The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the largest country in the Arabian Peninsula. It occupies an area about the size of the United States east of the Mississippi River. It's  population is 27 million, including 8.4 million of  foreign workers. its capital city is Riyadh.


The flag of Saudi Arabia has a green background, with in white letters the Muslim creed in Arabic: "There is no god but God: Muhammad is the Messenger of God."  


The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is an Islamic theocratic monarchy, where Islam is the official religion.  Most citizens are followers of Sunni Islam.  The largest minority are  the  Shiites mainly situated in the Northeast part of the country.  There is no law that states that all people must be Muslim, however public practice of any religion other than Islam is illegal and there is no government protection of religious rights.

 
















































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































 

From Wahhab to bin Laden  


Only few years ago words like jihad, shahid or wahhabi would mean nothing to most Americans or anybody else for that matter. After the tragic events of 9/11 we have been bombarded with the information about Al Qaeda, Usama bin Laden and his war against the West. Massive amounts of newspaper articles, books and TV documentaries are being offered to interested minds. Congressional hearings and government commissions spent millions of dollars trying to find the causes of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

World Trade Center after 9/11The political blame game and inger pointing is still  going on between the Democrats and the  Republicans. The CIA  director  had  to  resign  and reorganization with the FBI is still a work in progress.

The popular  answer is that they were full of  hatred  for  the U.S. In  fact a lot of  Muslims  when  commenting on 9/11 event  would condemn the slaughter of almost 3000 people and then in the same breath would say that they understand why it happened.  abroad and in the refugee camps settling in Israel proper.

Its because of the U.S. polices that are not friendly to Muslim countries.I reviewed US polices and found out that we did not occupy any Muslim land prior to 9/11 and in fact, maintained friendly relationship with most Muslim countries.

Oh yes, we give Israel around three billion dollars a year but we give Egypt almost as much and we provide financial aid to the countless other Muslim populations. It’s not our fault that Yasser Arafat flatly refused to sign a peace agreement with Israel in Camp David II.

 God knows Bill Clinton gave it his best shot. We fought in Somalia with the aim of rescuing millions of Muslims from sure starvation that was imposed on them by their own countrymen. Then we bombed the hell out of Serbia to save Muslim Albanians from the ethnic cleansing. And of course Muslims from all over the world come to America and are free to practice their religion and assimilate into the society without any problems unlike their brothers in Europe.

How then did these 19 guys get to the point of hating Americans that they had never met more than loving their own lives. The answer I found was far more complicated then initially anticipated but there is a logical sequence of events that leads to the World Trade Center. For that we need to look at the history that spans over 300 years.

Origins of Hate

" Jews and Christians are the sorcerers who believe in devil worship. The only way to deal with sorcerers is to put them to the sword". This sentiment was expressed by Muhhamed ibn Al Wahhab in his "Book of Tawdid" written in the 18th century.  

Mohammed Al-Wahhab, founder of Wahhabism was born in 1703 in the village of Uyaynah, in the central Arabian region of Najd, a desolate place practically uninhabited until the sixteenth century. As a young man Mohammed ibn Wahhab studied with his father who was a religious judge. Even at a young age he has showed the extremist religious tendencies that brought him  criticism from his family.

He moved to Medina to continue his education, where he came under the influence of the teachings of 14th century Islamic scholar Ibn Taymiyyah who professed a very rigid interpretation of Islam. He believed that the period during Prophet Mohammed’s time spent in Medina was an ideal Muslim society.   He declaired war on Shiism, Sufism and Greek philosophy. He even spoke out against visiting the  grave of the prophet and celebration of his birthday, declaring that it was imitation of the Christian warship of Jesus as God.

Even then Ibn Taymiyyah believed that the quality and morality of the Muslims was in decline, so he advocated jihad against Muslim unbelievers as the means for protecting the purity of faith. These ideas had a dramatic influence on Abdul Wahhab, who upon the completion of his studies in Medina traveled extensively around the Muslim world. He familiarized himself with major schools of Islamic practice. He came to the conclusion that Islam practiced throughout the Ottoman Empire and Persia was corrupted by outside influences. For the young men who grew up in the desert of Najd, seeing the extravagance and riches of Ottoman and Persian elite was shocking.  

This was a period of great changes in the Islamic world. The Ottoman Empire has ruled Arabia for hundreds of years. They also expanded their influence deep into the Europe. But that expansion came to an end at the Battle of Vienna in September of 1683 where the combined armies of Germany, Austria, Poland and their allies drove back the besieging Ottoman Army. It marked the turning point in a 250-year struggle between the forces of Christian Europe and the Muslim Ottoman Empire.

Over the 16 years following the battle, the Turks would be permanently driven south of the Danube River never to threaten central Europe again. British and Dutch armadas regularly sailed unimpeded into the Persian Gulf. The Islamic world that was led by the Ottoman Empire was in retreat losing ground to Europe.  

Abdul Wahhab attributed the rising power of Europe to the moral degradation of the Ottoman Empire. He felt the main reason for that was the way Islam was practiced and the insufficient devotion to its main tenets. He believed that even though during their earlier conquests the Islamic world has defeated many civilizations, in the process they absorbed many religious practices of the conquered cultures. His main message was oneness of God that was opposite to polytheism, defined as an act of associating any person or any object with powers that should be attributed only to God. He sought to restore the puritanical version of Islam of the Prophet Mohammed and early caliphs. In addition Abdul Wahhab and his followers, who were Arabs, resented the domination of the Ottomans who were Turks.

Upon his return to Najd, Abdul Wahhab launched a campaign of purification and renewal. His goal was to bring back the purity that Islam enjoyed during the time of the Prophet. One of the main tenets of his doctrine has become an idea of Takfir. Under the Takfir, fellow Muslims could be deemed infidels, if they engaged in religious activities that were different from those propagated by Wahhab and his followers.

The following practices were forbidden:
- Prayers to God by honors to any individual other then God, despite their acceptance by all the previous generations of Muslims, including the Prophet himself
- Pilgrimage and prayers at burial sites of the Saints Tradition of visiting the tomb of Mohammed in Medina, while making pilgrimage to Mecca
- Inscription of the Prophet Mohammed’s name on any building or a mosque
- Building shrines

 Abdul Wahhab denounced all Muslims who would not share his views as polytheists who should be killed, their wives and daughters violated and their possessions confiscated. That list included Shiias, Sufis and other Muslim denominations whom he did not even consider to be Muslims.  

Abdul Wahhab’s activities antagonized local ulama (religious leadership). He was expelled from his own town and in 1741 after some wandering around he found a refuge in the village of Dariyah, not too far from present day Riyadh. There the local tribal chief ruler Ibn Saud welcomed him and offered him a refuge. Two of them made a power sharing deal: Ibn Saud would protect Abdul Wahhab and help him spread his ideology while Wahhab would legitimize Saud’s ambition to rule over neighboring Bedouin tribes, by force if necessary.

The two sides legitimized their pact by Ibn Saud marrying the daughter of Abdul Wahhab. The agreement also stipulated that power would be shared exclusively by their descendants, thus establishing a dynasty. Interestingly enough Prophet Mohammed never forced his descendants to be the successors of his power.  

Ibn Saud’s clan now could do what they always did, which was raiding the neighboring villages and robbing them of their possessions, but now they were doing it under the pretext of Jihad. Ibn Saud and Abdul Wahhab also reintroduced the idea of martyrdom in the name of Jihad, as it granted the immediate entry into paradise, which is described in the Koran as gardens with rivers of water, milk and honey and filled with dark eyed virgins. That idea won them a great number of followers amongst the local populations.  

Al Wahhab imagined himself as a new Prophet who would replace the Ottoman Caliph as the sole theological authority within Islamic ummah, while Ibn Saud imagined himself as a ruler of the entire Arab tribes and beyond. (That fusion of the religious and political power rules in Saudi Arabia to this day). The idea of condemning the enemies as non-believers who had no right to live and need to be conquered set the stage for successful campaign of wahhabisation on the Arabian Peninsula. The alliance between Saud and Wahhab was forged in 1744.  

In the beginning they conquered a few local settlements and imposed their rule over them. The unfortunate polytheists had a very limited choice, conversion or death. In 1765 Mohammed Ibn Saud died and his son Abdul Aziz took over the leadership retaining the association with Abdul Wahhab. By 1790 they reached as far as the coast of the Persian Gulf. By that time the alliance controlled most of the Arabian Peninsula and repeatedly raided Medina, Syria and Iraq.

Their strategy was to bring the peoples they conquered into the submission. In 1801 Wahhabies attacked the Shiite Holy City of Karbala in Iraq. They massacred thousands of Shiites, including women and children who did not meet the Wahhabi standard of the true Muslim. Many shrines were destroyed including the Tomb of Hussein, the murdered grandson of Prophet Mohammed. Another practice enjoyed by Wahhabies was the burning of books often followed by execution of the people who wrote them.  

