Reza F. Safa, author of Inside Islam, estimates that since 1973, the Saudi government has spent an unbelievable $87B to promote Wahhabism in the United States, Africa, Southeast Asia and Europe. According to official Saudi information, Saudi funds have been used to build and maintain over 1,500 mosques, 202 colleges, 210 Islamic Centers wholly or partly financed by Saudi Arabia, and almost 2,000 schools for educating Muslim children in non-Islamic countries in Europe, North and South America, Australia and Asia.
The Kingdom has fully or partially financed Islamic Centers in Los Angeles; San Francisco; Fresno; Chicago; New York; Washington; Tucson; Raleigh, N.C. and Toledo, Ohio as well as in Austria, Great Britain, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Russia, Turkey, and even in some Muslim countries such as Morocco, Indonesia, Malaysia and Djibuti.
Saudi aid to Muslims abroad, however, comes with strings attached, and most of the recipient institutions end up promoting the Wahhabi version of Islam.
A Textbook Case of Wahhabism
In a region where holy war is explained in public-school textbooks as “consider the infidel your enemy,” (advises a Saudi text for 10th-graders), the connection between political Islam of the sort advocated by Osama bin Laden and the education offered to Persian Gulf schoolchildren has been the subject of agonizing dispute.
In late 2002, The Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace (CMIP) undertook a survey of Saudi Arabian (Wahhabi) textbooks. Unlike the Center?s former surveys of Palestinian and Syrian textbooks, however, the Saudi textbook survey included the Saudi Arabian (Wahhabi) outlook on Christianity and the West as well as Saudi notions of government, women?s status and children?s rights as taught in schools.
The results of the survey provide some insight into the message the Saudis wish to instill in the minds of their students both in their Kingdom and throughout the world. The message, simply stated, is that Wahhabism either must dominate or be dominated. In terms of the democratization and modernization of the Arab world, Wahhabism stands as a monument to Arab stagnation and decline.
The Report analyzes 93 school textbooks taught in grades 1-10, mostly from the years 1999-2002 and presents a “unique” religious and political worldview to which school students between the ages 6 and 16 are exposed through their textbooks.
In these Wahhabi texts, Islam is presented as the only true religion while all other religions are presented as false. Islam is the only religion leading its followers to Paradise, whereas all other religions destroy their believers in Hell. The Muslims are, consequently, superior to followers of all other religions, in both this world and the next.
Christians and Jews in particular are denounced as infidels. Jews especially are presented as enemies of Islam and of Muslims. “Muslims may not befriend them, nor emulate them in any way, lest that lead to love and friendship which is forbidden”.
In a broader context, the textbooks make clear that the West, in particular, is the source of all misfortunes of the Muslim world – it is most dangerous effect on Muslim society being its cultural and intellectual influence in various fields including the spread of Western practices and habits – from Western democracy to Western influence in the fields of literature, art, music, the media, fashion, education and research – including Christian missionary work, Western humanitarian and medical aid, and even Western-invented computer games.
According to the Wahhabi world perspective, “the Jews are a wicked nation, characterized by bribery, slyness, deception, betrayal, aggressiveness and haughtiness”. As such, they have been “a harmful element in world history,” and are responsible, inter alia, for ?the French and Bolshevik revolutions and for the outbreak of World War I.
Not content to portray the Jews solely in negative terms to students, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion are presented as an authentic historical source. One textbook mentions that ?perdition is the desired fate for Jews. Zionism is presented as an evil movement. Accordingly, Zionism strives towards world domination or, at least, towards territorial expansion in the Fertile Crescent and Arabia. It uses evil means to direct world history, including some non-Jewish auxiliary organizations like the Freemasons and the Lions and Rotary clubs.
In Wahhabi textbooks, Israel is not recognized as a sovereign state and its name does not appear on any map. Instead, all maps bear the name Palestine. Israeli regions such as the Negev and cities such as Haifa and Acre are presented as Palestinian. Palestine is presented as a Muslim country occupied by foreigners who defile its Muslim holy places, especially the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. The occupation of Palestine is portrayed as the most crucial problem of the Arabs and the Muslims, ?who should all join forces for the total liberation of Palestine and its purification” from the Zionists.
