Bible Commentator


Rabbi Moshe Reiss

The House of Saudi and Jihadism:

If the Jihadists take over Saudi Arabia what is the day after likely to be?

The Saudi government, like Iran and the former Taliban in Afghanistan is a theocracy.

On February 14, 2005 descendants of former US president Franklin D Roosevelt and Saudi Arabia's first king, Ibn Saud, celebrated the 60th anniversary of the first Saudi-US summit at the Suez Canal where the foundations were laid for a "special relationship" between the two countries based on an oil-for-security alliance. Despite the importance of Saudi Arabia to the world this was not noted on CNN, the world’s TV network.

Until recently Jihadism was strongly supported by the Saudi’s government and its Wahhabi religious establishment. Wahhabism is a puritanical form of Islamic extremism that cannot tolerate any other interpretations of Islam, much less Judaism and Christianity. Their religious and material support

of Jihadism was similar to the Taliban. Given that fifteen of the actual terrorists of September 11 were from Saudi Arabia and that bin Laden was raised in Saudi Arabia and he was a Saudi businessmen and citizen they can be construed as having some responsibility for World Trade Center disaster. They certainly had a closer responsibility than the government of Iraq.

Saudi funding sources, developed during the Afghan War against the Soviets continued as the jihad expanded outside Afghanistan. The growth of jihad from Saudi Arabia was transmitted through Saudi-supported Islamic international organizations (the Islamic Conference Organization, the World Muslim League and the World Assembly of Muslim Youth) to the rest of the Muslim world. Saudi funding has supported Jihadists throughout the world; in Africa, Central Asia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Southeast Asia, in the United States and Europe; in fact in every area where Jihadism has occurred.

The Saudi’s established and financed madrassas (religious schools) and mosques, indoctrinate young students and communities in virulent anti-western dogma and have damaged tolerant and pluralistic traditions in eastern and central Asia and Northern Africa. An example of an arithmetic lesson in a madrassa is among the fourth-grade math lessons was this: "The speed of a Kalashnikov bullet is 800 meters per second.... If a Russian is at a distance of 3,200 meters from a mujahid, and that mujahid aims at the Russian's head, calculate how many seconds it will take for the bullet to strike the Russian in the forehead."

Freedom House (the U.S. based think tank) analyzed Saudi sponsored books and pamphlets written in Arabic and found in Mosques in the United States. They stated that they espouse an anti-Christian, anti-Semitic, misogynist, Jihadist ideologies, assume non Muslims are enemies and propose Sharia law in America (‘Saudi Publications on Hate Ideology Fill American Mosques’, 2005).

One former high-level government official described Imam Mohammed bin Saud Islamic University in Riyadh as "a factory for terrorism" (Dallas Morning News, May 7). Abd al Hamid al Ansari Dean of the Faculty of Islamic Law at the Qatar University stated “this culture [of terrorism] is rooted in the minds of those who suffered from a closed education that leaves no room for pluralism” (Al Hayat, London, Nov. 29, 2001).

We are not claiming that Saudis were behind Sept. 11, anymore that the CIA or the Mossad; only that they have a responsibility and more that of Iraq.

Imagine, Bernard Lewis suggests, “if the Ku Klux Klan or Aryan Nation obtained total control of Texas and had at its disposal all the oil revenues and used this money to establish a network of well-endowed schools and colleges all over Christendom peddling their particular brand of Christianity. This is what the Saudis have done with Wahhabism.”

Jihadism is a holy war. It is based on a conspiracy theory of America and Israel (and other western states) being ‘Kufr’ states; that its states who are totally against the religion and way of life of Islam.

Its strategic objective is political change away from globalization and modernity. Jihadists believe globalization and modernity are part and parcel of the Judaic-Christian worldview. They have no positive objectives other than instituting the medieval oriented Sharia based Islamic law. This could have only negative impact of the socio-economic problems of the Middle Eastern youth based society – almost 50 percent of the populations are under voting age with 20-30% unemployment.

Its objective’s are the destruction of Western and Jewish influence over the western world and all infidels. A well known hadith (commentary based on Mohammad) states “when even the rocks and trees will call out Oh Muslim, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him!” This hadith is frequently used by bin Laden who has also accused the Jews of “holding America and the West hostage”. Crown Prince Abdullah opened up a conference on February 5-8 2005, in Saudi Arabia on International Counter Terrorism. Two days before the conference and in anticipation of the conference Saudi official TV interviewed several prominent Saudis. Suheida Hammed explained how Saudi terrorism was caused by the Jews.  Mash’as al Harathi wrote a poem dedicated to Saudi Minister of Defense Prince Sultan Feted proclaiming that bin Laden was sent by the Jews.