After conquering Karbala, the Wahhabies next stop was Mecca. But on the way they had to take the fortress of Taif where the Ottoman governor of Mecca tried to make a last stand. When the residents of Taif realized that they would not be able to hold off a 10,000 strong Wahhabi army they raised a flag of truce. But when Wahhabies entered a city they wiped out practically the entire population. In 1803 Abdul Aziz entered the Holy City of Mecca. He ordered all the mosques and other constructions built to commemorate the prophet and his family to be razed to the ground. He even destroyed the chapel, where according to the legend, Angel Gabriel had brought the first chapter of the Koran to Prophet Mohammed. A year later he took the city of Medina.

All the historical works of art, including priceless books that survived over millennia were destroyed or stolen. But in November of 1803 a Shiite assassin killed Abdul Aziz taking revenge for the massacre of Karbala. His son Saud bin Abd al Aziz succeeded him and continued the successful conquest of Arabia.   Ottoman rulers could no longer sit back and watch as their Empire was losing territories and holy places while the Ottoman subjects were forced into following the Wahhabi ideology. Ottoman Sultan was also serving as caliph.

This title is used to designate the successor to Prophet Mohammed as the religious and political leader of Sunni Islam. Obviously the Wahhabies did not recognize him as such. In 1811 the Ottomans appointed the Albanian born Governor of Egypt named Mohammed Ali as the person who would lead a campaign against the Wahhabies and take back the holy places. Mohammed Ali did not disappoint the Ottoman Sultan. In 1812 Mohammed Ali’s army was able to liberate Medina. Jeddah and Mecca. .

In 1814 Saud bin Abd Al Aziz died of fever. His son Abdullah Ibn Saud was taken to Istanbul where he was executed. In 1818 the Ottomans captured and destroyed the Wahhabi capital of Dariyah. The first Saudi state was no more.

The Dynasty Lives

The Ottoman victory and the death of the Abdullah did not mean the end of the Wahhabism. Many pilgrims who visited Mecca and Median during the hajj took the ideas of the Wahhabism back to their homelands.   Over the next few years several attempts were made by descendants of Mohammed Ibn Saud to reestablish the control over the Arabia without much success.

One of those descendants, Faisal bin Turki was captured in 1838 by the Ottomans and send to Egypt where he spent a few years in jail. But when Egypt declared their independence from the Ottoman Empire, they had to withdraw their army from the Arabian Peninsula in order to support their own positions on Egypt.  

Faisal bin Turki escaped from Cairo prison and returned home to Arabia. He was able to reestablish the second Saudi State in 1865. But after his death his sons fought over his succession. Besides the control of Arabian Peninsula, one of the major sticking point in their disagreement was the application of the Wahhabi doctrine. Those disagreements greatly weakened the Saudi State.   In 1871 the rival tribal leader Mohammed bin Rashid made a pact with the Ottomans and started a campaign of taking back the territories from the Saud family. In 1891, with the fall of Riyadh, the takeover of the Saudi land was complete.

The Saud family was forced into exile and eventually settled in Kuwait. But even the Rashides showed some interest in Wahhabi ideas as they allowed several Wahhabi scholars to continue their teachings in schools and in mosques.   In 1901 the latest descendant of the Saud clan, Abdul Aziz bin Abdul Rahman Al Saud or Ibn Saud as he became known, made a new attempt at recapturing the lost territories.

As the role of the Ottoman Empire was diminishing, the British were gaining a lot of influence in the region. In the years to come they would carve up the entire region according to their view of the world. In many ways those views were narrow-sighted and did not take into consideration the religious and ethnic difference of the local populations.

The Wahhabis did not welcome the presence of Christian forces in the Arabian Peninsula, as they would hardly tolerate the presence of other Muslims. Ibn Saud had to walk a political tightrope between the British, the Ottomans and the Wahhabis. But he proved to be a very able politician, as he understood that in order to get to his goal of reestablishing the Saudi State he may need the collaboration of all the above parties.  

While Ibn Saud was regaining the influence the Saud family lost during the previous decades, the Ottoman Empire was weakened to the point that they had to ask for Ibn Saud’s help in putting down the revolt in northern Yemen that was still under the Ottoman rule. Ibn Saud was also recapturing a lot of territories lost by his predecessors in the previous conflicts.The British did not interfere with Ibn Saud’s military advances as long as he stayed away from British controlled areas.

 Inkwan

The successes of Ibn Saud’s military campaigns also coincided with the revival of the religious zealotry in province of Najd. This time it was the descendant of Abdul Wahhab named Abdullah bin Abdul Latif, the religious judge, who promoted a new movement called Inkwan (the brotherhood).

He demanded from his followers the strict adherence to the tenets of the Wahhabi ideology and one of the requirements was to avoid any contact with outsiders. He also encouraged creation of agricultural settlements and by the year 1920 dozens of those settlements were spread out around Najd.  

In the tradition of his 18th century relative, Latif and his Inkwan followers would raid the neighboring provinces instilling the Wahhabi system and killing anyone considered unbeliever or polytheist. They terrorized the Arab communities from Iraq to Transjordan, sometimes wiping out entire villages. Just within a few years the Inkwan gained enough power to have even Ibn Saud seek a partnership with them.

This symbiotic relationship, between the most radical element of Saudi society and the ruling elite, continues to this day. Over the years that relationship would have ups and downs. Every time there was a move to modernize the Saudi society, the radicals would make sure that the princes would not stray too far off.  

Ibn Saud not only forged the partnership with the Inkwan but also provided them with financial help. In addition he appointed Inkwan members as religious judges even though most of them came from the primitive desert dwelling Bedouin societies and were not great Islamic scholars by any means. Those societies that live in the very harsh environments, like deserts or mountains, usually develop a very strict code of conduct that develops over hundreds of years. Inkwan have incorporated those tribal traditions into their view of Islam.  

The Arabian Peninsula at that time was not a place where people lived in peace and tranquility. It was a highly tribal society where disputes over land and infighting were common place. Ibn Saud needed to bring those feuding tribes under his control in order to rule the Arabian Peninsula. His partnership with the Inkwan allowed him to accomplish that. Just like a century before, the power of the sword backed by Wahhabi ideology has proven to be a winning formula.

One after another the rebellious tribes accepted Ibn Wahhab as their imam (an Islamic religious leader), agreed to pay the customary taxes and live by the Wahhabi rules.   But Ibn Saud had a problem. While he was trying the build a modern Arab state with railroads and telegraph and other technological innovations of that period, the Inkwan considered those to be the instruments of Satan. They were categorically against the presence of foreigners, even if it benefited them. Any form of expression including music or poetry was not allowed.

The only intellectual activity tolerated was the study of the Koran.   While Ibn Saud did not have a problem with forbidding music or poetry, he had a problem with Inkwan’s other goals namely kicking the British out and exterminating the neighboring populations. His dream was to establish a legitimate state and he could not do accomplish it with such excesses. He knew that eventually he would have to deal with Inkwan and that time came soon.

End of the Empire and the Birth of the State

In March of 1924, the Ottoman Empire caliphate was dissolved and Kamal Attaturk established the Turkish Republic. He specifically established the system where there was a clear separation of religion and the state, that is the cornerstone of the Turkish Republic to this day.  

During the Ottoman Caliphate the members of the Hashemite dynasty were the appointed rulers of Mecca and Medina. Hashemites were believed to be the direct descendants of the prophet Mohammed and the caretakers of the Holy places. With the history and tradition behind him, the latest representative of the dynasty,

Sharif Hussein pronounced himself a caliph. He was a protégé of the British Government who vigorously promoted him. His goal was to become the ruler of all the Arabia. Obviously Ibn Saud had different ideas on who would rule Arabia. He declared the war on Sharif Hussein and in December of 1924 with the help of Inkwan captured the biggest prize – Mecca.

There was nothing that the British could do but accept the shifting balance of power. They later promoted Sharif Hussein’s son Abdullah to become the King of Transjordan. But the Holiest places in Islam were no longer under the control of the Hashemite dynasty. Ibn Saud has reclaimed what was lost by his ancestors a century earlier.  He immediately imposed the Wahhabi control over the religious and social matters. A year later he was in control of Medina and Jeddah.

The consequences were far reaching. The one who was in charge of holy places had the eyes and ears of the entire Muslim world focused on them. Under Ibn Saud’s leadership Inkwan began the campaign of destruction of the priceless historical monuments. Any mosque or Kaba, Mecca graveyard that had a mention of the prophet on its walls was taken down, including the grave of Mohammed’s wife Kadijah.

The Muslim world was outraged and demanded answers. Ibn Saud’s response was that his control over Mecca and Medina was temporary but in 1926 he hosted a global Islamic conference where he was able to convince the delegates from all over the Islamic world to ratify his control over the holy places.  

The time also came to deal with the Inkwan who wanted the British Army out. Ibn Saud knew that his rule over Arabian Peninsula could not survive without it. In fact it was the British who helped Ibn Saud to finally defeat the Inkwan in ensuing civil war.  

Even though the Inkwan army was defeated, the radical Wahhabi religious establishment was not touched. Ibn Saud would maintain his friendship with the British, but he would badmouth them to his own people. Not much has changed since those days. The current Saudi leaders call the U.S. their friend, while bankrolling the efforts of the Muslim extremists to destroy it.  

