Monday, April 29, 2013

"The Duties of American Citizenship" by President Theodore Roosevelt (Former United States President) January 26, 1883

President Theodore Roosevelt on Horseback
"The Duties of American Citizenship"

by President Theodore Roosevelt (Former United States President)
January 26, 1883

Of course, in one sense, the first essential for a man's being a good citizen is his possession of the home virtues of which we think when we call a man by the emphatic adjective of manly. No man can be a good citizen who is not a good husband and a good father, who is not honest in his dealings with other men and women, faithful to his friends and fearless in the presence of his foes, who has not got a sound heart, a sound mind, and a sound body; exactly as no amount of attention to civil duties will save a nation if the domestic life is undermined, or there is lack of the rude military virtues which alone can assure a country's position in the world. In a free republic the ideal citizen must be one willing and able to take arms for the defense of the flag, exactly as the ideal citizen must be the father of many healthy children. A race must be strong and vigorous; it must be a race of good fighters and good breeders, else its wisdom will come to naught and its virtue be ineffective; and no sweetness and delicacy, no love for and appreciation of beauty in art or literature, no capacity for building up material prosperity can possibly atone for the lack of the great virile virtues.

But this is aside from my subject, for what I wish to talk of is the attitude of the American citizen in civic life. It ought to be axiomatic in this country that every man must devote a reasonable share of his time to doing his duty in the Political life of the community. No man has a right to shirk his political duties under whatever plea of pleasure or business; and while such shirking may be pardoned in those of small means it is entirely unpardonable in those among whom it is most common--in the people whose circumstances give them freedom in the struggle for life. In so far as the community grows to think rightly, it will likewise grow to regard the young man of means who shirks his duty to the State in time of peace as being only one degree worse than the man who thus shirks it in time of war. A great many of our men in business, or of our young men who are bent on enjoying life (as they have a perfect right to do if only they do not sacrifice other things to enjoyment), rather plume themselves upon being good citizens if they even vote; yet voting is the very least of their duties, Nothing worth gaining is ever gained without effort. You can no more have freedom without striving and suffering for it than you can win success as a banker or a lawyer without labor and effort, without self-denial in youth and the display of a ready and alert intelligence in middle age. The people who say that they have not time to attend to politics are simply saying that they are unfit to live in a free community. Their place is under a despotism; or if they are content to do nothing but vote, you can take despotism tempered by an occasional plebiscite, like that of the second Napoleon. In one of Lowell's magnificent stanzas about the Civil War he speaks of the fact which his countrymen were then learning, that freedom is not a gift that tarries long in the hands of cowards: nor yet does it tarry long in the hands of the sluggard and the idler, in the hands of the man so much absorbed in the pursuit of pleasure or in the pursuit of gain, or so much wrapped up in his own easy home life as to be unable to take his part in the rough struggle with his fellow men for political supremacy. If freedom is worth having, if the right of self-government is a valuable right, then the one and the other must be retained exactly as our forefathers acquired them, by labor, and especially by labor in organization, that is in combination with our fellows who have the same interests and the same principles. We should not accept the excuse of the business man who attributed his failure to the fact that his social duties were so pleasant and engrossing that he had no time left for work in his office; nor would we pay much heed to his further statement that he did not like business anyhow because he thought the morals of the business community by no means what they should be, and saw that the great successes were most often won by men of the Jay Gould stamp. It is just the same way with politics. It makes one feel half angry and half amused, and wholly contemptuous, to find men of high business or social standing in the community saying that they really have not got time to go to ward meetings, to organize political clubs, and to take a personal share in all the important details of practical politics; men who further urge against their going the fact that they think the condition of political morality low, and are afraid that they may be required to do what is not right if they go into politics.

The first duty of an American citizen, then, is that he shall work in politics; his second duty is that he shall do that work in a practical manner; and his third is that it shall be done in accord with the highest principles of honor and justice. Of course, it is not possible to define rigidly just the way in which the work shall be made practical. Each man's individual temper and convictions must be taken into account. To a certain extent his work must be done in accordance with his individual beliefs and theories of right and wrong. To a yet greater extent it must be done in combination with others, he yielding or modifying certain of his own theories and beliefs so as to enable him to stand on a common ground with his fellows, who have likewise yielded or modified certain of their theories and beliefs. There is no need of dogmatizing about independence on the one hand or party allegiance on the other. There are occasions when it may be the highest duty of any man to act outside of parties and against the one with which he has himself been hitherto identified; and there may be many more occasions when his highest duty is to sacrifice some of his own cherished opinions for the sake of the success of the party which he on the whole believes to be right. I do not think that the average citizen, at least in one of our great cities, can very well manage to support his own party all the time on every issue, local and otherwise; at any rate if he can do so he has been more fortunately placed than I have been. On the other hand, I am fully convinced that to do the best work people must be organized; and of course an organization is really a party, whether it be a great organization covering the whole nation and numbering its millions of adherents, or an association of citizens in a particular locality, banded together to win a certain specific victory, as, for instance, that of municipal reform. Somebody has said that a racing-yacht, like a good rifle, is a bundle of incompatibilities; that you must get the utmost possible sail power without sacrificing some other quality if you really do get the utmost sail power, that, in short you have got to make more or less of a compromise on each in order to acquire the dozen things needful; but, of course, in making this compromise you must be very careful for the sake of something unimportant not to sacrifice any of the great principles of successful naval architecture. Well, it is about so with a man's political work. He has got to preserve his independence on the one hand; and on the other, unless he wishes to be a wholly ineffective crank, he has got to have some sense of party allegiance and party responsibility, and he has got to realize that in any given exigency it may be a matter of duty to sacrifice one quality, or it may be a matter of duty to sacrifice the other.

If it is difficult to lay down any fixed rules for party action in the abstract; it would, of course, be wholly impossible to lay them down for party action in the concrete, with reference to the organizations of the present day. I think that we ought to be broad-minded enough to recognize the fact that a good citizen, striving with fearlessness, honesty, and common sense to do his best for the nation, can render service to it in many different ways, and by connection with many different organizations. It is well for a man if he is able conscientiously to feel that his views on the great questions of the day, on such questions as the tariff, finance, immigration, the regulation of the liquor traffic, and others like them, are such as to put him in accord with the bulk of those of his fellow citizens who compose one of the greatest parties: but it is perfectly supposable that he may feel so strongly for or against certain principles held by one party, or certain principles held by the other, that he is unable to give his full adherence to either. In such a case I feel that he has no right to plead this lack of agreement with either party as an excuse for refraining from active political work prior to election. It will, of course, bar him from the primaries of the two leading parties, and preclude him from doing his share in organizing their management; but, unless he is very unfortunate, he can surely find a number of men who are in the same position as himself and who agree with him on some specific piece of political work, and they can turn in practically and effectively long before election to try to do this new piece of work in a practical manner.

One seemingly very necessary caution to utter is, that a man who goes into politics should not expect to reform everything right off, with a jump. I know many excellent young men who, when awakened to the fact that they have neglected their political duties, feel an immediate impulse to form themselves into an organization which shall forthwith purify politics everywhere, national, State, and city alike; and I know of a man who having gone round once to a primary, and having, of course, been unable to accomplish anything in a place where he knew no one and could not combine with anyone, returned saying it was quite useless for a good citizen to try to accomplish anything in such a manner. To these too hopeful or too easily discouraged people I always feel like reading Artemus Ward's article upon the people of his town who came together in a meeting to resolve that the town should support the Union and the Civil War, but were unwilling to take any part in putting down the rebellion unless they could go as brigadier-generals. After the battle of Bull Run there were a good many hundreds of thousands of young men in the North who felt it to be their duty to enter the Northern armies; but no one of them who possessed much intelligence expected to take high place at the outset, or anticipated that individual action would be of decisive importance in any given campaign. He went in as private or sergeant, lieutenant or captain, as the case might be, and did his duty in his company, in his regiment, after a while in his brigade. When Ball's Bluff and Bull Run succeeded the utter failure of the Peninsular campaign, when the terrible defeat of Fredericksburg was followed by the scarcely less disastrous day at Chancellorsville he did not announce (if he had any pluck or manliness about him) that he considered it quite useless for any self-respecting citizen to enter the Army of the Potomac, because he really was not of much weight in its councils, and did not approve of its management; he simply gritted his teeth and went doggedly on with his duty, grieving over, but not disheartened at the innumerable shortcomings and follies committed by those who helped to guide the destinies of the army, recognizing also the bravery, the patience, intelligence, and resolution with which other men in high places offset the follies and shortcomings and persevering with equal mind through triumph and defeat until finally he saw the tide of failure turn at Gettysburg and the full flood of victory come with Appomattox.

