Is mainstream waking up to Wahhabism?

SHAFAQNA – Although mainstream has been instrumental in driving together Islamophobia and anti-Shiism so that self-proclaimed liberals could argue military interventionism as legitimate, US President Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia – and subsequent fallouts, may have sprung deep-state America out of its torpor.

Who ever said that hope was dead?

This well overdue epiphany came by way of CNN’s very own Fareed Zakaria when he pointed out on air: “This week’s bombing in Manchester was another gruesome reminder that the threat from radical Islamic terrorism is ongoing. And President Trump’s journey to the Middle East illustrated yet again how the country central to the spread of this terrorism, Saudi Arabia, has managed to evade and deflect any responsibility for it. In fact, Trump has given Saudi Arabia a free pass and a free hand in the region.

The facts are well-known. For five decades, Saudi Arabia has spread its narrow, puritanical and intolerant version of Islam — originally practiced almost nowhere else — across the Muslim world. Osama bin Laden was Saudi, as were 15 of the 19 terrorists of 9/11.

And we know, via a leaked email by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, that in recent years the Saudi government, along with Qatar, has been “providing clandestine financial and logistic support to (the Islamic State) and other radical Sunni groups in the region.” Saudi nationals make up the second largest group of foreign fighters in ISIS and, by some accounts, the largest in the terrorist group’s Iraqi operations. The kingdom is in a tacit alliance with al-Qaida in Yemen.

ISIS draws its beliefs from Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi version of Islam. As the former imam of the kingdom’s Grand Mosque said last year, ISIS “exploited our own principles, that can be found in our books. … We follow the same thought but apply it in a refined way.” Until ISIS could write its own textbooks for its schools, it adopted the Saudi curriculum as its own.

Saudi money is now transforming European Islam. Leaked German intelligence reports show that charities “closely connected with government offices” of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait are funding mosques, schools and imams to disseminate a fundamentalist, intolerant version of Islam throughout Germany.”

Now a clear distinction needs to be made in between Wahhabism and Sunni Islam.

Wahhabism … for all its claims and for all its attempts to conflate its ideology to that of mainstream Sunni Islam, neither speaks nor represents Sunni Islam. I would say that enough clerics, religious leaders and scholars have voiced their rejection of Wahhabism for anyone to be under any illusion.

Our denunciation of Wahhabism as the main source of terrorism should not translate into yet another excuse to dismiss a religious community. More importantly still, our common rejection of Terror should not be conflated to this infamous clash in between Sunni Islam and Shia Islam, for really such clash only ever existed in the minds of tyrants and bigots.

Islam’s many schools of thoughts need not to exist in exclusion of one another – that would be missing God’s command that in religion there shall be no compulsion. Pluralism we may do well to remember sits at the heart of Islam.

But we may draw some measure of hope from CNN’s new found liking for truth … at least as far as Wahhabism is concerned.


By Catherine Shakdam for Shafaqna

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