In 1932 the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was established with Riyadh as it’s capital. With advances in technology that were based on oil, the western countries were getting more involved in the politics of the Middle East. Britain had a long-standing relationship with Ibn Saud, but it was with Standard Oil of California that he made a deal. Before signing the deal Ibn Saud consulted the ulama. His argument in favor of the Americans was that they, unlike the British, were not interested in territorial control of the Arab lands but only in oil.

In addition the Americans were willing to pay more money and did not ask for the political concessions that British were demanding. The ulama has issued a fatwa allowing such deal. But it did not come without the price. The religious establishment got complete control over the educational system and religious policies of the kingdom. Those religious polices were not much different from the polices introduced by Abdul Wahhab over a century before.  

Within the decade, huge oil fields were discovered all over the Arabian Peninsula and in the Persian Gulf. The desert kingdom that only few years before survived on the revenues derived from the hajj and handouts from the British government became one of the most influential  countries in the world. Saudi Arabia was already in control of Mecca and Medina, the holiest places in Islam.

That alone gave them tremendous stature within the Muslim world. Now the great wealth derived from the oil revenues, and growing dependency of the Western  economies on that oil, made the Saudis a major player in the world politics.   In 1953 Abdul Ibn Saud died. During his lifetime he had twenty-two wives that produced for him forty-five sons. He was able to take a land of feuding nomadic Bedouin tribes and in the span of few decades give them the country that became a religious and economic superpower.

King Faisal

The eldest son of Ibn Saud also named Saud became the king, but his tenure was marred in controversy. He started spending lavishly on himself and his close circle while neglecting the basic needs of the country. It was also rumored that his lifestyle did not always live up to his stature of the guardian of the holy places. Saud was also appointing his own sons to the most senior government positions surpassing the other more experienced members of the family.

He would take long tours of Europe with a huge entourage that cost enormous amounts of money. When Saud’s brother Faisal, who acted as the deputy Prime Minister, proposed an increased budget for the modernization of the Saudi army, the Saud family and ulama approved it. The new reform cut down substantially on Saud’s personal budget, infuriating him. But his problems were far from over. The members of the Saud family and the ulama demanded King Saud to step dawn.

He had no choice and in 1964 his brother Faisal Abdul Aziz became the third king of Saudi Arabia. Faisal was the son of Ibn Saud and the direct descendant of Abdul Wahhab, from his mother’ side. The Wahhabi creed was in his blood. He showed great interest in religious studies since he was a little boy and was able to forge strong relationships within the religious establishment.

That served him well in his quest for the throne, as it was the ulama that played a major role in backing him against his deposed brother.   During the Ibn Saud’s rule the religious establishment was playing a major role in internal politics of Saudi Arabia. But due to increased popularity of socialist ideas in Egypt, promoted by Gamal Abel Nasser, and other Arab countries including some circles in Saudi Arabia. Faisal decided to lean much more heavily on the ulama.

He gave them the unprecedented powers including the complete control of the educational system. He also created additional ministries that ended up under the control of the Wahhabis. His desire to strengthen Islam within the Saudi society prompted him to reform the Committee for Encouragement of Virtue and Discouragement of Vice (also known as the Committee for Public Morality). He expanded the powers of mutawain, the religious police, who could now stop and arrest anyone who did not dress or act according to the religious rules put into the law.

The mutawain has maintained these powers to this day. A very tragic example of their power was exhibited in 2002, when a girls' school in Mecca caught on fire. First on the scene were muttawas who actually sent the girls back into the burning building to put on head scarves to preserve their modesty before they could be rescued. Fifteen girls were killed many more injured.  

Yet Faisal was also able to push through some economic reforms and carefully began introducing new technologies that greatly benefited the Saudi oil industry. That resulted in much improved economic conditions in the kingdom and the growing stature of Faisal himself. But Nasserism continued to be a major threat to Saudi interests.

As a counterbalance to that threat the Saudis in 1962 established an international organization called Muslim World League. Its main goal was to promote Islam, and Wahhabism in particular, throughout the world. Even though the organization was called the World League, Saudis played a dominant role within the organization and they were the ones who financed it.  

The cold war between Saudi Arabia and Egypt has continued for a while, as both sides were heavily involved in the Yemeni civil war, Egypt on the side of pro-Nasser elements within Yemeni society and Saudis on the side of Islamic pro-Wahhabi segment of the population.

The Arab-Israeli conflict and Six Day War completely changed the outcome of that conflict. Nasser had to withdraw a lot of his troops from Yemen and place them in the Sinai as Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Iraq were preparing themselves for war with the Israelis. After the devastating loss to in Six Day War, Yemen was the last thing on Nasser’s mind and in the aftermath of this crushing defeat the Arab disputes had to take second place to the Zionist threat.

In 1973 King Faisal imposed an oil embargo against the US and some other Western Countries in the aftermath of yet another war initiated by Egypt and Syria against Israel on the day of the Yom Kippur. The Saudi regime blamed the US for it’s support for Israel. He totally ignored the fact that it’s recent enemy Nasser and Syria were fully equipped by the Soviet block and the Americans had their own cold war to fight and could not afford the pro-Soviet Arab regimes become the dominant force in the Middle East.   In 1975 King Faisal was shot and killed by one of his nephews during a reception.

Faisal tried to modernize Saudi Arabia while giving the Wahhabis much greater power at the price of that modernization. His left a legacy of Saudi Arabia much stronger economically and militarily, while failing to bring about any social reforms. In fact the powers he gave to the religious establishment started the wheels of the radicalization of the Saudi society that eventually led to emergence of the world Map of Saudi Arabia wide Islamic militancy we are witnessing today that is not only threatening the West, but also craves the destruction of the House of Saud itself.

Muslim Brotherhood

During the 1960s Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser was trying very hard to wield his own influence on the Arab world. Nasser saw himself as the champion of the Arab revival, which he sought through Pan Arab solidarity and social reforms. But his socialist ideas of modernizing the Arab societies were a direct threat to the Saudi regime and created a lot of tension between the two countries. That period in Saudi-Egyptian relationship was called an Arab Cold War.  

But Nasser himself has found resistance for his reforms in his own back yard from the local Egyptian Islamic organization called Muslim Brotherhood, which grew independently from the Wahhabi movement. None-the less they were a lot of similarities between the two. Just like the Wahhabies the Muslim Brotherhood saw the revival of Arab culture through jihad and return to the Islam of the days of the prophet.

The motto of the Brotherhood was: "Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. Qur'an is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope".  

The Brotherhood was founded in 1929 by an Egyptian schoolteacher Hasan Al-Banna, and by the 1960s it grew to thousands of members in many Arab countries. The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood initially supported the government but Nasser's socialist inclinations eventually turned the Brotherhood against him. A Muslim Brother assassinated Egyptian Prime Minister Mahmud Nokrashi in December 1948.

The Brotherhood was banned, and Al Banna himself was killed by Egyptian Government agents in 1949. In 1954 they tried to assassinate Nasser but their attempt failed and the Brotherhood was outlawed and thousands of it’s members imprisoned. Many were tortured and eventually executed by Nasser’s regime, others fled into exile with many prominent members of the Brotherhood finding a welcome in Saudi Arabia.

The most prominent member of the Brotherhood executed by Nasser was the Sayyied Qutb, considered by many to be the father of modern Islamic extremism. Qutb was born in a remote village in Upper Egypt. As a child he received a religious education but later studied many other disciplines eventually becoming a schoolteacher.

A talented man he was hired by the Egyptian Ministry of Public Instruction. From 1948 to 1951 he traveled to America on a scholarship to study the educational system, receiving a Master's from the Colorado State College of Education. It is that experience that drastically altered his views of the Western world. American materialism and the freedoms its citizens enjoyed, especially women, was deeply disturbing to Qutb. He felt that American society was soulless and immoral.

Upon his return to Egypt he resigned from the ministry of Education and devoted himself to promotion of the Islamic values, which he felt were totally superior to those of the Western world. He became a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and after the assassination of Hasan Al-Banna its chief spokesman.   Qutb became convinced that besides the West, the main enemies of Islam were the secular Arab leaders, like Egypt’s own Nasser.

He considered Nasser’s regime corrupt and illegitimate, as it completely deviated from the Islamic values of prophet Mohammed. He advocated the establishment of the Islamic state first so then Islam could be imposed from above on Egyptian society. In his writings he provided an explanation of how a Muslim might justly assassinate a ruler. Killing political rulers under Islamic law was prohibited as even an unjust ruler was regarded as better than the complete state of anarchy. According to him, the ruler of a Muslim nation who doesn't implement Islamic law is not really a Muslim.

That being the case, they aren't really a Muslim rulers any more, but rather infidels and jihad against Muslim unbelievers was a legitimate means for protecting the faith. For Qutb Islam was not just a religion but also a political weapon to bring about the changes into Arab society.    