For Christians they have stated “First the Saturday people, then the Sunday people.”  Recently some have defined this ‘apocalyptic thinking’ to mean that every Muslim must kill a Jew or Christian to substitute for him in Hell. This has (as noted by Richard Landes) been interpreted to mean that every Muslim has to kill a Jew or a Christian in order to be saved. A French-Arab youngster slaughtered and mutilated a Jew, his neighbor since childhood. He triumphantly announced to his parents, his hands still bloodied, “I've killed my Jew, I can go to Paradise.” The Jihadists now even include Muslim “infidels” defined as Shi’ites and Sunni civilians working for westerners.  

Jihadists intrinsically believe death to be preferable to life in a non-Islamic world. Their mission is to create a kingdom of Heaven here on Earth. From there perspective the eventuality of death prior to the total eschatology is an insignificant price to pay. Heaven is after all the ‘true’ world. (See Asia Times ‘Suicide Bombing and the Culture of Death’ October 22, 2004.)

Jihadism is a modern form of totalitarianism challenging traditional Islam. Jihadists are fascists with imperial demands on the rest of the world. Sayyid Abdul Ala Mawdudi, a Pakistani and very well known theoretician of Jihadism has written, “Islam wants the whole earth and does not content itself with only a part thereof.  Islam wants and requires the earth in order that the human race altogether can enjoy the concept and practical program of human happiness, by means of which God has honored Islam and put it above the other religions and laws”.  

Very few Jihadists base their theology on traditional Islam. They are according to the French Islamic scholar Oliver Roy “a by-product of westernization and not a backlash against traditional Muslim cultures . . . they are born again Muslims”. And like other “born agains” despite their own choosing they believe that choice itself is anti-God. Their training with few exceptions was not in the madrassas. The majority of the leaders are western oriented and educated. Sayyid Qutb, the self-proclaimed theocrat and leader of the Muslim Brotherhood did not study theology, graduated from an Egyptian secular University and  then engineering at a college in the United States; bin Laden’s deputy Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri is a medical doctor; Ramzi Yusuf {of the original 1993 World Trade Center bombing) was an electronic engineer trained in the U.K., Omar Ahmad Saeed Sheikh who murdered Daniel Pearl before a video recorder was a born British Muslim of Pakistani descent, educated in private schools and at the London School of Economics and Muhammad Atta, the leader of the September 11 bombing was a promising architectural student who resided in Germany. Bin Laden himself despite issuing fatwas is not a cleric or a trained theologian but a western oriented businessman more familiar with arms dealing, money transfers and electronic technology than Islamic theology. He is the most successful entrepreneur of an enterprise dedicated to anti-liberal, anti-modern, anti-democratic objectives with a quasi-religious ideology. (One exception is Abu al Zarqawi, a Jordanian trained in Afghanistan who so far as is known has never been associated with the West. He was recently declared the ‘Emir’ of Iraq by bin Laden.)

Jihadism was created by the intersection of Islam and the West and these creators were trained in the west, modern and urbanized and influenced more by the leftist terrorists of the 1960-1970’s than by Traditional Islam. They have developed a modern political ideology based on their version of how to reconcile ‘Islam’ with the modern world. Third world members of Islam learnt through television and the internet about both the freedom and the materialism of the West. Roy finds the fundamentalist inspiration to be far more mundane than spiritual: "For many of them, the return to religion has been brought about through their experience in politics, and not as a result of their religious belief”.  Their arch competitors are capitalism and globalization; not Christianity or Judaism. This was confirmed by al Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood when he stated that “the Muslims are not socialist nor capitalist; they are Muslims.”

In 1979 the Ayatollah Khomeini and his Shi’a Muslims overthrew the western based government of the Shah of Iran. Shortly before the Cold War ended in 1989 Khomeini sent a letter to Mikhail Gorbachev which asserted the universality of Islam. He stressed the failure of the communist ideology and implored the Soviet president not to turn westward to market capitalism for a replacement but to Islam.

During the time when the ayatollahs took over Iran and established an Islamic state the Arab Sunni fundamentalists (with the help of the United States) defeated the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. These victorious mujahadin then combined the puritanical strain of Wahhabism with the ideology and Jihadism of Qutb’s Muslim Brotherhood to create the Taliban. Qutb had been executed by the Egyptian government and the Brotherhood repressed. Its primary success was the founding of Hamas in Palestine and combining its ideology to create the Taliban in Afghanistan.

These two events – Iran and Afghanistan - were the birthstones of global Jihadism. Bin Laden as the self proclaimed child of the Afghanistan war compares himself loosely to Muhammad and his conquest of the Empires of Eastern Christendom and Persia as well as Saladin who defeated the Crusader armies and conquered Jerusalem.  

Is Jihad a growth industry? Despite September 11 and with the exception of Iran twenty five years ago the globalization of Jihadism has not succeeded. Gilles Kepel, another French scholar has suggested they are a dying beast. Is Jihadism dying in Iraq? According to several sources more than half of the suicide bombers in Iraq come from Saudi Arabia (Rueven Paz, 61% of 154 names, Evan F. Kohlmann, more than 50% of 235 names and a Washington Post analysis of websites listing the dead suicide bombers, 44% came from Saudi Arabia - Washington Post, May 15).

