), the main Islamist party that won more than 40 percent of the seats in Tunisia’s parliamentary elections two weeks ago, disputed the report. “I don’t think this clause will be included in the constitution,” said Ghannouchi.