According to Qutb the rulers of the Muslim courtiers were not the only ones to blame for the demise of once powerful Muslims societies. It was the Western civilization that dominated the world through technological advances that initially originated in the Islamic culture during the middle ages. It was that dominant military technology that allowed the Europeans to conquer immense territories around the world. He saw with his own eyes the technological superiority of the west during his visit to America.

That’s how, in his view, the west exerted their domination over the Muslim world. He felt that the Christians completely deviated form the teachings of Jesus, and therefore no longer were considered to be the people of the Book, to whom prophet Mohammed refers to in the Koran. In fact he felt that the crusades were still ongoing and jihad against the west was not only legitimate but also necessary if Muslims were ever to regain their old glory.  

And of course there were Jews to whom Qutb devoted a lot of material. He describes them as a greedy and hateful people who conspire against the Muslims since the days of prophet Mohammed, and the creation of the state of Israel was just part of their campaign to destroy Islam.   Qutb wrote several books, some of them in prison, until he was executed in August 1966. His ideas eventually found a huge following and his books are widely read in the Muslim world today. If one wants to find the source of inspiration for the modern Jihadi movements around the world, look no further. Sayyid Qutb is to the Islamist movement what Karl Marx was to Communism or Nietzsche to Fascism.

His ideas came to life with the assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat by an Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. It is ironic that it was Sadat who gave the Muslim Brotherhood more religious freedom as the weapon against the communists, but was not forgiven for signing the peace treaty with Israel. One of the individuals arrested for his assassination was Ayman Al Zawahiri, an Egyptian doctor who eventually became Usama Bin Laden’s right hand man. The other well known students of Qutb’s ideology are Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and of course Al-Qaeda.

Academia of Jihad

It was this period in 1960’s that the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood found its home in Wahhabi dominated universities. Sayyid’s brother, Mohammed Qutb, exiled from Egypt came to Saudi Arabia where he published his brother’s books and taught in Islamic schools. Pakistani born Mawlana Abu Mawdudi, a journalist turned Islamic scholar and an ideological mentor to Sayyid Qutb, was also invited to teach the Saudi youth an ideology of jihad.

Another notable radical teaching in Saudi schools was the blind Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman, who is serving a life sentence for his role in 1993 World Trade Center bombing. During the 1980’s Ayman Al Zawahiri was welcomed to Saudi Arabia despite his involvement in the assassination of Anwar Sadat. Islamic intellectuals from Egypt poured into Saudi Arabia taking a prominent role in the country’s academia. In 1961 the Saudis unveiled the University of Medina which, unlike other colleges, was not under the jurisdiction of Ministry of the Education but rather under the control of the grand mufti of the kingdom, Sheikh Mohammed ibn Ibrahim Al al-Sheikh.

 It was sheikh Mohammed, the direct descendant of Abdul Wahhab, who provided major backing to King Faisal during his power struggle with his brother King Saud. Ever since then sheikh was the closest adviser to the King Faisal and was greatly influential in turning Faisal from the ruler who promised major reforms to someone who became the most stout propagandist and supporter of Wahhabi ideology.  

The University of Medina would invite students from all over the Muslim world to study the Wahhabi brand of Islam. In fact, eventually the majority of the student body of the university would be non-Saudi. Saudis were not known for their extreme hospitality for the fellow Muslims from the other countries but these foreign students would take their newly acquired knowledge to their own countries to spread the Wahhabi creed beyond the Saudi borders.

Mawlana Mawdudi, has become the trustee of the new university. Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Baz was appointed as vice president of the university. Sheikh bin Baz would himself become a grand mufti in the 1990s.   In 1967 King Faisal established King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah, with main emphases on the Islamic studies. Both universities would produce thousands of graduates who, over the next 20-30 years, spread the militant Islam all over the world. 

Well, what exactly did they study and why upon their graduation they would be so radicalized?  We do not need to dig very far but rather look at some of the ideas their  teachers advocated:  
- Mawlana Mawdudi - "Islam is a revolutionary doctrine and the system that overthrows the governments. It seeks to overturn the whole universal social order and establish it anew. Islam seeks the world. It’s not satisfied by peace of land but demands the whole universe.
- Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Baz - "According to the Koran it is a requirement of the Muslims to be hostile to Jews, Christians and other polytheists. Only through jihad against infidels could Muslims remove all obstacles and spread Islam worldwide".  

It’s is chilling to read these words, as they were spoken many years ago, when Usama bin Laden was still a young boy and not the warrior for jihad he is today. The chilling part is how familiar these words are. Familiar because we hear them time and again today coming out of mouths and the pens of the Islamic extremists. So bin Laden did not write the book on hate. It was already written and not necessarily for him. There were thousands of graduates of this ideology and somebody was bound to pick up the sword of jihad. It was just a matter of time.  

The Enemy Within

King Faisal was succeeded by his brother Khalid who served as a king between 1975 and 1982. Two major events took place during those seven years that had a great impact on the path the Saudi Arabia took over the next twenty years. The first event took place in November of 1979, when Juhaiman al-Utaibi, a Wahhabi extremist who graduated from the University of Medina, and 250 of his followers took over the Grand Mosque in Mecca by force and held a few hundred people hostage for two weeks.

After consulting with ulama the decision was made by King Khalid to deal with the assailants by force. There were hundreds of casualties on the both sides and it was rumored that French commandos helped in putting down this revolt. The incident exposed the vulnerability of the Saudi regime.   Juhaiman al-Utaibi’s main purpose was to topple the Saud family as he believed that they were a corrupt entity.

He called them infidels who deviated from teachings of the Koran and sold their soul to the West. He denounced the personal behavior of Saudi princes, such as drinking, gambling and womanizing, as unacceptable for the rulers of an Islamic state. It’s important to note that the ulama condemned the actions of al-Utaibi, but refused to condemn his message.

The most troubling for King Khalid was the fact that the militants were originally from the Najd province the birthplace of the Wahhabi movement. Even though al-Utaibi and almost 60 of his followers were arrested and eventually publicly executed, his death was not in vain. Right after the revolt was dealt with, the Saudi regime cracked down on the very limited freedoms of their citizens in the very harsh way, adapting the very ideas of the executed al-Utaibi. Women were no longer allowed to appear on TV, music was forbidden in the media, stores were required to be closed during the mandatory daily prayers and criticisms of the West and US in particular was not discouraged.  

The other event that took place around the same time, the Saudis had no control over. It was the Iranian Revolution.

The Iranian Revolution

If February 1979 the seemingly stable regime of the Iranian shah Resa Pachlavi has collapsed. Just like Saudi Arabia, Iran was one of the major producers of oil in the world. The Iranian economy that grew with oil revenues was dependant on the huge mass of Iranian workers who served the oil industry.

But the problem was that shah spent a big portion of the oil revenues on the modernization of the army and maintaining the lavish lifestyles of his family and the Iranian elite at the expense of the impoverished working class. The corruption was rampant. Savak, the secret police, could arrest and torture people with impunity. The Disconnect between the ruling class and the masses grew wider and wider until it got to the point that even the peasants and the intelligentsia took to the streets. When Iranian army’s loyalties split between the shah and sympathy for the people the shah’s regime was finished.

Ayatollah Khomeini returned from his Parisian exile as the savior who would bring Iran from the ruins of the Pachlavi regime and the anarchy that ensued after his departure into the new society that lived under the Islamic law. During the euphoria of the revolution, majority of the people who chanted "death to America" and "long live Khomeini" could not have imagined that what they were chanting for was the birth of another regime which would prove to be as brutal as the regime of the deposed shah and offer even fewer freedoms, especially to the women.

The mullahs did not waste a lot of time and concentrated the power in the hands of the members of the religious consul that chooses it’s Supreme Leader and has the last word on any internal or external issues. It closely resembled the way the Soviet Politburo used to select their leaders.

The new regime would also prove to be a great contributor to the instability in the Middle East as Iran began financing and arming many terrorist organizations around the world. The bombing of the US Army barracks in Lebanon; the bombing of the Kobar Towers in Saudi Arabia and the Jewish Center in Buenos Aires are just a few examples.

Even though the Iranians are Shiites and the majority of the Muslims follow the Sunni brand of Islam, the reverberations of the Iranian revolution were felt in all the corners of the Muslim world. And there was a reason to worry, as practically all-Muslim countries are dominated by the dictatorial regimes, where the power goes from father to son regardless of the country’s political structure.

The revolution provided a great inspiration to jihadists of every creed. Now there was a blueprint on how to bring about an Islamic revolution in their countries   For Saudis the Iranian revolution was a huge shock. Now there was another Muslim country that claimed to be living under the Islamic law and rival the Saudis influence on the Muslim world. It had it’s own ideology, it’s own oil and the wherewithal to export their own brand of Islam to the other Muslim countries. In addition, the Wahhabies deeply despise Shiites.

They do not even consider Shiites to be Muslims and it was not too long ago that Wahhabies used to invade and plunder Shiite populated areas of the Arabian Peninsula killing as many people in the process as they could.   When in September of 1980, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded Iran, the Saudis supported the Sunni dominated regime of Saddam Hussein, even though Saddam’s Baath Party was anti-religious, pan-Arabist entity in the mold of late president of Egypt Gamal Abdel Nasser, the sworn enemy of the Saudi regime.

