Islam has been hijacked by Wahhabism

A painting of a Wahhabi warrior. From a site where I cannot tell from a quick glance whether they are supporters of it or not.

“Islam is a religion of love. My brother was killed by terrorists, by false Muslims.”

These were the words of Malek Merabet, the brother of the police officer shot in the Charlie Hebdo attack. He is right. But his point raises another question that doesn’t get the attention it deserves:

How did Islam come to the point where charismatic firebrands like Djamel Beghal — who radicalized two of the Paris terrorists — are seen as authoritative by the vulnerable?

What happened to Islam?…

…Wahhabi military campaigns waged war against moderate Muslims, demolishing Islamic shrines and slaughtering entire villages of Muslims who did not subscribe to extremism. This same extreme ideology is behind the current destruction of shrines and mosques and the continuing violence against minority and mainstream Muslims all over the world, such as the Shiites in Pakistan.

Wahhabism would have remained a footnote in history as a puritanical cult movement even after it was adopted as the official state religion were it not for a single factor — the discovery of oil. The flood of petrodollars meant the Saudis could invest in institutions that create extreme and conservative religious leaders who, in turn, helped maintain the Saudi royal family’s position of power.

Although Wahhabism itself does not advocate violence, it does emphasize anti-Semitism, misogyny, interacting with non-Muslims only in cases of necessity and excommunicating any Muslims who do not subscribe to its deeply conservative and culturally isolationist ideology. It thus lays the intellectual foundations for jihadism, a rogue offshoot of Wahhabism, which encourages the terrorism we see on our TV screens…


Wahhabism is highly unpleasant without a doubt, but where did it come from? It was another “purifying,” back-to-the-basics turn in history of Islam.

I have even seen it compared to the Protestant Reformation. And while the Catholics and Protestants certainly did fight with each other, from the viewpoint of the 21st century, the differences seem much less than they did at the time.  A lot of fighting was territorial, as the Catholic Church did not wish to lose its position. 

The Protestant Reformation did not lead to anything resembling Wahhabism, because the reformers did not find such material in the Bible.  The most radical of the reformers did carry on about some of the same things — images, shrines, pilgrimages, even music.  But they could not carry the bulk of population with them on such issues at music, and the more radical ideas fell away.   

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