Skip to comments.Among the Wahhabis (Review of Dore Gold's <i>Hatred's Kingdom</i>
Posted on 05/04/2003 8:18:30 PM PDT by Stultis
Among the Wahhabis
How Saudi Arabia Supports the New Global Terrorism
by Dore Gold
Regnery. 309 pp. $27.95
AFTER A year and a half in which the war on terrorism consisted essentially of large tactical operationsliquidating the Taliban regime, destroying al Qaedas base in Afghanistan, rounding up Islamist agents around the worldthe U.S. finally took its first step of truly strategic significance. Operation Iraqi Freedom was intended to deny to the Baghdad regime and its Islamist fellow-travelers the ability to develop and use weapons of mass destruction, thus removing one of the most urgent long-term threats to America and its allies.
What will the next strategic stage in the war against terrorism look like? One might hope that it would be a campaign to destroy the vast infrastructure that begets, nurtures, and sustains Islamic extremism. To do that, the U.S. would have to accept a fact it has so far refused to face: that Saudi Arabia, our putative ally, has been and remains the chief ideological and financial enabler of our most virulent enemies. After Saddam, a showdown with the House of Saud is, or should be, inevitable.
Hatreds Kingdom, a timely new book by the Israeli scholar and diplomat Dore Gold, lays out the grounds for this looming confrontation more powerfully than any other recent writing on the subject. Golds lucid, dispassionate, impressively researched narrative debunks much of the conventional wisdom, establishing in a systematic way the dark reality of Saudi involvement in fomenting terror.
TO FIND the root causes of Arab terrorism, Gold argues, we must examine not mainstream Islam but Wahhabism, the hate-filled, extremist fringe of the religion that is the official Saudi creed. As he points out, many of the innovations introduced by Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab (1703-91), the founder of Saudi Arabias state religion, were, in fact, major distortions and even outright falsifications of Islamic tradition. By declaring, for instance, that Muslims who rejected his own teachings were infidels who deserved death, al-Wahhab reversed two major tenets of Islamthat there is no compulsion in religion and that jihad against other Muslims is strictly prohibited. Yet, as the history of the House of Saud shows, the Wahhabis have almost invariably directed their murderous fury at fellow Muslims and, to this day, treat Shiites and Sufis like apostates.
As for Jews and Christians, al-Wahhab explicitly rejected the (partial) measure of preference and protection that other monotheists had long received in Muslim lands. He insisted that these supposed peoples of the book were nothing more than sorcerers and devil-worshippers, fit for annihilationa venomous dictum that Saudi mosques spew out to this day.
Gold also explains the central role played by the Wahhabi sect in shaping the broader current of Islamic extremism. As he extensively documents, the Saudis have sheltered and co-opted virtually every Islamist ideologue and movement of the past century, from the leaders of previous generations like Muhammad Rida, Hasan al-Banna, and Abu al-Ala Mawdudi to more contemporary figures like Abdullah Azzam and Muhammad Qutb, the mentors of al Qaedas leadership. Wahhabism remains the prototype ideology of all violent Islamists. As Gold quotes one radical cleric, Osama bin Laden is a natural continuation from Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab.
As the Saudis began to grow flush with petrodollars in the 1970s, Gold writes, they became the chief international financiers of Islamic extremism. Operating through a bewildering array of interlocking charities and front organizations, Riyadh provided most of the funding for a vast network devoted not just to indoctrination but to anti-Western violence. Gold guides us through this sinister network, on which, as the Saudis themselves have admitted, they had spent the gigantic sum of $70 billion by the end of last year. There can be little doubt that this money has been a key factor in creating the terrorist threat we now face.
A further service performed by Hatreds Kingdom is to dismantle the self-serving propaganda of Saudi Arabia and its apologists. Since the attacks of September 11, the Saudis have maintained, for instance, that terrorism is a result of Americas cruel indifference to the suffering of the Palestinians, a position to which many European governments and the American Left uncritically subscribe. Apart from the inconvenient fact that the vast majority of the more than 150,000 recent victims of Islamic terrorism have been Muslims, it is clear, as Gold demonstrates, that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has never mattered much to Riyadh. Despite their visceral dislike of Jews, the Saudis historically have paid little attention to them, feeling much more threatened by rival Arab powers like the Hashemites in Transjordan and Iraq, Nasserite socialism in Egypt, Syria, and Yemen, and, more recently, the Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein. Indeed, the Saudis contributed no more than token aid to the Arab side in its various armed conflicts with Israel.
IN EXPOSING the Saudi connection to the world of Islamic terror, Gold might have gone still farther. His brief analysis of Saudi activities in the United States is a bit disappointing. There is much more to be said about Wahhabi dominance of the American Muslim establishment and the considerable influence of the Saudis in Washington. Virtually all of the Muslim leaders who posed for photographs with President Bush after the attacks of September 11 have been shown to be part of the Wahhabi lobby and to have extremist connections. Nor does Gold have much to say about the increasing penetration of Saudi-funded terrorist groups in the Indian subcontinent, which has become a hotbed of violent Islamic activities.
Still, these few oversights detract very little from Dore Golds outstanding contribution. For the general reader interested in the origins of Middle Eastern terrorism, Hatreds Kingdom will shed a great deal of light; for policy-makers in Washington, it ought to be required reading.
ALEX ALEXIEV is a fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C. His The Pakistani Time Bomb appeared in our March issue.
The bottom line is that we are dealing with a culture, a meme and a religion that is not only profoundly crippled, it is by its nature a natural breeding ground for the sort of hatred and death-worshippers we see today. Nothing short of a thorough annihilation of that culture and the memes and ideas that drive it will divert them from their desire to destroy us all.