The Financial Times printed the following Letter to the Editor in response to an unflattering op-ed on Wahabbism and its place in providing the ideology for groups like ISIS:
Sir, David Gardner, in his article “Look beyond Saudi Arabia for Sunni leadership” (August 8), made the extraordinary claim that the Kingdom is “exporting tanker-loads of quasi-totalitarian religious dogma and pipelines of jihadi volunteers”. He is wrong.
The government of Saudi Arabia has not and does not support or fund the murderers who have collected under the banner of the Islamic State. We do not and have not supported or funded “militant jihadism” of any kind. Indeed, we have stood firmly against it and urged the international community to stand with us.
Following an international counter-terrorism conference held in Riyadh in 2005, the UN counter terrorism centre was established with financial support of $100m from our government, which this year has been increased by a further $100m.
We have been and are fighting extremism within our own borders daily, indeed hourly. All and any Saudis found to be supporting or funding these murderous and evil groups, which are outlawed in Saudi Arabia, will be arrested.
Mr Gardner went on to say: “Jihadi extremism does present a threat to the kingdom. But in doctrinal terms it is hard to see in what way it ‘deviates’ from Wahhabi orthodoxy, with its literalist and exclusivist rendering of Sunni Islam.” What is “Wahhabi orthodoxy”? We are not Wahhabis, we are Muslims. Wahhabism is a convenient label dreamt up by the media to describe extremist radical- thought-inspiring movements ranging from the Taliban in Afghanistan to the al-Qaeda network and now the terrorist Isis in Iraq.
But this does not even faintly correspond with the teachings of Muhammad Ibn Abd al Wahhab, who was a well-travelled, scholarly jurist of the 18th century. He insisted to Muslims that they adhere to the values of the holy Qur’an and teachings of the prophet Muhammad (PBUH), which includes the maximum preservation of human life.
It is perhaps worth mentioning in the light of the current crisis that in 2003, before the war in Iraq, the Saudi foreign minister, HRH Prince Saud al-Faisal, warned: “If change of regime comes with the destruction of Iraq, then you are solving one problem and creating five more problems.”
Mohammed bin Nawaf Al Saud, Ambassador of Saudi Arabia to the UK
I am prepared to acknowledge that, in retrospect, the invasion of Iraq was a mistake, like stirring up a hornet’s nest. But how did the Muslim world come to be full of hornets in the first place?
I think it came from the Koran, which Muhammad ibn abd al Wahhab read in a very literal interpretation, just like ISIS. Attempts to deny Wahhabism’s place in present-day Saudi Arabia convince no one but the ignorant.
Given globalization and the spread of the Internet the word would have been spread anyway, but Saudi Arabia gave it a big push, accompanied by boatloads of cash.