I do wish that more of our good citizens would go into politics, and would do it in the same spirit with which their fathers went into the Federal armies. Begin with the little thing, and do not expect to accomplish anything without an effort. Of course, if you go to a primary just once, never having taken the trouble to know any of the other people who go there you will find yourself wholly out of place; but if you keep on attending and try to form associations with other men whom you meet at the political gatherings, or whom you can persuade to attend them, you will very soon find yourself a weight. In the same way, if a man feels that the politics of his city, for instance, are very corrupt and wants to reform them, it would be an excellent idea for him to begin with his district. If he Joins with other people, who think as he does, to form a club where abstract political virtue will be discussed he may do a great deal of good. We need such clubs; but he must also get to know his own ward or his own district, put himself in communication with the decent people in that district, of whom we may rest assured there will be many, willing and able to do something practical for the procurance of better government Let him set to work to procure a better assemblyman or better alderman before he tries his hand at making a mayor, a governor, or a president. If he begins at the top he may make a brilliant temporary success, but the chances are a thousand to one that he will only be defeated eventually; and in no event will the good he does stand on the same broad and permanent foundation as if he had begun at the bottom. Of course, one or two of his efforts may be failures; but if he has the right stuff in him he will go ahead and do his duty irrespective of whether he meets with success or defeat. It is perfectly right to consider the question of failure while shaping one's efforts to succeed in the struggle for the right; but there should be no consideration of it whatsoever when the question is as to whether one should or should not make a struggle for the right. When once a band of one hundred and fifty or two hundred honest, intelligent men, who mean business and know their business, is found in any district, whether in one of the regular organizations or outside, you can guarantee that the local politicians of that district will begin to treat it with a combination of fear, hatred, and respect, and that its influence will be felt; and that while sometimes men will be elected to office in direct defiance of its wishes, more often the successful candidates will feel that they have to pay some regard to its demands for public decency and honesty.

But in advising you to be practical and to work hard, I must not for one moment be understood as advising you to abandon one iota of your self-respect and devotion to principle. It is a bad sign for the country to see one class of our citizens sneer at practical politicians, and another at Sunday-school politics. No man can do both effective and decent work in public life unless he is a practical politician on the one hand, and a sturdy believer in Sunday-school politics on the other. He must always strive manfully for the best, and yet, like Abraham Lincoln, must often resign himself to accept the best possible. Of course when a man verges on to the higher ground of statesmanship, when he becomes a leader, he must very often consult with others and defer to their opinion, and must be continually settling in his mind how far he can go in just deference to the wishes and prejudices of others while yet adhering to his own moral standards: but I speak not so much of men of this stamp as I do of the ordinary citizen, who wants to do his duty as a member of the commonwealth in its civic life; and for this man I feel that the one quality which he ought always to hold most essential is that of disinterestedness. If he once begins to feel that he wants office himself, with a willingness to get it at the cost of his convictions, or to keep it when gotten, at the cost of his convictions, his usefulness is gone. Let him make up his mind to do his duty in politics without regard to holding office at all, and let him know that often the men in this country who have done the best work for our public life have not been the men in office. If, on the other hand, he attains public position, let him not strive to plan out for himself a career. I do not think that any man should let himself regard his political career as a means of livelihood, or as his sole occupation in life; for if he does he immediately becomes most seriously handicapped. The moment that he begins to think how such and such an act will affect the voters in his district, or will affect some great political leader who will have an influence over his destiny, he is hampered and his hands are bound. Not only may it be his duty often to disregard the wishes of politicians, but it may be his clear duty at times to disregard the wishes of the people. The voice of the people is not always the voice of God; and when it happens to be the voice of the devil, then it is a man's clear duty to defy its behests. Different political conditions breed different dangers. The demagogue is as unlovely a creature as the courtier, though one is fostered under republican and the other under monarchical institutions. There is every reason why a man should have an honorable ambition to enter public life, and an honorable ambition to stay there when he is in; but he ought to make up his mind that he cares for it only as long as he can stay in it on his own terms, without sacrifice of his own principles; and if he does thus make up his mind he can really accomplish twice as much for the nation, and can reflect a hundredfold greater honor upon himself, in a short term of service, than can the man who grows gray in the public employment at the cost of sacrificing what he believes to be true and honest. And moreover, when a public servant has definitely made up his mind that he will pay no heed to his own future, but will do what he honestly deems best for the community, without regard to how his actions may affect his prospects, not only does he become infinitely more useful as a public servant, but he has a far better time. He is freed from the harassing care which is inevitably the portion of him who is trying to shape his sails to catch every gust of the wind of political favor.

But let me reiterate, that in being virtuous he must not become ineffective, and that he must not excuse himself for shirking his duties by any false plea that he cannot do his duties and retain his self-respect. This is nonsense, he can; and when he urges such a plea it is a mark of mere laziness and self-indulgence. And again, he should beware how he becomes a critic of the actions of others, rather than a doer of deeds himself; and in so far as he does act as a critic (and of course the critic has a great and necessary function) he must beware of indiscriminate censure even more than of indiscriminate praise. The screaming vulgarity of the foolish spread-eagle orator who is continually yelling defiance at Europe, praising everything American, good and bad, and resenting the introduction of any reform because it has previously been tried successfully abroad, is offensive and contemptible to the last degree; but after all it is scarcely as harmful as the peevish, fretful, sneering, and continual faultfinding of the refined, well-educated man, who is always attacking good and bad alike, who genuinely distrusts America, and in the true spirit of servile colonialism considers us inferior to the people across the water. It may be taken for granted that the man who is always sneering at our public life and our public men is a thoroughly bad citizen, and that what little influence he wields in the community is wielded for evil. The public speaker or the editorial writer who teaches men of education that their proper attitude toward American politics should be one of dislike or indifference is doing all he can to perpetuate and aggravate the very evils of which he is ostensibly complaining. Exactly as it is generally the case that when a man bewails the decadence of our civilization he is himself physically, mentally, and morally a first-class type of the decadent, so it is usually the case that when a man is perpetually sneering at American politicians, whether worthy or unworthy, he himself is a poor citizen and a friend of the very forces of evil against which he professes to contend. Too often these men seem to care less for attacking bad men, than for ruining the characters of good men with whom they disagree on some pubic question; and while their influence against the bad is almost nil, they are sometimes able to weaken the hands of the good by withdrawing from them support to which they are entitled, and they thus count in the sum total of forces that work for evil. They answer to the political prohibitionist, who, in a close contest between a temperance man and a liquor seller diverts enough votes from the former to elect the liquor seller Occasionally it is necessary to beat a pretty good man, who is not quite good enough, even at the cost of electing a bad one- but it should be thoroughly recognized that this can be necessary only occasionally and indeed, I may say, only in very exceptional cases, and that as a rule where it is done the effect is thoroughly unwholesome in every way, and those taking part in it deserve the severest censure from all honest men.

Moreover, the very need of denouncing evil makes it all the more wicked to weaken the effect of such denunciations by denouncing also the good. It is the duty of all citizens, irrespective of party, to denounce, and, so far as may be, to punish crimes against the public on the part of politicians or officials. But exactly as the public man who commits a crime against the public is one of the worst of criminals, so, close on his heels in the race for iniquitous distinction, comes the man who falsely charges the public servant with outrageous wrongdoing; whether it is done with foul-mouthed and foolish directness in the vulgar and violent party organ, or with sarcasm, innuendo, and the half-truths that are worse than lies, in some professed organ of independence. Not only should criticism be honest, but it should be intelligent, in order to be effective. I recently read in a religious paper an article railing at the corruption of our public life, in which it stated incidentally that the lobby was recognized as all-powerful in Washington. This is untrue. There was a day when the lobby was very important at Washington, but its influence in Congress is now very small indeed; and from a pretty intimate acquaintance with several Congresses I am entirely satisfied that there is among the members a very small proportion indeed who are corruptible, in the sense that they will let their action be influenced by money or its equivalent. Congressmen are very often demagogues; they are very often blind partisans; they are often exceedingly short-sighted, narrow-minded, and bigoted; but they are not usually corrupt; and to accuse a narrow-minded demagogue of corruption when he is perfectly honest, is merely to set him more firmly in his evil course and to help him with his constituents, who recognize that the charge is entirely unjust, and in repelling it lose sight of the man's real shortcomings. I have known more than one State legislature, more than one board of aldermen against which the charge of corruption could perfectly legitimately be brought, but it cannot be brought against Congress. Moreover these sweeping charges really do very little good. When I was in the New York legislature, one of the things that I used to mind most was the fact that at the close of every session the papers that affect morality invariably said that particular legislature was the worst legislature since the days of Tweed. The statement was not true as a rule; and, in any event, to lump all the members, good and bad, in sweeping condemnation simply hurt the good and helped the bad. Criticism should be fearless, but I again reiterate that it should be honest and should be discriminating. When it is sweeping and unintelligent, and directed against good and bad alike, or against the good and bad qualities of any man alike, it is very harmful. It tends steadily to deteriorate the character of our public men; and it tends to produce a very unwholesome spirit among young men of education, and especially among the young men in our colleges.

