An organ of the American Institute of International Studies (AIIS), Fremont, CA

Current_Issue_Nregular_1_1 Archives
Your_comments Legal

Your donation
is tax deductable.

Journal of America Team:

 Editor in chief: 
Abdus Sattar Ghazali

 Managing Editor:
Mertze Dahlin   

Senior Editor:
Arthur Scott

Syed Mahmood book
Front page title small

Journal of America encourages independent
thinking and honest discussions on national & global issues


Disclaimer and Fair Use Notice: Many articles on this web site are written by independent individuals or organizations. Their opinions do not necessarily reflect those of the Journal of America and its affiliates. They are put here for interest and reference only. More details

July 10, 2016

Radical Islam and Wahhabism

By Arthur Scott

Today in America there is a heated debate over how best to describe Muslim radicals without either demonizing the entire religion, or giving ISIS added notoriety that it can use in recruitment. Finding the correct metaphor that captures best this Islamic expression is very challenging.

What makes the debate even more complicated is that even within conservative Islam,mostly Sunna Saudis, there is an “ultra-conservative strain’ known as Wahhabi.

Muhammed ibn Abd al- Wahhab was an eighteenth religious Quranic literalist, who argued that the Islamic goal was to recreate the world of Muhammad at Medina,and to eschew all the trapping of modernity. Wahhab was a sexist, who was especially critical of images and pilgrimages which he considered idolatry.

Historically Wahhabism interfaced with the rise of the House of Saud, which was seeking a religious vehicle, to justify its political conquest or jihad over the various Nejd tribes. The House of Saud and Wahhabism merged.

The agreement reached between the two institutions was that the Wahhabi were given a monopoly over religion andculture in exchange for their support of the political aspirations of the House of Saud.It required absolute allegiance to the House of Saud and the teachings of Wahhabi.

With the emergence of petro-dollars boom in the 1970s, the House of Saud and Wahhabi leaders saw “black gold”as a vehicle by which it could spread its very conservative brand of Sunna Islam throughout the Muslim world and counter Shia Iran, Baathist Iraq,atheistic Russia, military Egypt, modernistic Turkey, and of course. the devil West.

Over the last fifty years, Saudi Arabia has used its monies to spread Wahhabi beliefs in Afghanistan and Pakistan (Taliban), throughout the Arabian Peninsula, Egypt (Islamic Brotherhood/Salafists), Somalia, North Africa, and in the Balkans as a way to counter in particular the threat posed by the Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini (Islamic Fundamentalism) as well as to neutralize the spread of Western materialism.

For all practical purposes, the Wahhabis have waged an internal Middle East jihad over the last fifty years. They have funded thirty percent of all Mosques in the region as educational centers to promote their rather conservative brand of Islam and the geo-political goals of the House of Saud.

The House of Saud has for years played a dangerous two-faced game. Ostensibly allied to America, but in fact high-jacking American foreign policy to further its own regional ambitions. Often clandestinely working against the diplomacy of the United States on the basis that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. A classical blow-back emanating from this alliance was the rise of al- Qaeda and Osama Bin-Laden. Osama after fighting against the Russians in Afghanistan came to the Wahhabi conclusion that American, “the Great Satan,” was the real threat, and that the House of Saud itself had become corrupted by modernity. These beliefs led to 9/11 and precipitated the Bush decision to invade Iraq in 2003.

Ironically, twenty-eight pages of the 2002, 9/11 Commission report, still have not been released on the grounds that key Saudi figures were connected with the Osama plan. Recently John Lehman,Naval officer and Republican, and 9/11 Commissioner stated: “There was an awful lot of participation by Saudi individuals supporting the hijackers and some of these people worked in Saudi government.” (See,

The rise of ISIS or Islamic State ofIraq and Levant is another example of the inflammatory effects of Wahhabism. ISIS is led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. His radical expression of Sunna Islam, which he denies, is nonetheless quite similar to Wahhabi—a virus that has been germinating in the Middle East landscape for a long time.

Baghdadi calls upon Muslims of the world to return to the world of the Prophet, to a time of “the pious forefathers.” This brand is popularly known as “Salafism.”ISIS furor is particularly directed at fellow Muslims who have abandoned the old ways, takfir or apostates, who deserve to be killed. Two hundred million Shia fall into this category as do all Muslim modernists. Baghdadi claims that ISIS is the legitimate heir to re-establishing the Caliphate which passed away with the “Rightly Guided Caliphs”, 632-661, CE. His claim represents an existential threat to the Saudis, and can be traced back to Osama’s break.

Paradoxically, what this means is that ISIS, as the new Caliphate, sees itself at war with Saudi Arabia, and the ideological claims of Riyadh, as the heart of Islam, heretical. King Abdullah, who is a cautious modernizer finds himself targeted, and is in a dangerous situation given the institutional strength of the Wahhabis, and the contradictory duality confronting the Saudi state as it see-saws between modernity and its Wahhabi religious roots. (See,

Since the time of FDR, the relationship between Washington and Riyadh has been based on American security in exchange for Saudi oil. The Saudis, too, over the decades have become one of America’s great creditors along with Japan and China.

 A significant part of the evolving Alliance has been the close political relationship between the Bush/Clinton families and the Saudi government. The Bush/Saudi relationship goes back to First Gulf War, and expanded after 9/11 under GW. Carl Unger, in House of Bush, House of Saud, discovered that over a twenty-year period the Saudi leadership earmarked $1.4 billion in investments to key Bush affiliates including Harken Energy, Halliburton and the Carlyle Group, the eleventh largest US defense contractor. (See,

Ties to Clintons began in Arkansas and expanded throughout the 90s. The Saudis were a major contributor to the Clinton Library in Little Rock estimated at about $10 million, and simultaneously a major revenue stream to the Clinton Foundation. As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, negotiated a recent weapons sale worth $ 1.29 billion dollars making Saudis` America’s best customer. (See,

These intimate family ties compromise American foreign policy action and explain in part Washington’s reluctance in winding down its involvement in the Middle East. Despite pressure from Riyadh, Obama, nevertheless, resisted becoming involved in the Syrian debacle, and has engineered a diplomatic revolution with Teheran by ending western economic sanction in exchange for nuclear disarmament.

Yet the Saudi regime because of Wahhabi still remains a divided and fragile Kingdom which could implode as the forces of modernity and religion clash within, aggravated by ISIS.But even if ISIS is defeated and the Kingdom stabilizes the virus of Wahhabism runs deep and can easily metamorphose to another apocalyptical radical group.(

Arthur Kane Scott is Professor of Humanities and Cultural Studies at the Dominican University of California and Fellow of American Institute of International Studies.