THE LINK BETWEEN SAUDI FUNDING AND SALAFIST TERRORISM

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hilary Smith

Dr. Marc Gopin

Religion 749

4 May 2015

Introduction

This paper examines the links between the state religion of Saudi Arabia, Saudi funding, to Salafist terrorism. The state religion of Saudi Arabia was first attributed to its founder, Abd al-Wahhab, and is called Wahhabism. This term has become somewhat pejorative and so is also referred to as Salafism. Both terms will be further defined and both used in this paper, though both will be used for the sake of clarity and is not intended to be disrespectful. This paper reviews Salafism’s and the Saudi state’s reliance on each other for power and legitimacy. It then examines the large sums of money donated by Saudi citizens and the Saudi government to Salafist causes; many of these causes have either directly or indirectly supported extremism and terrorism. This paper then asserts it is in the best interests of the Saudi government and the Saudi people to re-examine and reform the current brand of Salafism that inspires or condones terror groups. Methods for long term reform include a demeanor of mutual respect and friendship, dialogue, and education.

 

A Symbiotic Relationship: Salafism and Saudi Arabia

The brand of Islam Saudi citizens follow today began in 1744 with the Muslim cleric Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab and the emir of the Saud tribe, Muhammad ibn Saud. Wahhab came to the Najd region of the Arabian Peninsula, bearing a message that the people need to return to a purer form of Islam. Wahhab and Saud struck a deal: Wahhab would be allowed to preach this form of Islam under Saud’s protection, and in return, Wahhab would give Saud political legitimacy and regular funds from Wahhab’s followers.[1] This political-religious pact endures today, where the royal family, the House of Saud, maintains political power by allowing sheikhs of the Wahhabist or Salafist religious establishment to, “dictate the national character of Saudi Arabia.” [2]

The House of Saud used this legitimacy to conquer the Arabian Peninsula, including the two holy cities of Mecca and Medina. As the Ottoman Empire expanded into the Arabian Penninsula in the 19th century, the House of Saud endured occupation. However, in the early 20th century, Abd al-Aziz ibn Saud united Arab and Bedouin tribes and slowly retook his family’s old territorial claims. Al-Aziz again relied on his Wahhabist partners to consolidate his rule. In 1925, after a rift formed between al-Aziz and his Bedouin allies, al-Aziz turned to the Wahhabist clergy, or ulema, to justify his turning to fight the Bedouins.[3] Throughout the 1950s, Saud leadership leaned on the ulema to provide approval and legitimacy as it cracked down on tribal rivalries and supported Saudi Nationalism. [4] Also, in the 1970s, during Arab revolts in Mecca, the Saudi family depended on the legitimacy its Wahhabist ulema gave it to crush voices of dissent.[5] This characterizes the Saud-Wahhabi alliance, political legitimacy granted for religious primacy.

 

Salafism: on the Books and in Practice

It is important to understand what Wahhabism or Saudi Salafism is. Wahhabism is the main branch of Salafism. The name comes from al-salaf al-salih, meaning, “the pious ancestors.” It focuses on living and practicing the form of Islam originally practiced by the Prophet and his Companions, as found in the Sunnah and Hadith. The Sunnah is how the Prophet practiced Islam and it is written in the Hadith, which are sayings about the Prophet by contemporaries of the Prophet Muhammad. Saudi Salafism is conservative, strict, and focuses of practice and behavior. It is generally closed to innovation or changes in belief or practice.[6]

Natana J. DeLong-Bas, in her extensive survey al-Wahhab’s original writings in Wahhabi Islam: From Revival and Reform to Global Jihad, asserts that militancy and extremism do not originate in Wahhabi’s writings but rather were adopted in the late 19th century and early 20th century for political purposes. After reviewing al-Wahhab’s original writings, she concludes that violence and global jihad “are not inherent to Ibn Abd al-Wahhab’s writings.” [7]  She goes on to trace the roots of violent Wahhabism to precepts taught by writers like Ibn Taymiyya, Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah, and Sayid Qutb. These precepts were adopted by political leaders to achieve political goals. For example, Ibn Taymiyya wrote during the Mongul invasion in the 13th century. He reasons that coercion is acceptable to enforce Islamic law and defend Muslim lands from invaders. [8] He refers to this as lawful war and considers it jihad and uses religious writings to support his argument to rise up against Mongul invaders. These writings, and others, have been adopted by political leaders at different times to suit political purposes. However, Taymiyya’s views on violence and “blanket jihad” stands in “marked contrast” to al-Wahhab’s views and writings on jihad as an internal struggle and community debate for greater purity in living Islam.[9]

Some may hold that original Wahhabism matters less because contemporary Wahhabism is what is practiced today and is a mixture of historical precedent and other thinkers’ support for violence and jihad. Understanding original Wahhabism did not espouse violence is important because it gives a persuasive, legitimate, nonviolent insight into the conversation with Wahhabist ideas. Pure Wahhabism and pure Islam can legitimately state that they do not espouse global, violent jihad. This kind of identity proves essential in effort to reexamine and reform Saudi Salafist ideas.