Like Nasser, Saddam Hussein saw himself as a new leader of the Arab world and was not shy when it came invading his neighbors. The Iran-Iraq war lasted for 8 brutal years taking millions of lives. When it ended in 1988 neither side has made any significant gains and only fa ew years later Saddam invaded Kuwait with his eye on the big prize, the Saudi Arabia.  

The Saudis could not just sit back and allow Khomeini to be the face of Islam to the rest of the world and especially to the other Muslims. In 1987 they called the Muslim World League conference attended by representatives of over one hundred countries. They wanted to show the Muslim world that they are still the major religious and geopolitical power. The Saudis used the conference to condemn the Khomeini regime. Khomeini in turn countered by calling the Saudis the "vile and ungodly Wahhabies". The new Middle East cold war between the Sunni and Shiia Islam has began and it is still alive today with Iraq as new battlefield.

Financial Jihad

In 1982, after the death of King Khalid, his brother Fahd came to power. He understood early on that in the neighborhood where the likes of ayatollah Khomeini and Saddam Hussein were in power, he needed a strong ally he could rely on for protection. The U.S. was such an ally. But in the country where any fraternity with Christians would be highly unpopular, the new king needed to convince the religious authority to accept the increased presence of American power.

The ulama complied but, at the price. The price was even stricter religious laws enforced in the country that already was one of the most repressive in the world.   But Saudis did not just hire themselves a powerful bodyguard. They went a step further. The decision was made to export the Wahhabi ideology to the rest of the world on a massive scale and doing it by using the most effective weapon ever created by men – MONEY.

The turmoil of the Iran-Iraq war, which involved the two major oil producers, pushed prices of oil to the record highs. The oil revenues were pouring in the Saudi treasury. It was Sheik bin Baz who advocated that that this wealth needed to be spent wisely. He advocated a financial jihad. The huge sums of money would be spent on advancing the Wahhabi ideology all over the world including the United States. But the biggest donations went to Muslim countries, especially Pakistan, a Sunni dominated Muslim State, that also happened to be bordering Iran.

Thousands upon thousands of religious schools, or madrassas, began to open up to the impoverished populations of countries like Afghanistan and Indonesia, where these schools would be the only shot for a lot of children at any kind of education. Of course they did not learn there any skills that would help them to better their lives. What they did study was just the Koran and how to fight polytheists, infidels and the like. And of course the all-encompassing concept of jihad that needed to be waged on unbelievers.

The staggering amounts of petro-dollars were spent to open up madrassas, mosques and Islamic centers in dozens of countries. But at the end of the day the goal was not to improve the lives of those peoples but to have the armies of newly brainwashed young men to wage a jihad on the rest of the world to advance the interests of the Wahhabi creed.

Abdullah Azzam and an Afghan Campaign

When people in the West think about the one person most responsible for taking the idea of the jihad or the holly war to the global arena, the name that pops to mind is Usama bin Laden. Yet it was a man called Abdullah Azzam who is mostly responsible for taking the fight against the non-believers to their own backyard.  

Abdullah Azzam was born near the West Bank Palestinian town of Jenin. He grew up idolizing Sayyied Qutb and showed a lot of dedication in mastering the Islamic studies. He ended up going to some of the best universities the Arab countries had to offer, including the University of Damascus and famous Al-Aznar University in Egypt. It was during that period that Azzam joined the Muslim Brotherhood. He started teaching in the University of Jordan in Amman, but was dismissed due to his Muslim Brotherhood ties.

He fled to Saudi Arabia where became a professor in the University of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. There he worked with the brother of his idol Sayyied Qutb. Mohammed Qutb has lived in Saudi Arabia for years publishing his brother’s books and teaching his philosophy to Saudi youth.   The most famous student Mohammed Qutb and Abdullah Azzam shared was the tall young Saudi named Usama bin Laden. Even though Abdullah Azzam was a lifelong member of the Muslim Brotherhood he was greatly influenced by Wahhabi teachings while living in Saudi Arabia.

He developed a great relationship with Sheik bin Baz who put his stamp of approval on Azzam’s writings and ideas. Not surprisingly the main theme of Azzam’s writings were centered around the idea of jihad. What separated Azzam from many others who promoted jihad is that he put his ideas into practice.   In 1979 the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. Abdulla Azzam was the first notable Muslim who called to arms.

With the blessing of his Saudi patrons he moved to Peshawar Pakistan, closer to the action, where by early 1980’s he was running the offices of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Muslim World League out of a modest storefront raising money and recruiting volunteers to flight against the Soviets. Even though the fighters came from all over the Muslim world, the majority of the financial backing came from the Saudis and the charitable organizations. Abdullah Azzam became the point man in supporting the Afghan resistance against the Soviets.

He established close relationships with Gubbaldin Hikmetyar, the leader of one the multiple Afghan resistance factions and Abdul Sayyaf an Afghan Islamic scholar whom the Saudis sent to Peshawar to promote Wahhabism. In 1984 Azzam was joined by Usama bin Laden. The two of them established an organization called Maktab al-Khidamat or MAC. They opened branches in thirty countries, including Europe and United States, where they were raising money and distributed propaganda material amongst local Muslim populations.

Abdullah Azzam himself visited the US on numerous occasions in the 1980s. Azzam, who was known for his great oratorical skills, would deliver fiery speeches in the local mosques. According to Steve Emerson, the well-known terrorist expert, it was in 1988 in Al-Farook Mosque in Brooklyn that Azzam was calling on carrying out the jihad on infidels even in America. His associate Usama bin-Laden would eventually follow up on that call striking the World Trade Center located only few miles away from where Azzam was delivering his speech.  

The US was pretty active in Afghanistan during those years, as Afghanistan became the major battlefield of the Cold War. It was the introduction of the Stinger missiles by CIA to Afghan fighters and the training they provided that turned the tide of war if favor of the Afghan resistance. Of course the jihadists, claiming that by the time the Stingers were provided to the Afghans the war was already won, later vehemently denied it. But the facts tell a different story.  

It was Soviet air power that operated all over Afghan territory with impunity, inflicting massive casualties, numbering in tens of thousands, on Afghan fighters and the civilians. Afghan resistance had very limited ability to fight against it until they got their hands on Stingers. Afghan fighters learned pretty quickly how to use this shoulder carried missile launcher with deadly precision. The Soviet Air Force began losing a lot of their fighter planes and military helicopters. The war for Soviet Army had became costly not only in human life but also very expensive financially.

It has been argued that Soviet Union never fully recovered from the Afghan war and that is what eventually brought about the collapse of the Soviet regime. During his recruitment speeches, Azzam would tell the stories of the incredible fighting spirit of mujaheddin warriors attributing to them almost mystical powers in their fight against much stronger enemy because God was on their side. And even though Afghan resistance fought fiercely against the Soviets, it was the combination of their relentless resolve, the collapse of the morale of the Soviet army and the Stingers that forced the Soviet Army out of Afghanistan in 1989.  

 By the late 1980s, when it became apparent that the Afghan war was near its end, Azzam was already thinking about expending his jihad throughout the world. The money was pouring into MAC from international charities, the Saudi Intelligence, Muslim World League and other sources. There was no lack of volunteers ether. These men would become known as Afghan Arabs. Years later these men could be found fighting wars from Bosnia to Chechnya and committing acts of terror from the Philippines to Spain. Azzam’s dream of worldwide jihad was becoming reality. Nothing short of the old Muslim glory and the defeat of infidels all over the world would suffice.  

In 1989 Azzam and two of his sons were assassinated in Peshawar. Nobody claimed  responsibility. Some speculate that Soviet Intelligence took revenge on him. Others say it was the rival Islamic groups wary of Azzam’s growing power and popularity who were responsible for it. Azzam left behind the legacy of how to take the theory of jihad and actually practice it. He also left behind the powerful financial and recruiting infrastructure, that later would be used by his student Usama bin Laden to built Al Qaeda and wage a jihad against the only remaining superpower, the US.

Taliban

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan has created millions of Afghan refugees’ the majority of whom fled to Pakistan and lived in poverty stricken refugee camps along the Afghan-Pakistani border. After the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan some of the refugees began to return to their homeland only to find it still at war, except this time amongst the Afghans themselves.  

Even though in 1992 an alliance of mujahideen has set up an interim government with Burhaneddin Rabbani as the president, the new government could hardly control Kabul, with the rest of the country being divided into arias of control amongst the warlords. That division was religious and ethnic based. While the majority of the Afghans are ethnic Pushtus, there are other nationalities such as Tajics, Uzbeks, Hazaras and Turkmens that have lived in Afghanistan for hundreds of years.

The areas of control would change hands sometimes on a weekly basis, with the civilian population getting the worst of these exchanges. Banditry and lawlessness became the norm. So it was not surprising that the religious student movement that emerged from the rural areas of Afghanistan and the refugee camps in Pakistan found support amongst the Afghan population exhausted from the years of war.  