Can Jihadism not yet succeed in Pakistan or Bangladesh – two very large and unstable Muslim countries? After September 11, and its aftermath It may be that Jihadists only purpose is terror justified, in their own minds by feelings of humiliation.  If that is the case how does one defeat self-destructive acts of vengeance? Jihad used to be Arabs killing westerners, now it is primarily Arab/Muslims killing other Arab/Muslims. Will the Arab/Muslims community reject this fratricide?

Fundamentalists and non-Jihadist Muslim spokesmen all are aware of the nature of Jihadist revolutionaries as enemies of any prevailing order. Given the opportunity al Qaeda will destroy their self defined ‘near enemies’ whether in Egypt, Syria, Jordan or Saudi Arabia. Jihadists consider Islamists as clients of the infidels. Despite the religious symbiosis between Wahhabism and Jihadism it is important to prevent bin Laden's call to arms from bringing those Islamic fundamentalists into his Jihadist arms and into his ideological/political battle.

Saudi Arabia is a conservative society in which religion plays a central role in framing political discourse for rulers and for opponents. As the Saudi’s fight a Jihadist insurgency led by al-Qaeda; both use the same religious grounds from which to draw its legitimacy. Turki Hamad, a Saudi journalist said they come from the same cultural discourse. (Dubai TV, June, 27, 2004). Can the Saudi’s alienate their traditional allies in the religious establishment some of who support the Jihadists? With U.S. becoming less relevant to Saudi Arabia – both its security and economy - will the result be a consolidation of the ideas of Nayef with Abdullah’s and less democratic reform? Is the Saudi War against Terrorism to silence internal dissent?

Saudi Arabia has been supported militarily and economically by the United States. A conflict between support of the Islamists and support by the United States was inevitable. Despite the U.S. support and despite the bonus of high oil prices Saudi Arabia is in desperate need of comprehensive political, economic, social, legal and educational reform.

While the United States has articulated a policy of Democracy in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine even vaguely in Syria it has not any policy regarding political change in Saudi Arabia; it seeks the impossible ‘stability’. It has long been claimed that the primary reason Bush pere did not go further in 1991 and take over Baghdad was his fear that it would spark a revolution in Saudi Arabia. The Bushs’ connection to the House of Saud is too well known to need discussing.

Bin Laden is now the enemy of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is in the throes of a crisis, and its elite is bitterly divided on how to escape it. Crown Prince Abdullah leads a camp of reformers who seek rapprochement with the West, while Prince Nayef, the Minister of Interior, has sided with an anti-American Wahhabi religious establishment that has much in common with al Qaeda. Neither believes in democracy, consider it an infidel religion  and reject human rights. Since the attempt to assassinate Nayef he has changed and now recognizes the Jihadists danger.

The regime is not intending to give up power or changing its historically repressive domestic policies in the face of opposition, but - more predictably - closing ranks and reasserting its authoritarian rule. Emboldened by its success in the domestic "war on terror", which the Saudi government began only after their rule was directly threatened, the al-Saud family is flexing its other muscles so that the masses, too, are left in no doubt that it is back in total control. Like other Arab regimes, it is using the "war on terror" to silence all dissent.

In Saudi Arabia almost 50% of the native population is aged 18 or under and 30% of the population is unemployed. The reactionary government is run by men over 70 years of age. Even the 5,000 Princes are unemployed. Most of the unemployed are in fact unqualified for any work. There are four million foreign workers out of a total population of sixteen million working in Saudi Arabia even while the native population in largely unemployed. They are overwhelmingly non Wahhabi Sunnis and therefore have no religious or any other rights. Additionally another almost two million Saudi’s are Shi’a without religious or other rights. They follow the Ayatollah Sistani in Iraq; is the government concerned about that?

Saudi’s are finally realizing their problem. A member of the Majlis al-Shura (the Saudi Consultative Council that is a pretense for a Parliament) stated to Muqtedar Khan in 2004 "All they teach is to hate those who are different," adding: "We are a country that is economically in the 20th century and intellectually in the 14th century."

A recent election municipal election (excluding women voters) was held in Saudi Arabia. The candidates of the hardline ‘golden list’ in that country's most liberal city, Jeddah, won. Scholars have predicted that should democracy take hold in Saudi Arabia the Islamists would win.

Almost twenty percent of America’s oil comes from Saudi Arabia! And it is estimated that 60% of the world’s proven oil reserves lie under Saudi Arabia. If the Jihadists take over and control Saudi Arabia they will automatically threaten the exporting of oil to the United States. Some have claimed the American invasion of Iraq (with less than one third of Saudi supply) was based on insuring an additional oil supply. If that is so invading Saudi Arabia, in the case of a danger to that oil supply is a certainty. The America government has to protect its own interests; that is the function of a government. American armed forces being located in the neighborhood would make the task easier. Israel would certainly support an American invasion of Saudi Arabia.  

Saudi Arabia is a country not longer the master of its own fate.