Saudi Arabia Steps Away from, but Does Not Repudiate, Religious Extremism

March 25 2020

For its entire history, the Saudi state has been wedded to an austere and stringent form of Islam known as Wahhabism, and has used its wealth and influence to disseminate it among Muslim communities the world over. In doing so, Riyadh did much to abet the rise of radical Islam in the 20th century. The kingdom began to shift gears in 2003, after it became a victim of jihadist terror. But greater changes have come since the reforms of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, which began in 2016. Ilan Berman writes:

Today . . . the Saudi government appears to be making a major effort to strike a more moderate religious tone globally. This is visible in the kingdom’s attempts at dialogue, with Saudi religious officials taking pains to engage other Muslim governments and movements that they had previously ignored or denigrated. It can also be seen in Saudi religious authorities’ official interfaith outreach, such as the recent delegation of imams, headed by the Muslim World League’s Secretary-General Mohammad al-Issa, that traveled to Auschwitz to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp by Allied forces at the end of World War II.

These overtures, however, do not constitute an outright repudiation of Wahhabism on the part of the House of Saud. Indeed, in his now-famous April 2018 interview with Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic, the crown prince refused even to acknowledge the existence of this creed, let alone its role as a driver of the kingdom’s foreign policy in decades past. Similarly, Saudi academics and officials are uniformly defensive when discussing the country’s role in the promotion of extreme Islam abroad, describing the kingdom’s well-documented exportation of Wahhabism over the past several decades as a “misunderstanding” or a conspiracy theory cooked up by the country’s enemies, like Iran.

Given these circumstances, the Saudi government’s recent turn on religion falls short of a fundamental change of heart or ideological reorientation. It is, rather, best understood as what scholars have termed a “course correction”—one designed, above all, to show the world a kinder, more inclusive side of the regime. Yet, whatever its limitations, this shift is nonetheless exerting a pronounced influence on the country’s domestic counterterrorism efforts.

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Read more at Center for Global Policy

More about: Mohammad bin Salman, Radical Islam, Saudi Arabia, Wahhabism, War on Terror

 

The Attempted Murder of Salman Rushdie Should Render the New Iran Deal Dead in the Water

Aug. 15 2022

On Friday, the Indian-born, Anglo-American novelist Salman Rushdie was repeatedly stabbed and severely wounded while giving a public lecture in western New York. Reports have since emerged—although as yet unverified—that the would-be assassin had been in contact with agents of Iran, whose supreme leaders have repeatedly called on Muslims to murder Rushdie. Meanwhile U.S. and European diplomats are trying to restore the 2015 nuclear agreement with Tehran. Stephen Daisley comments:

Salman Rushdie’s would-be assassin might have been a lone wolf. He might have had no contact with military or intelligence figures. He might never even have set foot in Tehran. But be in no doubt: he acted, in effect, as an agent of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Under the terms of the fatwa issued by Ayatollah Khomeini in February 1989, Rushdie “and all those involved in [his novel The Satanic Verses’s] publication who were aware of its content, are sentenced to death.” Khomeini urged “brave Muslims to kill them quickly wherever they find them so that no one ever again would dare to insult the sanctities of Muslims,” adding: “anyone killed while trying to execute Rushdie would, God willing, be a martyr.”

An American citizen has been the victim of an attempted assassination on American soil by, it appears, another American after decades of the Iranian supreme leader agitating for his murder. No country that is serious about its national security, to say nothing of its national self-worth, can pretend this is some everyday stabbing with no broader political implications.

Those implications relate not only to the attack on Rushdie. . . . In July, a man armed with an AK-47 was arrested outside the Brooklyn home of Masih Alinejad, an Iranian dissident who was also the intended target of an abduction plot last year orchestrated by an Iranian intelligence agent. The cumulative weight of these outrages should render the new Iran deal dead in the water.

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Read more at Spectator

More about: Freedom of Speech, Iran, U.S. Foreign policy