In 1994 under the leadership of a Kandahar based mullah named Mohammed Omar, the Taliban movement began. Taliban took over the country by promising the citizens to end the anarchy and chaos brought about by the civil war.   But the emergence of the Taliban as the major power in the country began with most modest goals, none of which had anything to do with religion. Afghanistan for centuries was used as the major trading route for Pakistani businessman and Pakistani trucking mafia, which contributed heavily to Pakistan’s economy.

Due to the anarchy and all out fighting between the Afghan warlords and banditry along the trucking convoy routes the trading business for Pakistan all but stopped. Pakistani intelligence made a deal with about 200 Taliban fighters to clear the roads near the Pakistani border from the bandits with the offer of a permanent stipend. Taliban fighters routed the local bandits and with the help of Pakistani advisers took over huge arms depot where they seized as many as 18,000 Kalashnikov rifles and ammunition left over by the Soviet Army.

As the Taliban took over the areas of control from local warlords they established the Sharia Law in the areas of their control. The word spread amongst the Afghan refugees in Pakistan that an Islamic movement has emerged in Kandahar under Mullah Omar’s leadership with the goal of uniting the country. Volunteers poured from refugee camps and the religious schools from all over Pakistan to fill the swelling ranks of the emerging Taliban army. Within a couple of years Taliban had the majority of the country under its control.

Even though they originally promised to treat all ethnic and religious minorities with respect, that notion soon disappeared. Taliban represented primarily the majority ethnic group of Pushtuns and at the end were pursuing their own ethnic interests as well as an agenda to instill their own form of Islam on all citizens of Afghanistan.   Religion has always played an important role in Afghanistan. For the most part Afghans were historically pretty tolerant when it came to the practice of Islam. Ninety percent of Afghans belong to the Sunni Hanafi sect, considered to be the most liberal of the four Sunni schools of thought.

Another factor for the practice of moderate Islam is the popularity of Sufism. The Sufis built their faith on prayers, dances, music and sessions of physical shaking in a permanent quest for truth.   Islamic extremism in Afghanistan emerged with the Taliban’s rise to power. Even though the tradition of religious schools in Afghanistan dates back to the seventh century, it was the way the religious schools taught their students in the impoverished refugee camps of Pakistan that brought about the way Taliban interpreted Islam. Originally the religious schools in refugee camps were established in the tradition of Deobandi philosophy.

The Deobandi tradition originated in India with the aim of rejuvenating Islamic society under British colonial rule. It remained prevalent in Pakistan even after the partition from India. The extreme form of Deobandi Islam was heavily preached in refugee camps by Pakistani Islamic parties and since a lot of these schools were in the rural areas the teachers for the most part were semi-literate mullahs who themselves were not religious scholars by a long shot.

The finished product was very far from the original reformist agenda of Deobandi School. In addition, the Saudis poured tons of money into these madrassas (the religious schools) and because of it greatly influenced the schools curricula. The type of Islam that ended up being taught there was based very little on Deobandi and very much on the traditional extremist Wahhabi school of thought.   It should come as no surprise that the new Taliban regime was recognized only by Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates.

Saudi Support for the Taliban regime and their military campaign was very substantial. Member of the Saudi Royal Family, prince Turki, visited Kandahar regularly, providing financial as well as material support. Saudi Wahhabi ulema (the religious counsel) along with Saudi Intelligence developed a close relationship with the Taliban. The two key players who pushed the Royal Family to support the Taliban were Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bin Baz, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia and Sheikh Mohammed Bin Juber, the Minister of Justice of Saudi Arabia.  

 In return for Saudi support, Taliban adapted some Wahhabi practices such as an establishment of religious police, which brutally suppressed any freedoms enjoyed by the Afghan people prior to the Taliban. Taliban took their fanaticism to another level. Soccer games were forbidden and the stadiums used for public executions instead. Television, radio and Internet were all forbidden. Men were required to wear beards and were punished if they did not.  

But the most vicious repression Taliban had  saved for women. Girls were banned from attending the schools. Women could not leave home without being accompanied by a male relative and when they were out on the street they were supposed to wear burka that covered them from head to toe. Any woman that was caught breaking these rules was subjected to beatings, or even execution, at the hands of "Ministry for the protection of virtue and prevention of vice".   In 1997 one of the Taliban leaders, mullah Rabbani, met in Riyadh with King Fadh of Saudi Arabia.

The king praised Taliban for imposing the Sharia law in areas of their control and Rabbani in turn sang praises for the king and the support the Saudis provided for the Taliban. "The Saudis have promised us as much as we need " boasted another Taliban leader, Mullah Mohammed Stanakzai.   There was also another reason why the Wahhabi ideas were gaining influence within the Taliban leadership. In 1996 Usama bin Laden moved his residence to Kandahar, close to the  Taliban leaders.

He greatly influenced how the Taliban perceived the world, as most of them had never been outside Afghanistan. In fact mullah Omar married one of bin Laden’s daughters to seal their union in the same way Abdul Wahhab and Ibn Saud did a couple of centuries earlier.   In 1996, with the support of the Pakistani Intelligence agency ISI, Taliban overthrew the legitimate regime of president Burhanuddin Rabbani and established their own regime that was based on the narrowest interpretation of Sharia law.  

Pakistan’s support of the Taliban was very substantial. It included the funding, diplomatic support, military training, recruiting fighters from Pakistan and other countries. Pakistan’s support was not limited to logistics only. Pakistani army officers helped Taliban with the planning and directing major military operations and on several occasions directly providing combat support.   As many as thirty trucks a day were reported crossing the Afghan border from Pakistan, carrying ammunition for the Taliban fighters.

 Such deliveries were in direct violation of U.N. sanctions. It was estimated that up to 25-30 percent of the Taliban army was made up of Pakistanis and volunteers from Arab states and North Africa.   By 2001 Taliban controlled almost the entire country with the exception of a small region in the north under the control of Ahmad Shah Masud.

On September 9th  2001 Shah Masud was assassinated. Two men from Algeria posing as journalists apparently hid the explosive device in their camera while interviewing Masud at his headquarters. Masud had repeatedly accused the Taliban of using foreign warriors, particularly from Arab countries and neighboring Pakistan. Mullah Omar did not have connections stretching as far as Algiers, but Usama bin Laden did. The support of most vicious terrorism in the name of God was an integral part of the union between the Taliban and Wahhabi ideology represented by bin Laden.  

By 2001 bin Laden had thousands of jihadists from all over the world training in his camps in Afghanistan with the blessing of their Taliban hosts and financial and moral support of many millions of Muslims all over the world.   Even after the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania and the attack on Cole the activities of bin Laden and his Taliban hosts were primarily viewed as law enforcement issues. The caricature-like figures of the Taliban fighters shown by the Western media evoked more of a smile then a fear. Public declaration of the holy war by Usama bin Laden against the US was met by many as nothing more than an empty threat.  

The US have urged the Saudis to exert pressure on the Taliban to deport Usama bin Laden. But it was an event of much lesser importance that eventually led the Saudis to sever diplomatic relationships with the Taliban. The event was an insult directed by Mullah Omar against the visiting member of the Royal family, prince Turki. So much for the foreign policy based on the national interests of Saudi Arabia. Official Saudi aid reportedly stopped, but Saudi money and support continued to find its way to the Taliban in the form of private contributions.  

After the atrocity of the September 11th on American soil, Taliban was given an ultimatum by the US ether to give-up bin Laden or face extermination. Taliban chose extermination.   Conversely the new Pakistani leader, Pervez Musharif, understood the gravity of the September 11th event immediately. Rather then face the grave consequences, he chose to cooperate with US and is currently considered a US ally in the war on terror.   The other major Taliban ally, the Saudis, initially looked like they escaped unharmed by all the Taliban and Usama bin Laden fiasco. Unfortunately for them everything in the world has a price.

Usama bin Laden and Islamo-Fascism

Bin Laden today is viewed by many as some kind of Muslim Robin Hood who is fighting for the dignity of his people and is protecting Islam from the infidels who are out to destroy the Muslim civilization. The fact that bin Laden proclaimed many times to the world that he was at war with the West have fell on the deaf ears.  

The politically correct thing to say is that only a tiny minority of Muslims supports his views. Well, the political correctness in this case can be detrimental to our health. To think that bin Laden is a freak of nature and if we can only kill him all our troubles would be resolved is a myth. His emergence was not accidental. He did not just appear out of the thin air to announce his hatred for the West.

Even though he did not show extremist tendencies as an adolescent, his environment of growing up in the Whahhabi-dominated society eventually caught up with him. His complete transformation took place under the tutelage of his college professors such as: Mohammed Qutb, Abdullah Azzam and others in the University of Jedda. His professors were put in those universities with the blessing and money provided by the Saudi Royal Family.

The curriculum of Wahhabi doctrine was developed and approved by Saudi Religious Consul or "ulema". Incidentally that curriculum did not change since 9/11. The scary part is that thousands upon thousands of young men graduate from Islamic Universities in Saudi Arabia, just like bin Laden did, and a lot of them no doubt share his views. And yet like bin Laden they are the product of the society that leads a dual life and lies to itself and the world and seems to exist with one desire in mind – to survive for as long as possible.  