Against nothing is fearless and specific criticism more urgently needed than against the "spoils system," which is the degradation of American politics. And nothing is more effective in thwarting the purposes of the spoilsmen than the civil service reform. To be sure, practical politicians sneer at it. One of them even went so far as to say that civil-service reform is asking a man irrelevant questions. What more irrelevant question could there be than that of the practical politician who asks the aspirant for his political favor - "Whom did you vote for in the last election?" There is certainly nothing more interesting, from a humorous point of view, than the heads of departments urging changes to be made in their underlings, "on the score of increased efficiency" they say; when as the result of such a change the old incumbent often spends six months teaching the new incumbent how to do the work almost as well as he did himself! Occasionally the civil-service reform has been abused, but not often. Certainly the reform is needed when you contemplate the spectacle of a New York City treasurer who acknowledges his annual fees to be eighty-five thousand dollars, and who pays a deputy one thousand five hundred dollars to do his work-when you note the corruptions in the New York legislature, where one man says he has a horror of the Constitution because it prevents active benevolence, and another says that you should never allow the Constitution to come between friends! All these corruptions and vices are what every good American citizen must fight against.

Finally, the man who wishes to do his duty as a citizen in our country must be imbued through and through with the spirit of Americanism. I am not saying this as a matter of spread-eagle rhetoric: I am saying it quite soberly as a piece of matter-of-fact, common-sense advice, derived from my own experience of others. Of course, the question of Americanism has several sides. If a man is an educated man, he must show his Americanism by not getting misled into following out and trying to apply all the theories of the political thinkers of other countries, such as Germany and France, to our own entirely different conditions. He must not get a fad, for instance, about responsible government; and above all things he must not, merely because he is intelligent, or a college professor well read in political literature, try to discuss our institutions when he has had no practical knowledge of how they are worked. Again, if he is a wealthy man, a man of means and standing, he must really feel, not merely affect to feel, that no social differences obtain save such as a man can in some way himself make by his own actions. People sometimes ask me if there is not a prejudice against a man of wealth and education in ward politics. I do not think that there is, unless the man in turn shows that he regards the facts of his having wealth and education as giving him a claim to superiority aside from the merit he is able to prove himself to have in actual service. Of course, if he feels that he ought to have a little better treatment than a carpenter, a plumber, or a butcher, who happens to stand beside him, he is going to be thrown out of the race very quickly, and probably quite roughly; and if he starts in to patronize and elaborately condescend to these men he will find that they resent this attitude even more. Do not let him think about the matter at all. Let him go into the political contest with no more thought of such matters than a college boy gives to the social standing of the members of his own and rival teams in a hotly contested football match. As soon as he begins to take an interest in politics (and he will speedily not only get interested for the sake of politics, but also take a good healthy interest in playing the game itself - an interest which is perfectly normal and praise-worthy, and to which only a prig would object), he will begin to work up the organization in the way that will be most effective, and he won't care a rap about who is put to work with him, save in so far as he is a good fellow and an efficient worker. There was one time that a number of men who think as we do here to-night (one of the number being myself) got hold of one of the assembly districts of New York, and ran it in really an ideal way, better than any other assembly district has ever been run before or since by either party. We did it by hard work and good organization; by working practically, and yet by being honest and square in motive and method: especially did we do it by all turning in as straight-out Americans without any regard to distinctions of race origin. Among the many men who did a great deal in organizing our victories was the son of a Presbyterian clergyman, the nephew of a Hebrew rabbi, and two well-known Catholic gentlemen. We also had a Columbia College professor (the stroke-oar of a university crew), a noted retail butcher, and the editor of a local German paper, various brokers, bankers, lawyers, bricklayers and a stone-mason who was particularly useful to us, although on questions of theoretic rather than applied politics he had a decidedly socialistic turn of mind.

Again, questions of race origin, like questions of creed, must not be considered: we wish to do good work, and we are all Americans, pure and simple. In the New York legislature, when it fell to my lot to choose a committee - which I always esteemed my most important duty at Albany - no less than three out of the four men I chose were of Irish birth or parentage; and three abler and more fearless and disinterested men never sat in a legislative body; while among my especial political and personal friends in that body was a gentleman from the southern tier of counties, who was, I incidentally found out, a German by birth, but who was just as straight United States as if his ancestors had come over here in the Mayflower or in Henry Hudson's yacht. Of course, none of these men of Irish or German birth would have been worth their salt had they continued to act after coming here as Irishmen or Germans, or as anything but plain straight-out Americans. We have not any room here for a divided allegiance. A man has got to be an American and nothing else; and he has no business to be mixing us up with questions of foreign politics, British or Irish, German or French, and no business to try to perpetuate their language and customs in the land of complete religious toleration and equality. If, however, he does become honestly and in good faith an American, then he is entitled to stand precisely as all other Americans stand, and it is the height of un-Americanism to discriminate against him in any way because of creed or birthplace. No spirit can be more thoroughly alien to American institutions, than the spirit of the Know-Nothings.

In facing the future and in striving, each according to the measure of his individual capacity, to work out the salvation of our land, we should be neither timid pessimists nor foolish optimists. We should recognize the dangers that exist and that threaten us: we should neither overestimate them nor shrink from them, but steadily fronting them should set to work to overcome and beat them down. Grave perils are yet to be encountered in the stormy course of the Republic -- perils from political corruption, perils from individual laziness, indolence and timidity, perils springing from the greed of the unscrupulous rich, and from the anarchic violence of the thriftless and turbulent poor. There is every reason why we should recognize them, but there is no reason why we should fear them or doubt our capacity to overcome them, if only each will, according to the measure of his ability, do his full duty, and endeavor so to live as to deserve the high praise of being called a good American citizen.

How Did Saudi Funded Wahabists Influence The Boston Bombers?

The hatred of Shias, Sufis, Sunnis, Christians, Jews, etc. by Wahabists/Salafists has it's roots in the Arabian Peninsula.  Europe and especially Britain has already been infiltrated by this hateful, intolerant, exclusive, judgemental, and terror inducing ideology.  Is your Sunni Mosque infiltrated by these people?  If so, you need to be aware of it so that you don't run into more youth being influenced by these deviants who teach evil in the name of your faith:  

Thursday, April 25, 2013

New Organization "Shia-PAC" Sets The Record Straight: Al-Qaeda Strikes Again

This is a news report from SHIA PUBLIC AFFAIRS COUNCIL: 


Shia Pac: Al-Qaeda Strikes Again

Unlike our MSM, Shi'ite Muslims don't hestiate to call the Boston bombing for what it was: Al-Qaeda Strikes Again via Shia Pac.
Al-Qaeda Strikes Again We Shi'a Muslims, the victims of terrorism for centuries, do hereby unreservedly condemn the dastardly acts of terrorism perpetrated in Boston on April 17. We pray for the speedy recovery of the injured as well as commend the work of law enforcement agencies. 
What happened in Boston is no different from what has been happening for years in Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and a few other so called Muslim countries. The perpetrators of these heinous acts are none other than Salafi and Wahabi genocidal gypsies still steeped in jahiliyya values of killing innocent people to satisfy their blood-lust, but masquerading around the globe as the champions of Islam. 
We are indeed horrified by the criminal acts of a group, which called itself Muslim. It is now a well know fact that the Wahabi and Salafi cabal has infiltrated in the Balkan states and the rest of Europe. The time has come for the western powers to realize that the hoodwinking done by the governments of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States to export their Al-Qaeda brand of intolerant doctrine will not stop until the west wakes up to this stark reality. The Boston incident was not the first tragedy nor will it be the last, unless endeavors are made across the globe to systematically uproot and eliminate these criminals from our body politic.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Saudi Arabia, Wahhabism and the Spread of Sunni Theofascism

Saudi Arabia, Wahhabism and the Spread of Sunni Theofascism

By Amb. Curtin Winsor, Ph.D.

