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Saudi Wahhabi Islam, 9/11, and Further Dangers


The two-day UN Interfaith Conference on November 12 and 13, 2008 proposed by Saudi Arabia to promote "dialogue on religion and culture" is a propaganda stunt aimed more at softening Saudi Arabia's image abroad as the hot bed of Islamist extremism than to soften Wahhabi Islam at home. It is curious that the Mufti (highest Saudi religious post) along with other senior clerics were absent from the Conference. If Saudi Arabia were serious about promoting dialogue on religion and culture the place to start is Saudi schools, mosques, and media, not theatrics on the world stage. The world would become a better place if Saudi rulers stop their Wahhabi ulama (religious scholars) partners from denigrating other religions and Islamic sects and from preaching that jihadism is the short route to paradise. 

That the founder and leader of Al-Qaeda is a Saudi and fifteen of the nineteen terrorists on 9/11 were Saudis suggests a causal relationship between the Wahhabi way of life and terrorism. This is not to imply, however, that 9/11 was a state-sponsored crime. Rather, the crime was the work of individual jihadists produced as a by-product of the Wahhabi way of life. 

Without a shred of convincing explanation Saudi propagandists in the East and the West managed to deflect the world’s attention from Wahhabi culpability. They managed to brush aside any connection between the Wahhabi way of life and 9/11, claiming instead that politics (without specifics), not Wahhabism, was behind the atrocity. Absurd fantasies circulating in some Arab societies blame 9/11 on Israel’s Mossad, or the American extreme right.  Western apologists, many of whom are former Washington officials, who act for the Al-Saud princes, Saudi government, and private sector businessmen as advisers, business partners, lawyers, public relations consultants, etc... have aided in this outcome. 

Wahhabism is as responsible for 9/11 as politics. Human behavior is a product of past experiences, beliefs, and values and these cannot be compartmentalized in isolated chambers in the human mind so that the religious chamber can be sanitized. Admittedly, neither religion nor politics alone causes terrorism. The combination of religious extremism and political frustrations, however, can. Jihadism turns political frustrations into religious crusades. Islamist extremism and political frustrations are like fuel and fire. The fuel is Wahhabi ulama's fanaticism. Wahhabi teaching creates the mindset of self-annihilation in the name of God, with the promise of a reward in paradise. The fire is Saudi autocratic rule and excesses, plus political humiliation from abroad; such as, among others, the Arab-Israeli conflict and Washington’s policies in the Middle East.

Saudi Islam: A Wahhabi Cult

Wahhabism is greatly influenced by the most orthodox among the four surviving Sunni schools of jurisprudence, the Hanbalite School. Because of its extremism, Hanbalism has had over the centuries a tiny following. Even today, and despite Saudi Arabia's strenuous proselytizing efforts and vast financial resources since the quadrupling of oil prices in 1973, the Saudi brand of Islam is followed mainly by Saudi Arabia's less than 20 million indigenous people, or around 3% of the world’s more than one billion Sunnis, plus an indeterminate number of followers among the millions of Muslim expatriate workers who had worked and continue to work in Saudi Arabia and who became indoctrinated in the Wahhabi way of life. 

Partnering with Wahhabi clerics and accusing the Ottoman Sultans of being bad Muslims, Abdulaziz Al-Saud (?1876-1953) used Wahhabism as a justification for his rebellion against Istanbul at the turn of the twentieth century. He made Wahhabism the legitimating ideology of his newly established kingdom in 1932 and named it after his family. His six successor sons followed their father’s footsteps, cementing Wahhabism as Saudi Islam. 

Exporting Wahhabism

In foreign lands, Saudi funded mosques, preachers, schools, teachers, students, charities, etc... propagate the Wahhabi message. The expansion of Wahhabism in Arab countries and the resurgence of the Talibans in Afghanistan, who are Wahhabis, as well as the growth of Islamism in Pakistan and Bangladesh, have created a menacing arch of extremism under Saudi stewardship.

Autocratic Saudi Governance: A Jihadist Factory

Saudi governance is non-participatory and non-representative. Free press does not exist. Political parties, labor union, and societal organization are banned. Dissent is dealt with cruelly. The monarch is an absolute ruler. The national budget is allocated at his sole discretion.  Saudi governance is mired in tribalism, cronyism, nepotism, and favoritism. The ruling group violates the law with impunity. Corruption, a natural consequence of such systems, is the glue that keeps the ruling group together. 


The Al-Saud family is possibly the world’s largest ruling family ever. It is estimated that Abdulaziz Al-Saud’s direct descendants could number over 11,000, or more (2018 estimate). When his brother and half brothers, cousins, and other relatives are added, the number becomes much larger. The annual burden of the royals on the Saudi treasury could be estimated well beyond US$11 billion.

The Wahhabi ulama, with support from the Saudi government, brainwash the populace into believing that submission to Islamic authority is at the core of the Islamic Creed and that blind obedience to the Al-Saud rule is a form of piety. Wahhabism legitimized the absolute rule and the excesses of the Saudi regime. The combination of Wahhabism and the Al-Sauds’ excesses have turned Wahhabi society into a Jihadist factory. A genie was born, and the genie got out of the bottle. No one today seems able to get the genie back into the bottle. 

That 15 of the 19 murderers on 9/11 were from Saudi Arabia is an indictment of the entire Wahhabi way of life—its legitimating ideology, system of governance, educational system, indoctrination practices, as well as its collective political, religious, military, judicial, civic, intellectual, tribal, and business leaderships. 

Saudi Arabia must take responsibility for blackening the name of Islam. Saudi Arabia must take responsibility for the worldwide anger and mistrust generated following 9/11 toward the 400 million Arabs who are innocent of Wahhabi extremism and who have always looked with disdain on Wahhabism, its extremism, and primitive way of life.

To eliminate a terrorist cell or two or a hundred or a thousand cells will fail to root out terrorism. To fight terrorism, not only must the material and the financial infrastructure of jihadism be destroyed, but also the religious foundation upon which jihadism rests, starting with Wahhabism.

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