Bin Laden was able to support terrorist camps in Somalia, Egypt, Sudan, Yemen and Afghanistan. Even with his considerable resources, bin Laden alone would not have been able to provide for them all. After 9/11 dozens of Muslim charities that were implicated in supporting terrorism were shut down in United States alone. God only knows how many of them are still operating outside the US. People who are doing the collecting at these charity events are hardly hiding what the money is being collected for. Yet they find millions more-then-willing contributors.

The perfect example is the Saudi government-ran telethon in April of 2002. The Saudis organized a two-day telethon in support of the Palestinian Intifada, which raised over 100mln dollars. Callers to Saudi telethon said they were donating money to ensure the continuation of suicide bombings. The host of the telethon Shaikh Saad Al-Burak, a Wahhabi cleric close to the Royal family, a few days later was taped preaching in the Riyadh government mosque. Here are just a couple of samples of what his sermon was about:

"Which is better to suffer a slow death or die as the martyr on your way to heaven? A death that you will be forgiven on the first drop of your blood" "I am against America until this life ends, until the day of Judgement" "Muslim Brothers in Palestine do not have any mercy or compassion on Jews, their blood, their money, and their flesh. Their women are yours to take legitimately. God made them yours. Why don’t you enslave their women? Why don’t you wage jihad. Why don’t you pillage them?"

How is what Mr. Al-Burak is saying is so different from what bin Laden and Al Zawahiri have been saying all these years? It sounds like a song written by the same composer and this particular singer, is sitting pretty in his comfortable home in Riyadh, while bin Laden is freezing his bones in the mountains of Afghanistan. Bin Laden’s sin was not killing the enemies of Islam or organizing the terrorist activities around the world.

His mistake was that he accused the Saudi Royal Family of treason, corruption and squandering of the country’s resources on personal lavish lifestyles. I would hate to agree on anything with UBL, but in this case he is at least partially right.   The Saudi ruling elite with its Western education and Western friends enjoys a lifestyle very few in this world can even dream about and yet it’s legitimacy and survival depends on conservative fundamentalism Wahhabi style.

The alliance forged between Abdul Wahhab and Mohammed ibn Saud in 1744 is the cornerstone of existence of the Saudi Kingdom and that is not going to change. It’s like a death dance out of which there is no escape.  

 It’s funny to hear the world leaders appealing to the Saudi regime to curtail their support for terrorist movements around the world and stop teaching their young people the ideology of hate. The moment the Royal family stops supporting the Wahhabi lobby its days would be numbered. At the same time the Wahhabi lobby will never give up what is most sacred to them, their brand of Islam. Their devotion to it is fanatical.  

Our allies in Saudi Arabia, who bankrolled the Wahhabi movement over the last three decades with their oil revenues, are not exactly feeling safe these days. The Saudi regime is not worried about their outside enemies. The infidel West, who is taught to be hated in Saudi schools, would never allow anyone to harm the biggest oil producer in the world. It’s the enemy from within that would eventually bring dawn the house of Saud. Saudi Arabia’s export of Wahhabism has eventually boomeranged back home.

These days a lot more people inside the Saudi Arabia are beginning to question the legitimacy of Royal family. In fact it went much farther then just asking questions. 2004 marked the first suicide bombing in Saudi Arabia. These days the terrorist activity in the kingdom is a norm. Terrorists primarily target the foreign workers without whose presence the oil industry in the Kingdom would come to a standstill. But just like bin Laden preached, the jihadists want all non-Muslims to leave the land of Prophet.  

Billions of dollars spent on education in the Saudi Arabia have produced, for the most part, the religious clergy rather then doctors and engineers. There is hardly a week that goes by that someone is not killed by home grown terrorists. And victims are not limited just to foreigners but other Muslims as well. It was natural that Saudi public was shocked. It’s one thing to blow up Jews in Israel, they are just monkeys that do not deserve to live.

To bomb Americans is ok because of their polices they kind of asked for it. But to have bombings in Saudi Arabia and kill other Muslims is a sacrilege. So Saudis publicly joined the war on terror, except they are the biggest sponsors of it. Well, it’s a paradox.   Its fascinating to hear whom the Saudis held responsible for the terrorist activity in their country. In reaction to the May 1, 2004 terrorist shooting in the offices of an oil contractor in Yunbu', Saudi Arabia, in which seven, among them two Americans, were killed, Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah ibn Abd Al-'Aziz stated at a gathering of Saudi dignitaries that "the Zionists" were to blame.

The official government Saudi Press Agency (SPA) ran the following headline: "SPA - Crown Prince says Zionism is behind the actions in the kingdom." The SPA site reported further that Crown Prince Abdullah declared while addressing a May 2 gathering of Saudi officials and members of the Royal Family: "It became clear to us now that Zionism is behind terrorist actions in the kingdom. This has been established. I can say that I am 95% sure of that."

I wonder if the Crown Prince found an inspiration from one of the masterpieces written by Dr. Goebbels or he came up with it himself. In the meantime Usama bin Laden grew to this mythic figure that can only be rivaled by the 12th century Muslim hero, the great Saladin who freed Jerusalem from the hands of crusaders.

But I beg to differ. Saladin was a military man who fought against a well-armed adversary and after he defeated them, unlike many other rulers of his day, he did not conduct a wholesale slaughter. In fact he showed mercy. Nor is bin Laden an Islamic scholar. He has always surrounded himself by people that knew more about Islam then he did. In the beginning it was his university professor and mentor Abdullah Azzam, today it’s his right-hand man Ayman al Zawahiri.

Their philosophy is closer to Hitler then Prophet Mohammed. Bin Laden wants to clear the entire Arabian Peninsula of infidels. That includes the Muslims who do not adhere to Wahhabi ideology. Only their kind has a right to live in the land of the Prophet. If they accomplish their goal it would not take the new Islamo-Fascists too long to decide that only their kind has a right to live, period.   If history of Communism or Nazism teaches us anything it is that they will not be satisfied to exist in their surroundings and will eventually try to conquer the peoples beyond their borders. In fact that’s what Wahhabies did time and again in the 18th, 19th and the 20the centuries.

The goal of militant Islam is to dominate the world. It is also becoming pretty clear that they will stop at nothing to accomplish that goal. Nothing is off the table. On February 23, 1998 at the meeting of International Islamic Front for jihad against Jews and Crusaders bin Laden issued a fatwa ( a religious ruling): "To kill the Americans and their allies – civilians and military – is a duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to" It’s worth noting that bin Laden does not distinguish between government, military or civilians.

Even children are a fare game. When Nazis sent Jewish children to the gas chambers, they did not view them as kids but rather as the enemy that needs to be exterminated. When Timothy McVeigh was asked if he felt bad for the children that died during the Oklahoma City bombing, McVeigh refused to answer the question. It was pretty obvious where he stood on this subject.   On August 9, 2001 a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up at the Sbarro pizzeria in downtown Jerusalem killing 15 people, including seven children.

A month later Al-Najah University in Nablus opened an art exhibition that included a re-enactment of the suicide bombing at the Sbarro pizzeria with body parts and pizza slices strewn around the room. The exhibit was designed by students who support the militant Islamic group Hamas, which carried out the Jerusalem attack. The fact that children, including toddlers, were amongst the victims made no difference. The female students walked around the exhibition with smiles on their faces. The hate was stronger then any maternal instinct a woman should have when she sees a child.  

On September 3, 2004 the Chechen terrorists took the lives of at least 338 people after they seized a school building with over 1000 students and adults in Beslan, Russia. Amongst the dead were 156 children. As children ran for their lives, these warriors of God were shooting them in the back. Enemy has no gender, no color and no age. Their leader, a former officer in the Soviet Army and a recently Wahhabized warlord, Shamil Basaev, sent them there to start the war that would spread all over the Caucasus.  

 It seems that with so many terrorist acts taking place around the world almost on a daily basis, the Islamo-Fascists need more spectacular attacks all the time in order to keep the public interested. The Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has graduated to the filming of the beheadings of hated infidels, as his favorite TV station Al-Jazira has no problems posting it on the Internet. But as the world got used to these beheadings it no longer has the shock value of Nick Berg execution. This bin Laden wannabe has no limit on how far he will go.

Even the innocent Muslim children are no longer a taboo, but a legitimate target in this war of ideologies. But there is the problem with these ideologies of hate. They eventually hit home as the Saudis are beginning to learn first hand. What goes around comes around.   The 20th century produced some of the biggest monsters the world has ever seen; Stalin, Mao, Hitler, Pol Pot and Saddam Hussein just to name a few. And each of them armed with their own brand of ideology took their people on the journey of self-destruction.

Each of above-mentioned leaders is responsible for the deaths of millions of people, mostly their own. In each of those cases the biggest losers turned out to be their own people.   Usama bin Laden may not be the Saladin of the 21st century and the version of UBL we see on TV is most likely an exaggerated one. Never the less he was able to spark some deep-seated rage amongst many Muslims that has been boiling for the long time. What bin Laden showed them is how to channel that rage against their enemies.  