The United States has largely eliminated the infrastructure and operational leadership of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda terrorist network over the past five years. However, its ideological offspring continue to proliferate across the globe.

American efforts to combat this contagion are hamstrung by the fact that its ideological and financial epicenter is Saudi Arabia, where an ostensibly pro-Western royal family governs through a centuries-old alliance with the fanatical Wahhabi Islamic sect. In addition to indoctrinating its own citizens with this extremist creed, the Saudi government has lavishly financed the propagation of Wahhabism throughout the world, sweeping away moderate interpretations of Islam even within the borders of the United States itself.

The Bush administration has done little to halt this ideological onslaught beyond quietly (and unsuccessfully) urging the Saudi royal family to desist. This lack of resolve is rooted in American dependence on Saudi oil production, fears of instability in the kingdom, wishful thinking about democracy promotion as an antidote to religious extremism, and preoccupation with confronting Iran.


Wahhabism is derived from the teachings of Muhammad ibn abd al-Wahhab, an eighteenth century religious zealot from the Arabian interior. Like most Sunni Islamic fundamentalist movements, the Wahhabis advocated the fusion of state power and religion through the reestablishment of the Caliphate, the form of government adopted by the Prophet Muhammad's successors during the age of Muslim expansion. What sets Wahhabism apart from other Sunni Islamist movements is its historical obsession with purging Sufis, Shiites, and other Muslims who do not conform to its twisted interpretation of Islamic scripture.

In 1744, Ibn Abd al-Wahhab forged an historic alliance with the Al-Saud clan and sanctified its drive to vanquish its rivals. In return, the Al-Saud supported campaigns by Wahhabi zealots to cleanse the land of "unbelievers." In 1801, Saudi-Wahhabi warriors crossed into present day Iraq and sacked the Shiite holy city of Karbala, killing over 4,000 people. After the Saudis conquered Mecca and Medina in the 1920s, they destroyed such "idolatrous" shrines as the Jannat al-Baqi cemetary, where four of the twelve Shiite imams were buried (on the grounds that grave markers are bida'a, or objectionable innovations).

In return for endorsing the royal family's authority in political, security, and economic spheres after the establishment of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932, Wahhabi clerics were granted control over state religious and educational institutions and allowed to enforce their rigid interpretation of sharia (Islamic law).
Wahhabism was largely confined to the Arabian peninsula until the 1960s, when the Saudi monarchy gave refuge to radical members of the Muslim Brotherhood fleeing persecution in Nasser's Egypt. A cross-fertilization of sorts occurred between the atavistic but isolated Wahhabi creed of the Saudi religious establishment and the Salafi jihadist teachings of Sayyid Qutb, who denounced secular Arab rulers as unbelievers and legitimate targets of holy war (jihad). "It was the synthesis of the twain-Wahhabi social and cultural conservatism, and Qutbist political radicalism- that produced the militant variety of Wahhabist political Islam that eventually (produced) al-Qaeda."[1]

The terms Islamofascism and theofascism have been frequently misused by Westerners to refer to virtually all forms of radical Islamism, but they are fitting appellations for Wahhabism today.[2] The sect's rejection of individual liberties, disparagement and reduction of women's rights and status,[3] disregard for the intrinsic value of human life, and encouragement of violence against unbelievers, are unparalleled among Islamic fundamentalist movements.

Former CIA Director R. James Woolsey has used the term "Sunni theocratic totalitarianism,"[4] a term that highlights both the movement's "will to power" over the most minute aspects of Muslim daily life and its global ambitions. He also notes that its adherents do not raise the banner of Islam in pursuit of specific national, political, or territorial gains. Al-Qaeda's second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri has sharply rebuked the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas[5] and Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood for participating in national elections.[6]
During the 1970s, Wahhabi clerics encouraged the spread of this revolutionary and atavistic ideological synthesis into Saudi universities and mosques, because it was seen as a barrier to the threat of cultural Westernization and spread of corruption that accompanied the 1970s oil boom. Consequently, the royal family and their religious establishment looked for a cause with which to deflect the growing zealotry from Wahhabist theofascism, a danger highlighted by the seizure of the Grand Mosque at Mecca by heavily armed Islamic Studies students in 1979. The diversion that the royal family seized upon was the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

The Saudis financed a large-scale program of assistance to the Afghan mujahideen, in coordination with the Pakistan's Inter Service Intelligence agency (ISI) and the CIA, while funding radicalized madrassas to disseminate neo-Wahhabi ideology and literature in the sprawling Afghan refugee camps of Pakistan. They also dispatched thousands of volunteer jihadis from Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries to fight alongside the mujahideen.

These so-called "Arab Afghans" dispersed to far-flung areas of the world after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1988. They pursued further victories against "unbelievers" in the name of Islam, and they were accompanied by militant Wahhabi preachers. These elements would form the backbone of al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda was initially headquartered in Sudan, but returned to Afghanistan in 1996, following the seizure of Kabul by the Taliban. This was a new Afghan force, recruited in Wahhabi madrassas and, trained by the Pakistanis. Its goal was the establishment of a model Wahhabi state in Afghanistan.

The Saudi royal family revoked bin Laden's Saudi citizenship (in response to heavy American pressure), but did little to interfere with Wahhabi "charities" in the Kingdom and abroad. These entities raised money for al-Qaeda, while the religious onslaught of Wahhabism continued to receive government sponsorship and funding. Osama bin Laden is widely believed to have reached an agreement with Prince Turki al-Faisal, then-chief of Saudi National Security and Intelligence in the mid 1990s, whereby al-Qaeda would not target the Kingdom, and the Kingdom would not interfere with al-Qaeda's fundraising or seek bin Laden's extradition.[7] In fact, Al-Qaeda abstained completely from attacks on Saudi targets within the Kingdom prior to 9/11.
Terrorist attacks and clashes between Saudi police and Islamist militants have erupted erupting periodically since May 2003, after the Saudi Government began cracking down on underground cells in the Kingdom (under pressure from Washington). However, it appears that most Al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist groups still respect this quid pro quo Hundreds of members of the Saudi royal family jet around the world without fear of assassination. The country's vulnerable petroleum industry has only once been targeted by terrorists, and then in a less that serious manner. In return, and notwithstanding its limited cooperation with Washington in restricting terrorist financing, the Saudi monarchy has maintained its commitment to propagating Wahhabism at home and abroad, providing the terrorist underground with a growing flood of eager recruits.

Wahhabi Indoctrination
"Man . . . requires proper instruction and a fortunate nature, and then of all animals he becomes the most divine and most civilized; but if he be insufficiently or ill educated, he is the most savage of earthly creatures."

It is estimated that well over one-third of Saudi Arabia's public school curriculum is devoted to Wahhabi teachings. Passages from Saudi textbooks quoted in the American media after 9/11 generated much controversy. One textbook, for example, informed ninth grade students that Judgment Day will not come "until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them," while another stated that it is "compulsory" for Muslims "to consider the infidels their enemy."[8] Embarrassed by the revelations, the Saudi government purported to launch a comprehensive review of its educational curricula and pledged that all such references would be removed. Last year, however, Freedom House published an exhaustive report on the new curriculum, concluding that it "continues to propagate an ideology of hate toward the 'unbeliever,' which include Christians, Jews, Shiites, Sufis, Sunni Muslims who do not follow Wahhabi doctrine, Hindus, atheists and others."[9]

Some analysts dismiss the relevance of this indoctrination on the grounds that "conforming to an ultra-conservative, anti-pluralistic faith does not necessarily make you a violent individual,"[10] but this reasoning is fallacious. If only one percent of the 5 million Saudi students exposed to these teachings resort to violence, this would produce 50,000 jihadis.[11] Not surprisingly, bin Laden himself denounced foreign interference in Saudi school curricula in an April 2006 audiotape.