Nor is peace between Muslims and non-Muslims advocated. Instead, the Saudi textbooks, even grammar books, are full of phrases exalting war, Jihad, and martyrdom with interpretations consistent with those at the beginning of this book.
The Saudi textbooks do prove one thing as a certainty – Wahhabism rejects Western democracy, and praises the type of regime Saudi Arabia has embraced, the character of which is attributed to Islamic directives.
Wahhabi Educational Outreach
America, perhaps due to the inherent openness of its society, is the only country outside Saudi Arabia where the Islamic establishment is actually under Wahhabi control.
For American Muslim moderates, the harsh reality of having their religion hijacked by Wahhabi radicals is something they have yet to confront. “Radical Islamic groups have now taken over leadership of the ‘mainstream’ Islamic institutions in the United States and anyone who pretends otherwise is deliberately engaging in self-deception,” said the late Seif Ashmawi, an Egyptian-American newspaper publisher.
Stephen Schwartz, a noted scholar of Islam has commented that ?Wahhabi agents have sought to impose their ideology on all who attend the mosques they control.? Of that $87B religious propaganda budget, the Saudis have allocated considerable line-item space toward building religious institutions that promote the Wahhabi version of Islam.
The Saudis have funded more than 80 percent of the Wahhabi-influenced mosques built in the United States within the last 20 years.
Moreover, the majority of Muslim Student Associations at U.S. colleges are dominated by Islamic and anti-American agendas, as are most of the numerous Islamic Centers and schools financed by the Saudis.
And the most malleable minds belong to Muslim children. An estimated 30,000 Muslim children attend Saudi-funded Wahhabi day schools in America. Intolerance and outright rejection of American values and democratic ideals – classical Wahabbism – are often taught.
Susan Katz Keating, writing in FrontPage Magazine noted that the Saudi-Wahhabi worldview is gradually finding its way into these Wahhabi-funded schools. In affirmation of the CMIP study, she concluded that children learn classical Wahhabi philosophy – that on Judgement Day, “Muslims will fight and kill Jews. The cowardly Jews will seek refuge behind trees. Much like the trees in the forest scene from the Wizard of Oz, these trees will become animated and aggressive. They will call out to the righteous: “Oh Muslim, Oh servant of God, here is a Jew hiding behind me. Come here and kill him.”” Students are taught “it is better to shun and even to dislike Christians, Jews and Shiite Muslims.” Students learn it is okay to hurt or steal from a non-Muslim. The Saudi-supplied textbooks at these Wahhabi schools state that Muslims are obliged to consider all infidels the enemy.
As a rule, Wahhabi worshippers do not embrace the American religious community’s spirit of inter-faith cooperation. They are distinctly isolationist. This attitude came to light as early as the 1990’s, when Wahhabi mosques in America refused to accept help from local churches wanting to donate food to Bosnian Muslims.
Confirming the parallel findings of the CMIP study, Keating concludes that Wahhabism will not work with infidels, even if the purpose is to save other Muslims.
The Saudis, meanwhile, have directed considerable outreach toward the American Black Muslim community. In one effort to showcase the bounties of Wahhabism to this target audience, the Saudis’ enfeebled King Fahd pledged as much as $8M for a lavish mosque in shabby South Central Los Angeles.
The Saudis’ Islamic Development Bank pledged an additional $295,000 for a school attached to the mosque. From the Saudi perspective, this and other similar contributions are less an expense than an investment. According to Reza Safa, an authority on the manner in which Wahhabism is spread throughout the world, “as many as 90 percent of American converts to Islam are black.” According to some estimates, if the conversion rate continues, Islam could emerge as the dominant religion among urban blacks.
Wahhabi Prison Outreach
The Saudi?s also have a special program aimed at converting blacks in prison. In a well-documented June 2002 article in the Washington Times, Cal Thomas noted that the program is funded by Saudi Arabian money through the National Islamic Prison Foundation which underwrites a “prison outreach” program designed to convert large numbers of African-American inmates not only to Wahhabism, but to its political objectives including virulent anti-Americanism.