For years the leaders of the Muslim countries have been telling their populations that it’s the West that is responsible for all their ills and not their own dictatorial regimes that been sucking the blood out of their peoples for decades. Add to that the full-scale religious propaganda campaign depicting Christians and Jews as monsters that kill and abuse Muslims and have a secret plan to keep them down for eternity.

In fact it’s their beloved leaders like Saddam Hussein, Hafez Asad and Gamal Abdel Nasser that have been doing the killing and the torturing for years. In 1980 Hafez al-Asad, the president of Syria at that time, ordered the massacre of supporters of Muslim Brotherhood in the province of Hama. Within a few weeks an estimated 25-35.000 people were killed, primarily civilians.

The Syrian military used tanks, artillery and air force to kill their own people. More Muslims were killed in one month by other Muslims then in all the Arab-Israeli wars, including the latest Palestinian uprising. Yet Assad is remembered with reverence while Sharon is called a murderer. Oh and by the way, they are still finding the mass graves in Iraq.   This rage, so carefully nurtured for years by Muslim political and religious leaders is already finding its way back to its origins. Outraged masses are perfect weapon for revolutions. I would strongly suggest some history lessons for these gentlemen.  

Enlightenment and Darkness

It is not the purpose of this article to denigrate the Muslims or the religion of Islam. After all it was the Islam’s golden age (between 750 and 1250 C.E.) that produced the great gains in science, art and philosophy. It was far from perfect as Jews, Christians and other religious minorities were obligated to pay a special tax for belonging to a different faith, but in most cases civilizations conquered by Islam remained administratively and intellectually intact.

Christians and Jews were able to coexist in an atmosphere of tolerance learning from each other and incorporating into their lives the best the other side had to offer. It was during that period that algebra was born. Industries like ceramics, glass, metalwork, textiles and woodwork flourished. Medicine was developed as a science based on observation and experiment, rather than on conjecture. Works of Greek philosophers were translated into Arabic and taught in universities.

The reason for that explosion of thought was because that civilization was multi-cultural, multi-religious and multi-ethnic. People who made the largest contributions were Muslim Arabs and Persians, Jews and Christians, Hindus and Buddhists. The influences on each other’s cultures were immeasurable. It’s the period that produced Avicenna, Maimonides and ibn Rashid, just to name few, who greatly contributed to the progress of all humanity.

What a drop from above mentioned names to Abdul Wahhab, Abdullah Azzam and Usama bin Laden. From the days when there were as many scientists as they were mullahs to the days when one of the richest countries in the world like Saudi Arabia can not operate without importing foreign workers. From enlightenment and progress to culture that promotes hatred and suicide bombings.   Most Muslims today live under dictatorship ether military or religious.

The biggest export of the last 50 years coming out of these countries besides oil is religious fundamentalism. Thanks to unlimited amounts of money coming out of the oil-rich Persian Gulf states, jihadist movements can be found today around the globe from the Philippines to Chechnya. Some perfect examples are the recently created countries of Central Asia like Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.

These countries found independence after the disintegration of the Soviet Union more then a decade ago. The people, that for centuries practiced the tolerant version of Islam, were wahhabized almost overnight. The formula was already in place:

- Find a country that has a poor Muslim population dissatisfied with their current condition and their rulers
- Find a charismatic leader that would take it upon himself to educate his people about benefits of living under Sharia Law
- Throw thousands of free Korans and propaganda books at them explaining that It’s the Western world, infidels and Zionists that are responsible for their poor state of being If you throw enough money around, you’ll find a lot converts rather quickly
- Give it some time and you’ll find that a lot of these people, that only recently were engaged in all the sins known to men, are now driven by the belief in their divine purpose to change the world

Some of these countries ended up with prolonged civil wars that brought nothing but death, poverty and misery to its populations. This was a present from the Wahhabis to their fellow Muslims.   There is not a day that passes by without a carnage taking place somewhere in the world. It’s no longer limited to Israel. Today its Shiite mosques in Pakistan, tourist resorts in Egypt, schools in Russia, trains in India. I do not intend to cover the entire globe here. I think you got the picture.

The militant Islam declared a war on the world. The dream that Usama bin Laden had when he started his jihad was to ignite the entire Muslim world to join him. I have to admit, he is not doing a bad job.   And yet today the majority of the world hates George Bush more then they do Usama bin Laden. I do not remember seeing any demonstrations against UBL and his message of hate, or against ethnic cleansing of Christians in Darfur, Sudan or against one big concentration camp called North Korea where people are being slowly starved to death. No, the world is too busy hating George W and marching against American Imperialism.

I think it’s time to stop beating up on an imaginary enemy and identify the real one. It’s about time for the world to recognize the mortal danger that it faces. We no longer live in the 15th or 16th century where wars were fought with bows and arrows. Technology today offers a vast array of weapons that in one strike can take out entire cites and even some countries. Whether we like it or not these weapons will eventually get into the wrong hands.

Consider that today a lunatic like Kim Jong Il of North Korea already has them and will sell them to the highest bidder. Iran, under control of fanatical mullahs, is within 1-2 years of developing the nukes. One may ask what’s the big deal? Well consider this comment on December 14, 2004 from Ayatollah Ali Akbar Rafsanjani, former president of Iran and still one of its most powerful leaders:

"If a day comes when the world of Islam is duly equipped with the arms Israel has in its possession, the strategy of colonialism would face a stalemate because application of an atomic bomb would not leave anything in Israel but the same thing would just produce damages in the Muslim world". Mr. Rafsanjani, who is Shiite and considered to be a moderate voice of reason in Iran, is willing to take casualties amounting to millions in order to completely eradicate State of Israel. We can only wonder how far bin Laden is wiling to go?

Let’s see what he had to say about this subject in November of 1998: "It’s an Islamic duty to acquire chemical and nuclear weapons to use against the U.S. It would be a sin for a Muslim not to try to possess the weapons that would prevent infidels from inflicting harm on Muslims. Hostility towards America is a religious duty and we hope to be rewarded for it by God." I think he expressed himself very clearly.   "

The great religion of Islam is kidnapped by a few extremists" is a popular slogan used by Western politicians especially during election campaigns. But it should be quite obvious, even to a child, that these are no longer just a few extremists. And how can a few individuals kidnap over a billion Muslims? Where are the voices of reason and moderation emanating from the Muslim world?

In the post 9/11 world I have heard enough of "Yes, but" expressions from the Muslim commentators that would last me a lifetime. The cituation in Iraq as viewed on television does not look promising indeed. Daily reports from Iraq paint a very grim picture. Maybe we should have allowed Saddam Hussein to stay in power.

He at least was able to slaughter hundreds of thousands of Iraqis with the efficiency of a virtuoso surgeon. He also did it privately without challenging our sensitivities. No gory pictures, just an occasional photo would find itself shown in a Western newspaper or  magazine. Countries like France, Germany and Russia would complain a little bit and then would resume supplying Saddam with all the weapons he needed to continue doing his thing. Nice, convenient and nobody gets hurt. Well, except maybe for the Iraqis that Saddam considered to be the enemies of the regime.

He usually found a lot of them.   I am not sure how many casualties the war in Iraq has produced so far. Probably around 30,000 dead. Please do not accuse me of insensitivity yet. The reason I used figure of 30,000 is because that’s how many lives have been lost in Darfur, Sudan in the last 8 months, where government sponsored Muslim militias are systematically eradicating the minority Christians. It’s estimated that over one million people will succumb to death from disease and starvation if there is no stoppage of this genocide. You hear an occasional murmur from Western politicians and the UN, but usually it does not go beyond the obligatory rhetoric.  

Well, if this war in Iraq will produce a loser it will not be the Americans. It will be the Iraqis themselves and an entire Arab world. Sectarian and tribal warfare will be future they will be facing for decades to come. Take the example of Bosnia and magnify it a hundred times. Just wait till Sunni and Shiite fanatics square off. When these two are done with each other, the American occupation will be remembered as the good old days.

Maybe its time for Muslims to start taking the responsibility for their own destiny and stop blaming Crusaders, Zionists, Americans or whomever is on the "blame menu" of the day. It’s time for the Muslim world to recognize that it’s being dragged into the darkness that is similar to that of Communism and Fascism and it’s in their power to stop this freefall. The relative success of the Iraqi election and it's impact on the Muslim world provides a hope that there are betters days ahead, despite what some of the Arab rulers think.  

One of the leaders of the Muslim world and the custodian of the Holy Places, King Fadh of Saudi Arabia, proclaimed few years ago: "The democratic system prevalent in the world is not appropriate in this region. The election system has no place in the Islamic creed."

 For King Fadh the ideal system is the one they already have in Saudi Arabia or the one that the Taliban tried in Afghanistan. Muslims can raise their voices in favor of democracy and freedom or they can follow people like King Fadh or Usama bin Laden and condemn their future generations to medieval existence under the tyranny of their so called leaders with no hope in sight. The choice is theirs to make.