Moreover, these teachings are reinforced by Wahhabi clerics in Saudi Arabia, who advocate jihad against enemies of "true" Islam - outside the kingdom." Incitement to violence against Shiites is particularly common. In December 2006, a high-ranking cleric close to the Saudi royal family, Abdul Rahman al-Barak, denounced Shiites as an "evil sect . . . more dangerous than Jews and Christians."[12]

In November of 2004, twenty-six clerics, most of whom held positions as lecturers of Islamic studies at various Saudi state-funded universities, issued a call for jihad against American forces in Iraq. Two Saudi officials denounced the fatwa in interviews with the Western media, but no retraction was made in Arabic to local media outlets. Months later, a Saudi dissident group released a videotape showing the Chief Justice of Saudi Arabia's Supreme Judicial Council, Saleh bin Muhammad al-Luhaidan, advising young Saudis at a government mosque on how to infiltrate Iraq and fight US troops, as well as assuring them that Saudi security forces would not punish them after their return.[13] While Luhaidan publicly retracted his statements, videotapes of prominent Saudi clerics exhorting the public to wage jihad in Iraq and elsewhere continue to surface.[14]

Exporting Hatred

While Saudi citizens remain the vanguard of Islamic theofascism around the world, the growth potential for this ideology lies outside the Kingdom. The Saudis have spent at least $87 billion propagating Wahhabism abroad during the past two decades,[15] and the scale of financing is believed to have increased in the past two years as oil prices have skyrocketed. The bulk of this funding goes to the construction and operating expenses of mosques, madrassas, and other religious institutions that preach Wahhabism. It also supports the training of imams; domination of mass media and publishing outlets; distribution of Wahhabi textbooks and other literature; and endowments to universities (in exchange for influence over the appointment of Islamic scholars). By comparison, the Communist Party of the USSR and its Comintern spent just over $7 billion propagating its ideology worldwide between 1921 and 1991.[16]

The lack of a formal ecclesiastical hierarchy within Sunni Islam renders traditional religious institutions weak in the face of well-funded Wahhabi missionary activities. Most Sunni Muslims look to their local imams for religious guidance. In poor countries, these imams and local leaders often find it difficult to resist the siren song of small amounts of Saudi aid that accompany Wahhabist missionaries in poor. Moderate imams do not have a comparable source of financial patronage with which to combat its spread.[17]

Important fronts in this campaign are in south and southeast Asia, where the majority of the world's Muslims live. In Pakistan, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia and southern Thailand, Wahhabis have co-opted (or replaced) village and neighborhood imams, and there is a fresh stream of converts returning from stays as guest workers in Saudi Arabia. The children of poor converts are often taken to Saudi Arabia for "education" and many are returned as cannon fodder for use by Wahhabi terrorist fronts.[18] In India, efforts are underway to capture a portion that country's huge Muslim minority as well as the Untouchable Caste.
Wahhabism has made less headway in the former Soviet Republics of Central Asia, despite the fact that decades of Communist rule had weakened their traditional Islamic institutions. Several successor governments, especially the Uzbekis, have cracked down harshly on militant Islamist groups, while encouraging educational systems in the Hanafi tradition that promote tolerant and peaceful Islam. Africa is also a critical area of Wahhabi expansion, as it offers a multitude of "failed states" and communal cleavages ripe for exploitation, most notably in the Sudan and Nigeria.[19]

In all of these areas, the central dynamic is the same - it is the overwhelming wealth of Saudi Arabia that enables the Wahhabi sect to proselytize on a global scale, not the intrinsic appeal of its teachings. Throughout the world, moderates echo the assessment of Somali journalist Bashir Gothar, who writes that his country's tolerant Sufi-infused Islamic culture has been: "swept aside by a new brand of Islam that is being pushed down the throat of our people - Wahhabism. Anywhere one looks, one finds that alien, perverted version of Islam."[20]

Wahhabism in the West

Wahhabi proselytizing is not limited to the Islamic world. The Saudis have financed the growth of thousands of Wahhabi mosques, madrassas, and other religious institutions in Western countries that have fast-growing Muslim minorities during the past three decades.[21] Wahhabi penetration is deepest in the social welfare states of Western Europe, where chronically high unemployment has created large pools of able-bodied young Muslim men who have "become permanent wards of the state at the cost of their basic human dignity."[22] This is a perfect storm of alienation and idleness, ripe for terrorist recruitment. The perpetrators of the 2005 London subway attacks were native-born Britons of Pakistani descent, recruited locally and trained in the use of explosives during visits to Pakistan. The Dutch Moroccan who murdered Dutch filmmaker Theodor Van Gogh in 2004 (for producing a film critical of Islam) was also a product of Wahhabi indoctrination.

The Wahhabis have had less traction in the United States, which lacks the masses of unassimilated young people that exist in Europe. US welfare laws no longer allow able-bodied young men to have indefinite periods of government subsidized unemployment and immigrants (both Muslim and non-Muslim) tend to find a more stable niche in American society.

Nevertheless, Wahhabi penetration of US mainstream Islamic institutions is substantial. A 2005 Freedom House Report examined over 200 books and other publications distributed in 15 prominent Saudi-funded American mosques. One such publication, bearing the imprint of the Saudi embassy and distributed by the King Fahd Mosque in Los Angeles, contained the following injunctions for Muslims living in America:
Be dissociated from the infidels, hate them for their religion, leave them, never rely on them for support, do not admire them, and always oppose them in every way according to Islamic law.

[W]hoever helps unbelievers against Muslims, regardless of what type of support he lends to them, he is an unbeliever himself.

Never greet the Christian or Jew first. Never congratulate the infidel on his holiday. Never befriend an infidel unless it is to convert him. Never imitate the infidel. Never work for an infidel. Do not wear a graduation gown because this imitates the infidel.

Although Saudi-funded religious institutions have been careful not to incite or explicitly endorse violence since 9/11, they unapologetically promote distrust toward non-Muslims and self-segregation. In effect, they are trying to reproduce in America the kind of social conditions that have fueled radicalization and terrorist recruitment in Europe.

Saudi-funded religious institutions, such as the American Muslim Council (AMC), have long been treated as representatives of the American Muslim community by the US government. Abdurahman Almoudi, the founder of the AMC, was a frequent visitor to White House under the Clinton and Bush administrations despite having publicly proclaimed support for the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas (he is now in jail for having illegally accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Libyan government).
High level political access has enabled such groups to penetrate the American prison system. The US Bureau of Prisons has relied on chaplain endorsements from the so-called Graduate School of Islamic and Social Sciences (GSISS), a Saudi-funded organization.[24] The most egregious example of this penetration is the case of Imam Deen Umar, the Administrative Chaplain for the State of New York Department of Corrections. Umar, an American convert who made two visits to Saudi Arabia and studied at the GSISS, and the men he hired as chaplains, had exclusive access to the 13,000 Muslims in the New York prison system. According to then FBI Assistant Director for Counterterrorism John S. Pistole, Umar was found to have "denied prisoners access to mainstream imams and materials" and "sought to incite prisoners against America, preaching that the 9/11 hijackers should be remembered as martyrs and heroes."[25]
While there is little evidence that al-Qaeda has recruited inside the American prison system, it is noteworthy that José Padilla (arrested in 2002 in connection with an al-Qaeda plot to detonate a radioactive "dirty bomb" in the United States) first embraced radical Islam while in prison, as did Richard Reid (the so-called "shoe bomber" arrested in 2001) in the UK and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Jordan.
The American Muslim Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs Council (a branch of the AMC), along with the Saudi-funded Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), secured the right to select, train and certify all Muslim chaplains for the US Armed Forces.[26] It has been reported that Saudi Arabia provided more than 100 US Armed Forces personnel with free trips to Mecca as an opportunity to make their hajj.[27] Almoudi arranged for the Saudi-controlled Institute of Islamic and Arabic Sciences (IIAS) to train "American soldiers and civilians to provide spiritual guidance when paid Muslim chaplains aren't available." The Wall Street Journal also reported that there were signs that: "the school . . . disseminates the intolerant and anti-Western strain of Islam espoused by the [Saudi] Kingdom's religious establishment."[28]
While the Saudi ambassador in Washington said last year that his government was undertaking a "very intense review" of all missionary activities in the United States,[29] it is clear that the Saudis are concerned primarily with avoiding bad publicity, not abandoning their drive to dominate Islamic institutions in America.

Causes of American Inaction

The Bush administration has been reluctant to put serious pressure on the Saudis to stop propagating Wahhabism, despite the enormous threat to American security posed by Sunni theofascism. There are several reasons for this.