The Wall Street Journal (February 5, 2003) also confirmed that Wahhabism is making serious inroads into the black population of American prisons. It quoted a New York-based Wahhabi imam, Warith Deen Umar (who until his retirement in 2000 helped run New York’s growing Islamic prison program by recruiting and training dozens of chaplains and ministering to thousands of inmates himself) as saying:
“The 9/11 hijackers should be honored as martyrs. The U.S. risks further terrorism attacks because it oppresses Muslims around the world. Without justice, there will be warfare, and it can come to this country too.”
The natural candidates to help press such an attack, in his view are African-Americans who embraced Islam in prison. Prison dawa, or the spreading of the faith, has become a priority for the Saudi Arabian government. The Islamic Affairs Department of the Saudi Embassy in Washington disseminates hundreds of copies of the Quran each month, as well as religious pamphlets and videos to prison chaplains and Islamic groups who then pass them along to inmates.
The Saudi government also pays for prison chaplains, along with many other American Muslims, to travel to Saudi Arabia for worship and study during the hajj, the traditional winter pilgrimage to Mecca that all Muslims are supposed to make at least once in their lives. The trips, courtesy of the Saudi government, typically cost $3,000 a person and last several weeks.
Prison authorities believe that these converted inmates could serve as terrorists once they are released, murdering their own countrymen in a kind of “payback” for perceived injustices done to them by white America.
On October 20, 2002, the New York Times quoted Faheem Shuaibe, imam at a large, predominately black mosque in Oakland, Calif., as saying that more than 200 African-American imams have been trained so far in Saudi Arabia. Mr. Shuaibe told the newspaper:
“This was a very deliberate recruitment process by the Saudis – trying to find black Muslims who had a real potential for Islamic learning and also for submission to their agenda. They taught Islam with the intent to expand their influence. A principal target was to stop the indigenous Muslim leadership in America from tinkering with their religion.”
According to the Times story, the brand of Islam being taught and exported was Wahhabism.
This is a trend worth watching. Many of America’s black Muslims have harshly criticized America and have deemed it an “immoral society.” Increasingly, black Muslims oppose U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, and are adopting a Saudi-influenced view of Arab-Israeli relations.
Other Wahhabis in the U.S. advocate a Saudi-style approach to American government. Daniel Pipes reports that significant elements within the American Islamic community seek to replace our Constitution with the Quran. A ludicrous fantasy, to be sure; but one that offers a glimpse of Wahhabi dreams for America.
Former CIA Director James Woolsey told Congress:
“Wahhabi extremism today is the soil in which al Qaeda and its sister terrorist organizations are growing.”
Our problem is that we are not just fighting terrorists and their financial supporters. We are also fighting a religious ideology.
The intrusion of Wahhabism into America is a threat to our security and to our way of life. The fact remains that the government has not done enough to root out Wahhabism, to shut off its funding, to close down its funding recipients, or to encourage moderate Islamic leaders to emphasize the inclusive (as opposed to the exclusive) writings of the Quran and the more humble and pluralistic commentaries of the Hadith.
The U.S. has also failed to pursue a coherent political strategy aimed at de-legitimizing the ideology of Islamic terrorism in America and undermining the terrorists’ sources of support. And it is becoming increasingly clear that the reason for this failure is Washington’s unwillingness to risk a rupture with Saudi Arabia.
The Bush administration has to face up to the fact that Riyadh has been – and remains – the main ideological and financial sponsor of Islamic extremism worldwide, and the Saudis are not seriously interested in helping us combat it.
According to the Council on Foreign Relations Report, Saudi Arabia is the largest source of financing for al-Qaeda, and blamed both the U.S. and Saudi governments for not being tough enough.
Matthew Levitt, has said that Saudi officials and state-paid religious leaders sit on the boards of charities that the American government suspects of supporting terrorism.
Let there be no doubt. Al Qaeda ideology is essentially Wahhabism, and most, if not all members of al Qaeda are ideologically Wahhabist. Billions of Saudi dollars are flowing through legitimate businesses, charitable front organizations, Islamic Centers, academies, private schools, wealthy Saudi individuals and world wide criminal activities for the sole purpose of promoting a religious philosophy that is antithetical to democracy, the democratic ideals of freedom, tolerance, religious pluralism and Western civilization as we know it.
Until the administration confronts this reality in a decisive manner, lasting progress in the war on terrorism is unlikely. Wahhabism, by its very nature and history, represents a nascent fifth column in America.