SAUDIA ARABIA, ISLAM AND TERRORISTS
Faith is being twisted and distorted, used as a wedge – or worse, sometimes used as a weapon. Violence and terror are perpetrated by those who profess to stand up for faith, their faith, professed to stand up for Islam, but in fact, are betraying it. ISIS is a brutal, vicious death cult that, in the name of religion, carries out unspeakable acts of barbarism. They are Islamic radicals.
It is also true that Christians should be humble too, because terrible acts – the Crusades, the Inquisition – were committed in the name of Christ. Despite living in Spain for centuries peacefully – if not totally free under Muslim rule, Jews were expelled from Spain by the Christians in 1492.
It is unfair to indict a global faith followed by more than 1.6 billion people, the overwhelming majority of whom consider ISIS an insane distortion of the Prophet’s teaching. ISIS is a political movement – anticolonial, an attempt to separated whites from browns – why should it be given the credibility it craves by calling it an ‘Islamic’ movement?
But ISIS is, most definitely, a twisted extrapolation of a religious-political trend that first gained traction in the region about a hundred years ago, after the egregious European gobbling, slicing and dicing of the Middle East. When you look at all the straight-line borders in that part of the world, you can be sure the locals didn’t draw them. Anger over the European usurpation is one thing Shi’ites and Sunnis have in common. The Iranian revolution of 1979, which imposed a brand-new form of political Shi’ism on a freewheeling county, was a reaction to the Western-imposed government of the Shah. On the Sunni side, the radical Salafist movement began in the late 19th century, also as a reaction to Western imperialism and ideas. It has become a powerful strand of thought in the Arab world.
There is a serious internal debate in one of the world’s three great monotheisms that needs to faced head on. It is time to call the ISIS adherents thugs and gangsterism but they are also Muslims. This is an Islamic issue, but it’s not about all Muslims or even the vast majority, but reactionary Islamic radicalism – militant Salafism – that is the source of the ongoing violence.
And the wellspring of Salafism is Saudi Arabia’s extreme, expansionist Wahhabi Islamic sect. Obama doesn’t utter the words Islamic radicals because America has not been able to have an honest conversation about their Arabian ally. The Saudi royal family is a source of stability in the region, and under the late King Abdullah, it was a mild force for reform, especially in education. But the Saudi elites have funded not just al-Qaeda but also radical madrasahs throughout the Islamic world. They do it cleverly – privately – through “charitable institutions”. The impact has been enormous. 25 years ago, Pakistani women were able to go out on the street wearing jeans and no headscarf, but couldn’t do it now. The blame lies with the Saudis – the Saudi-funded madrasahs have rapidly replaced the ineffective public schools in Pakistan. The Taliban came out of those madrasahs, just as a great many of the ISIS criminals do now.
Both Bush’s and Obama are way too close to the Saudi royal family. A secret section of a report by congressional intelligence committees relates the Saudi role in the attacks and should be made public now, as an ongoing suit by the families of 9/11 victims has demanded. If America is going to continue to donate American lives to the fight – and sadly, they must, to protect America from terrorist attacks – they need to be clear about exactly who the enemy is.
P.S. Under initiatives pioneered by the late King Abdullah, approximately 80,000 Saudi students are currently studying in the US. Saudi Arabia is the largest consumer of US foreign military sales, totaling upward of $97 billion, and exports to the kingdom exceeded $35 billion in 2013.