The first is American dependence on the kingdom's abundant oil reserves, which enable to the Saudis to maintain roughly 3 million b/d in spare production capacity. This spare capacity has been called the "energy equivalent of nuclear weapons," because it puts the Saudis in a unique position to compensate for disruptions in supplies from other producers and discourage price gouging - a service provided to the United States (and other industrialized nations) in exchange for protection.[30] However, the argument that a firm public stance against Saudi propagation of religious hatred might lead the kingdom to retaliate economically is spurious. Saudi Arabia's use of the oil weapon would alienate the entire industrialized world, while threatening the relative economic prosperity that preserves stability in the kingdom.

Some politicians and writers have voiced concern that pushing the Saudi royal family to curtail the Wahhabis could lead to terrorist attacks on the country's vulnerable petroleum infrastructure or lead to the collapse of the monarchy, which would produce an even worse outcome - a Saudi state controlled exclusively by religious fanatics. While these are serious risks, it must be borne in mind that most Wahhabi radicals view the monarchy (and its oil fields) as a golden goose. It is only by disguising Saudi Arabia as a 'friendly nation' that they have been able to go as far as they have in spreading their atavistic perversion of Islam.
Such concerns reveal a tendency to imagine or spin the Saudi royal family as fundamentally pro-Western. Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who served as ambassador to the United States from 1983 to 2005, has played an important role in masking Saudi - Wahhabi realities. His personal charm, Washington Post journalist David Ignatius writes, "many American leaders and even presidents to forget that he represented a secretive, repressive Muslim kingdom that survived because it had made a pact with 'puritanical' Wahhabi clerics who despised America."[31]

Bandar was also instrumental in the growth of what Daniel Pipes has called a "culture of corruption" that renders the executive branch of the American government "incapable of dealing with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the farsighted and disinterested manner that US foreign policy requires." Pipes points to a "revolving door syndrome" afflicting senior diplomats and policymakers who deal with the Saudis in their official capacities.[32] Very often, they have enjoyed lucrative post-government careers working as consultants for Saudi businessmen and companies, or running Saudi-financed nongovernmental organizations. "If the reputation then builds that the Saudis take care of friends when they leave office," Bandar once reportedly told a close associate: "you'd be surprised how much better friends you have who are just coming into office."[33]

Unable or unwilling to combat the spread of Sunni theofascism at its main source (Saudi Arabia), the Bush administration launched a democracy promotion campaign intended to eradicate political conditions receptive to its global spread. However, rather than building stable and less oppressive systems resistant to religious extremism in Afghanistan and Iraq, the accumulating shortfalls of American intervention in both countries have made them magnets for jihadist recruitment.

The Question of Iran

The Bush Administration's reluctance to challenge the Saudis after 9/11 initially encountered impassioned objections from conservative and liberal commentators alike, but the outrage has tapered off as attention has became increasingly focused on Shiite Iran and its nuclear weapons program. In the view of the administration, the Iranian threat to American national security not only supercedes the threat of Sunni theofascism, but supercedes it to such a degree that a more accommodating policy toward Saudi Arabia is warranted. However, while the prospect of militant Shiite clerics in possession of nuclear weapons is understandably disconcerting to many Americans, the Iranian threat is mitigated by several important factors.
For all of the shrill and unsettling words of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, his government's foreign policy is driven more by Iranian nationalism than Shiite Islamism (this is evident, for example, in Tehran's support for the predominantly Christian nation of Armenia in its dispute with Shiite Azerbaijan). This is not surprising, as Iran (known as Persia prior to the twentieth century) has existed in one form or another since biblical times, while it embraced Shiite Islam just 500 years ago. While Ahmadinejad exploits Iranian nationalism to win public support in his confrontation with the West, it can easily turn against him if he were to embark on a global adventure. Wahhabi clerics may support the Saudi royal family as a necessary evil in order to protect their global proselytizing mission, but they recognize no Saudi Arabian "nation" whose interests take precedence over their agenda. Such is not the case in Iran.

Furthermore, Shiite Islamism does not exhibit theofascist tendencies. Radical clerics in Iran have been responsible for horrendous abuses of power, but they do not regard non-Shiite Muslims as "unbelievers" who must be systematically purged - and even if they did, the fact that Shiites comprise only 10-15% of the world's Muslims would make such a project impractical. Even within the Shiite world, there is no prospect of a Wahhabi-style Iranian takeover of religious discourse because unlike the Sunnis, Shiite Islam is rigidly hierarchical. Iraqi and Lebanese Shiites gladly accept Iranian financial and military support, but they are fiercely loyal to their own clerical establishments.

An even greater fallacy is the widespread belief in Washington that a strong relationship with Saudi Arabia is an asset in confronting Iran. On the contrary, coddling the Saudis makes it more difficult for the United States to deal with Iran. The Bush administration's refusal to hold Saudi leaders accountable for their incitement of Wahhabi jihadists (who have murdered far more Shiites than Americans, mostly in Iraq and Pakistan) is a source of deep resentment in the Shiite world. It is no surprise that the only two major public demonstrations against Al-Qaeda in the Islamic world after the 9/11 attacks were both organized by Shiites (in Tehran and Karachi, Pakistan).

It is interesting to note that the recent escalation of US - Iranian tensions has made the Saudis less accommodating about Iraq than ever before. Reports that the Saudi Government is threatening to openly fund and arm Sunni insurgent groups if American forces withdraw from Iraq are a case in point.[34] In effect, the Saudis are signaling to the Bush administration that they will thwart any American plan to cede control of Iraq to its Shiite-dominated, democratically-elected government, while signaling to the Sunni insurgents in Iraq that they can reject American efforts to broker a political settlement and not be left to face the consequences alone.

Iran has no history of direct aggression against its neighbors, and unlike Saddam's Sunni-dominated Iraq, they have never used weapons of mass destruction during invasions of neighbors or against their own people. The strongest argument for this approach lies with the extent that Iran craves recognition of its actual status as the historically authentic nation state in the Middle East. Iran has long aspired to be and probably will be the region's predominant Islamic regional power.

The Road Ahead

Washington will eventually have to face the reality that derailing Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons (and, more broadly, its emergence as the predominant Islamic regional power) may be impossible over the long-term, and possible in the short term only at the expense of fatally undermining efforts to contain the spread of Sunni theofascism. The United States would do better to find a mutually acceptable means of working with this reality, rather sustaining a deadlocked confrontation by conditioning its willingness to normalize relations with Tehran on the abandonment of its nuclear aspirations. US - Iranian engagement will greatly enhance American leverage over the Saudis, as well as check the threat of Sunni theofascist terrorism in Iraq and, to a lesser extent, Afghanistan. Saudi officials have urged the Bush administration not to talk with Iran because they know that a reduction in US - Iranian tensions will draw more attention to their unbridled export of Wahhabism.

Reducing American dependence on Saudi oil must also be part of any comprehensive strategy for addressing the threat of Sunni theofascism. Although President Bush has expressed commitment to developing alternative energy sources, the surplus production capacity of the Saudis enables them to lower prices as necessary to ensure that this will not be cost effective for a long time. Barring radical breakthroughs in fuel technologies, an optimistic forecast would have bio fuels (ethanol, synthetic diesel and bio oil) making up to 30% of US petroleum equivalent needs by 2030.[35] For the short to medium term future, only conservation can significantly alter American petroleum dependency.

In addition, countering the theofascist threat will require the same kind of comprehensive strategy used to combat the spread of Communism during the twentieth century. While the First Amendment undoubtedly protects the right of individuals to inveigh against pluralism, individual freedoms, and other Western norms, there is nothing in the constitution that protects the right of foreign governments or nationals to disseminate this message on American soil. As for the rest of the world, poor Muslim countries (many of them dependent on Saudi economic aid or remittances from workers in the Arab Gulf) cannot be expected to demand that Riyadh rein in Wahhabi missionaries - they are looking to Washington to apply pressure.

Without the billions of dollars in Saudi funds, the ideological, political, and psychological edifice of Wahhabi theofascism will begin to crumble, particularly if a concerted effort is made by the Bush administration to promote moderate Islamic institutions (a recent study by the RAND Corporation offers some insightful recommendations).[36] Ultimately, the devil is not in the details - it is the administration's broad lack of resolve in confronting the threat of theofascism, not the lack of viable methods of combating it, that imperils American security.


[1] See Mohammed Ayoob, "Political Islam: Image and Reality," World Policy Journal, Vol. 11, No. 3, Fall 2004.
[2] Fascism is "a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victim-hood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion." See Robert Paxton, The Anatomy of Fascism (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004), p. 218.
[3] Saudi police 'stopped' fire rescue, BBC, 15 March 2002. Wahhabi religious police (mutaween) prevented Saudi schoolgirls from fleeing a burning school because they were not properly veiled, leaving fifteen of them to die inside in 2002, an outrage equaled only by the Taliban's rein of terror against women in Afghanistan.
[4] R. James Woolsey, "The Elephant in The Middle East Living Room: Watching Wahhabis," The National Review, 14 December 2005.
[5] Zawahiri declared in a December 2006 videotape, "How could they not demand an Islamic constitution before entering these elections? Are they not an Islamic movement?" See: "Al Qaeda Warns U.S. on Fighting in Muslim Lands," The New York Times, 21 December 2006.
[6] Zawahiri accused it of being "duped, provoked and used" by the United States after it participated in the 2005 legislative elections. See "Al-Qaida's No. 2 leader praises U.S. hints of troop reduction in Iraq," The Associated Press, 6 January 2006.
[7] In his 2003 book, Why America Slept, Gerald Posner cites two unidentified senior Bush administration officials as saying that captured Al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah revealed details of a Saudi-Pakistani-Bin Laden triangle. See Gerald Posner, Why America Slept: The Failure to Prevent 9/11, (New York: Random House, 2003).
[8] "Inside the Kingdom," Time, 7 September 2003.
[9] Nina Shea, Saudi Arabia's Curriculum of Intolerance, Freedom House, 2006.
[10] John Esposito, quoted in Gary Leupp, On Terrorism, Methodism, Saudi 'Wahhabism' and the Censored 9-11 Report, Counterpunch, 8 August 2003.
[11] Ali al-Ahmed of the Washington Institute for Gulf Affairs makes this point. See Saudi Arabia's Curriculum of Intolerance,, 14 June 2006.
[12] "Top Saudi cleric issues religious edict declaring Shiites to be infidels," Associated Press, 29 December 2006.
[13] More Evidence of Saudi Double Talk?, MSNBC, 26 April 2005.
[14] In an April 2006 lecture, Saudi cleric Nasser bin Suleiman al-Omar cautioned his audience not to "get involved in things that are not jihad . . . [and] divert the strife and calamity into the lands of the Muslims, instead of aiming them directly at the enemies." He continued, saying that: "there are places where jihad is proper - in Afghanistan, Palestine, Iraq, Chechnya, Kashmir, and the Philippines." See Saudi Cleric Nasser bin Suleiman Al-'Omar: 'America is Now Disappearing From the Hearts Within America Itself . . . MEMRI Special Dispatch #1154, 4 May 2006.
[15] Alex Alexiev, "Terrorism: Growing Wahhabi Influence in the United States", Testimony before the US Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security, 26 June 2003.
[16] Author interview with Evgueni Novokov, Ph.D., former colonel, senior staff officer for the Soviet Politburo and deputy director for Middle East Operations, in charge of Arabic Department, and relationships with CPSU Central Committee front organizations and friendly parties; advised Central Committee members on Islamic affairs, 1986 -1988. 22 October 2006.
[17] Author interview with Abdel Guzman, Grand Imam of Jolo, Jolo City, Sulu Province, The Philippines, 5 March 2004.
[18] Author's interview with Abdel Guzman, The Grand Imam of Jolo, Op. Cit.
[19] See Freedom House, The Talibanization of Nigeria: Radical Islam, Extremist Sharia Law, and Religious Freedom, March 2002.
[20] "Against the Saudization of Somaliland," Addis Tribune (Ethiopia), 21 November 2003.
[21] In March 2002, the official Saudi magazine Ain al-Yaqeen estimated that the Saudi royal family in countries where Muslims were a minority has funded 210 Islamic centers, 1,500 mosques, 202 colleges, and 2,000 madrassas. The number of all Saudi Government and charitably funded institutions beyond Saudi Arabia is much higher. Cited in "Inside the Kingdom," Time, 7 September 2003.
[22] Alex Alexiev, "France at the Brink", The San Diego Union Tribune, 20 November 2005. See also: Alex Alexiev, Europe's Islamist Future is Now, The Center for Security Policy, 13 June 2005.
[23] Other publications examined include textbooks from the Saudi Ministry of Education and collections of religious edicts by state-sanctioned clerics in the kingdom. See Freedom House, Saudi Publications on Hate Ideology Fill American Mosques, January 2005.
[24] Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, "Wahhabism in the Big House: The Teaching of Jihad in American Penitentiaries," The Weekly Standard, 26 September 2005.
[25] "Terrorist Recruitment in Prisons and The Recent Arrests Related to Guantanamo Bay Detainees," Testimony of John S. Pistole, Assistant Director, Counterterrorism Division, FBI, before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology, and Homeland Security, 14 October 2003.
[26] Testimony of Dr. J. Michael Waller before the US Senate Judiciary Committee's Terrorism Subcommittee, 14 October 2003.
[27] Frank Gaffney, A Troubling Influence, Front Page, 9 December 2003.
[28] Glenn Simpson, "Suspect Lessons: A Muslim School Used by Military Has Troubling Ties," The Wall Street Journal, 3 December 2003.
[29] "For Conservative Muslims, Goal of Isolation a Challenge; 9/11 Put Strict Adherents on the Defensive," The Washington Post, 5 September 2006.
[30] Edward L. Morse and James Richard, "The Battle for Energy Dominance," Foreign Affairs, March/April 2002.
[31] David Ignatius, "The Operator," The Washington Post, 5 November 2006, p.7.
[32] Daniel Pipes, "The Scandal of U.S.-Saudi Relations," The National Interest, Winter 2002/2003.
[33] "Oil for Security Fueled Close Ties; But Major Differences Led to Tensions," The Washington Post, 11 February 2002.
[34] In November 2006, Nawaf Obaid, a close advisor to Prince Turki, warned in a Washington Post op-ed that a phased American withdrawal from Iraq will result in "massive Saudi intervention," with options including "funding, arms and logistical support" to Sunni insurgents. "As the economic powerhouse of the Middle East, the birthplace of Islam and the de facto leader of the world's Sunni community (which comprises 85 percent of all Muslims), Saudi Arabia has both the means and the religious responsibility to intervene." See Nawaf Obaid, "Stepping Into Iraq: Saudi Arabia Will Protect Sunnis if the U.S. Leaves," The Washington Post, 29 November 2006.
[35] Outlook on Renewable Energy in America, Volume II: Joint Summary Report, American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), March 2007.
[36] The Rand Corporation, Building Moderate Muslim Networks, 2007.
Curtin Winsor, Jr. is a former United States Ambassador to Costa Rica. He graduated from Brown University in 1961 with a degree in English literature, and then received a Masters in Latin American studies in 1964 and a Ph.D. in international studies in 1971 from the School of International Service at American University in Washington, D.C. He worked as an adviser to President Ronald Reagan and Sen. Robert Dole, as well as for the U.S. Foreign Service. * This article had previously been published in the Mideast Monitor.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Islamic Radicalism: Its Wahhabi Roots and Current Representation

Radicalism, in various forms, has made significant inroads in several countries of Central Asia and in the Caucasus - in particular the three countries that share the Ferghana Valley, namely Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikstan, Chechnya, and the Russian Republic of Daghestan. Known as fundamentalism or "Wahhabism," it poses a direct challenge to the ideal vision of a state that the newly founded nations of the region have embraced. In addition, the broader ideology name "Wahhabism" represents a serious challenge to the theology and practice of the mainstream Sunni Islam to which most of these nations' populations adhere. Should this radicalized understanding of Islam continue to spread unchecked, radical interpretations could threaten social stability at the local, national, and regional levels and create serious geopolitical dangers to which neighboring powers, as well as the US and Europe, would have to react.

Today, throughout the world, there has been a wave of radical movements, which sometimes turn militant, whose source can be traced to the Wahhabi movement. What is this movement and how did it spread throughout the Muslim world, and now the Western world? What are its ideological differences with traditional Islam and how are these differences influencing and supporting modern day radical movements? What can be done to diminish the power of these movements in vulnerable states such as those in Central Asia and the Caucasus? 

Traditional Islam views religion as a pact between man and God and therefore the domain of spirituality. In this belief, there can be no compulsion or force used in religion. From the time of the Prophet Muhammad (s), peace and tolerance were practiced between different religious groups, with respect to distinctions in belief. Contrary to this, the "Wahhabi" ideology is built on the concept of political enforcement of religious beliefs, thus permitting no differences in faith whatsoever. In "Wahhabi" belief, faith is not necessarily an option; it is sometimes mandated by force.
Origins of the Wahhabi Movement

The origins of nearly all of the 20th century's Islamic extremist movements lie in a new Islamic theology and ideology developed in the 18th and 19th centuries in tribal areas of the eastern Arabian Peninsula. The source of this new stream of thought was a Muslim scholar named Muhammad ibn Abd-al Wahhab, hence the name "Wahhabism."

The premise of this new, narrow ideology was to reject traditional scholars, scholarship and practices under the guise of "reviving the true tenets of Islam" and protecting the concept of monotheism. Ibn Abd al-Wahhab's brand of "purification" of Islam consisted of prohibiting many traditionally accepted acts of worship, reverence of the person of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him and the pious saints, and burning books containing traditional prayers, interpretations of law and commentaries on the Qur'an and Hadith. He encouraged his followers to interpret the holy books for themselves and to act on their interpretations in light of their own understanding, regardless of their understanding of fundamental principles or lack thereof. Anyone who did not profess to this new ideology was considered outside of the realm of Islam - an apostate, disbeliever or idolater, thus making the shedding of their blood and confiscation of their wealth permitted. In this way, he was able to secure a significant following whose legacy continues in one form or another until today.

Over time, Ibn Wahhab's ideas spread far and wide, being debated, called into question and sometimes supported. A struggle ensued between the staunchly orthodox Ottoman Empire and the "Wahhabi" tribes. The Wahhabis were put down until the eventual dismantling of the Ottoman Empire in the 1920s and the dissolution of its influence. Finding a new opportunity among the tribes, Wahhabis were able to reinstate their beliefs and assert their influence on Muslims of the Peninsula.

Gradually from 1920 until today, they were very successful in establishing an "accepted" new ideology in Islam whose essential characteristic is extreme views and interpretations, as contrasted with traditional Sunni Islam. Coming under the guise of reform of the religion, the movement gathered momentum in the last three decades with support from a number of wealthy individuals. As it has grown, the movement mutated and splintered, with the eventual outcome that some groups went to the extreme in radicalization of their beliefs.
Influence of Wahhabism Today 

The Wahhabi ideology is antagonistic to non-Muslims and to traditional practices including seeking intercession by means of the pious saints in Islam, accepted by traditional Sunni Islam for over 1400 years. By rejecting any form of hierarchy such as that followed by traditional Sunni schools, the Wahhabis rejected traditional rulings on a wide range of subjects, invalidated the four schools of thought and its accepted interpretations of law, as well as issued declarations of unbelief for those who disagreed.

While this new ideology prohibited many traditional Islamic forms of worship, its followers did not become overtly militant until recently. Now "Wahhabi" followers have taken up an increasingly confrontational standpoint attempting to impose their ideology in many regions around the world. The Wahhabi mentality asserts that Islam may be reformed by means of the sword. Thus the movement has manifested itself as armed insurrections throughout the world, especially where governments are weak and unable to resist aggression effectively.

Unfortunately, this narrow ideology has appeared and flourished in Islam, but not because of Islam. Previously, Islam was always presented in a peaceful, tolerant manner. The Prophet Muhammad (s) used to present his neighbors or friends that were not Muslim with gifts and flowers, never holding a sword against them, or ever instigating a struggle or a fight. There are many events in Muslim history where the Prophet made peace treaties with non-Muslims. Islam, despite its rapid spread in its first three centuries, never imposed its beliefs on anyone, as attested by the scrolls of history.

Under this modern ideological extremism, Islam's essential principle of tolerance has been abolished. The Holy Qur'an mentions repeatedly that there is no compulsion in religion and that all people are free to practice any religion they like. Those of the Wahhabi ideology selectively apply verses of the Holy Qur'an to support their ideology, whose basis is to impose its beliefs upon everyone, Muslim and non-Muslim alike.
Theory in Practice: Declaration of War against Governments 

Just as the spread of Wahhabism flourished outside of the Arabian Peninsula after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, it now poses a significant challenge to the region of the former Soviet Union. While these countries were "protected" from all types of religious influence under Soviet rule, the fall of the Soviet Empire and the vacuum of religious teaching made this area fertile ground for the spread of this new ideology.

Wahhabi belief provides the religious and ideological underpinnings to enable militant movements to take up arms against existing governments if they deem the need arises. Though these movements are ideological in nature, they easily resort to armed struggle. While most governments are able to reconcile and reach compromises -- as one may easily compromise with a moderate Muslim -- extremists reject any kind of compromise, insisting on their way and no other. They have tunnel vision, believing in a duty and message to deliver.

The extremists who have turned militant declare war against anyone with viewpoints contrary to theirs; thus, declaration of war against a government is commonplace. In Egypt, they oppose their government. Similarly in Jordan, they oppose their government. In Syria, Pakistan, Algeria, and many other countries "Wahhabi-minded" groups oppose their governments as they have begun to do in the Caucasus and Central Asia. The approach of these movements is to infiltrate mosques, Islamic teaching centers, and charitable organizations from where they indoctrinate religiously oriented people with their ideas and methods. They forcefully impose their views on weak societies, in hopes of conquering one and establishing a base for further control. They justify their militant acts and illegal means of financing their cause by claiming to wage a "jihad" for the preservation of Islam.

Today, we have many examples of this phenomenon, whether it is individuals declaring war on America, or vigilante groups coming against their governments in Central Asia. This contradicts the explicit teaching of the Prophet Muhammad, not to oppose a ruler as long as he does not prevent the performance of prayer, even if he commits injustice. Thus, those of the Wahhabi mentality use Islam when it suits them and likewise, contravene it at their convenience.
Using Islam to Justify Prohibited Actions 

The term "Islamic" is grossly abused by extremists who attribute to the religion all kinds of rulings, which in fact contradict the essence of the religion in spirit and in particulars. Among them is the fatwa that justifies the use of terror tactics such as suicide bombings of civilians and attacks against non-combatants in marketplaces, schools, offices, and places of worship. Similarly they have issued a fatwa legitimizing the use of drug money to finance their campaign, despite the fact that narcotics are strictly forbidden in Islam.

Islamic extremists have ruled permissible and recommended the production of drugs and their sale on the streets of Muslim and non-Muslim nations. With such illicit monies, these extremist groups finance the development of their global network, purchase weapons and supplies, and build their front organizations, which represent them under the guise of Islamic activism.
Containing the Spread and Growth of Extremism 

It is very well known that certain networks have flourished in many countries throughout the world. Small but well-financed militant movements arise, coming against their government and the common people, instigating conflict. The danger lies when an outside government supports such extremist movements under the false impression that this constitutes preserving religious freedom.

In Uzbekistan, for example, rather than legitimize these vigilante groups as part of the religious fabric of the society, there should be system of checks to insure the government is not fostering the growth and spread of radical movements, whose stated goal is elimination of the legitimate government by any means, including armed struggle. There are known groups who are not permitted in many of the Middle Eastern countries, thus, it is unreasonable to single out Uzbekistan as being required to recognize these same groups as a legitimate religious party. There must be some type of code of ethics devised to differentiate legitimate religious groups from those who use the threat of force to impose their ideology.

The problem of extremism exists not only in far distant countries, but in the US as well. It can be dealt with more effectively if the West better understands Islam and builds bridges with moderate Muslim individuals and nations. To support "religious freedom" abroad without having knowledge of whom one is supporting (i.e., an extremist movement) is an irrational misuse of the laws protecting the religious rights of individuals.

To understand such movements, one must understand the scope of Islam and the psychology of Muslims, since what we are seeing today is an ideological movement turned militant. It is important to note that the Wahhabi ideology itself is extreme in its interpretation and can turn militant over time. Why is this form of thinking attractive to some Muslims? What are the political agendas behind "religious" movements? How are holy books used to justify illegal actions performed in the name of the religion? Education is a key factor in containing and countering the spread of this type of extremism and its associated movements.

It would be highly beneficial if a think tank or research institute were to be formed in order that government officials, researchers, and media understand Islam on a deeper level, rather than making rash generalizations based on superficial understandings. To truly understand the world Islamist extremist movement, one must realize it is not just a social phenomenon as so many theorists mistakenly assume, but is a full-fledged ideological war of words and weapons alike.