In practice, however, Saudi Salafism has been used for all sorts of political purposes, including to justify expanding territory, spreading ideology, and funding terrorism and extremism. During the rise of the present state of Saudi Arabia, the first king, Abd al-Aziz, embraced a “convert or die” mentality that was not present in Abd al-Wahhab’s writings. This political approach was adopted as al-Aziz expanded his territory, consolidated rule over warring tribes, and acquired wealth and property. [10] Because Wahhabism asserts it is the purest, truest form of Islam, because the teachings and practices of the ulema are protected by the Saudi government, and because of the untold wealth of this oil-state, billions of Saudi funds have been devoted to the spread of Wahhabist ideology.

Finally, the mantra of returning to the Islam of the days of the Prophet is present in most Salafist terrorist groups across the Islamic world, many of whom were nurtured by Wahhabi educational materials decades ago. It can be argued that Wahhabism today sacrifices virtues treasured by the Prophet, such as care for the stranger, human dignity, the sacredness of life, peacemaking, reason, and free choice in matters of religion, in the name of right action, right practice, and behavioral conformity.[11] In true form to its return to the Islam of the Prophet and his Companions, punishments common in that day, such as beheadings and whippings, are carried out with regularity in the Saudi penal system.[12]

 

Saudi Salafist funding

            Education Programs and Materials

We will now turn from Wahhabist ideology and practice to the programs and priorities to which Saudi Salafist funds have contributed. As a part of the national religion and cultural, large amounts of money are given charitably by both the Saudi state and private individuals of Saudi Arabia. Many of these funds have gone to support spreading Saudi Salafism in some form. Most support comes in the form of providing educational materials, training for clerics, and mosque building or maintenance funds. [13] Both the nature of these funds and what they purchase are expanded below.

Saudi Arabia’s enormous oil-wealth has produced large amount of money for a relatively small population. The royal family today spreads the wealth around to the many princes. Little accountability follows where or how money is spent. Money supporting the spread of Wahhabism can be funneled through charitable organizations. In 1994, a royal decree banned the collection of charitable funds without state permission.[14] This may be meant to better control where funding goes, but it also holds the state of Saudi Arabia accountable for charitable funds knowingly reaching terrorist groups. (This important aspect will be discussed later in solutions using transparency practices). Two years after this decree, however, the CIA published a troubling report that one-third of all Islamic charities were connected to terrorism in some way.[15] Later, in 1999, a Saudi-conducted audit uncovered at least $3 million were transferred by National Commercial Bank to charitable organizations suspected of being front organizations for Bin Laden and Al Qaeda.[16] This is just a sampling of funding that was documented as going to the support of terrorism.

Aside from support for Salafist-inspired terrorism groups, Saudi spending to propagate Wahhabism has arguably exceeded funding spent by the USSR during its propaganda campaign in support of Communism. From 1975 to 1987, the Saudi government acknowledged they spent $48 billion ($4 billion per year) on “overseas development aid.”[17] If this rate continued unchanged, it reached $70 billion in 2002. Additionally, these numbers account for official Saudi government funds and do not account for personal, charitable contributions, which likely makes the number much higher. In comparison, at the peak of Soviet power in the 1970s, only about $1 billion per year was spent on external propaganda. [18]

What are all these billions spent on and how does it support Wahhabist ideology? As discussed above, many Wahhabist educational materials, institutions, and trainings have been established all around the world since the 1960s. Funds have gone to building and operating mosques, training imams, media and publishing, writing and distributing Wahhabi textbooks, and establishing universities and cultural centers.[19] This comprehensive approach to worldwide education has reached Imams and other Muslims all over the world, including universities and institutions in southern California, northern Virginia, many Western nations and many more in the developing world.

In some poor Muslim countries, education choices lie between a Wahhabist education or no education at all.[20] Wahhabist education is problematic because of the extremist ideology taught to students. A Freedom House report published on the revised, post 9/11 Wahhabi curriculum, stated that the curriculum, “’continues to propagate an ideology of hate toward the ‘unbeliever,’ which include Christians, Jews, Shiites, Sufis, Sunni Muslims who do not follow Wahhabi doctrine, Hindus, atheists and others.’” [21] This education is problematic in and of itself, but is compounded when it infiltrates poor, uneducated regions with low employment rates and limited opportunity for young people.

            Wahhabist funding does not stop at propagating extremist ideology. Students in these Wahhabi madrassas or mosques in poor regions are sometimes get funneled into training camps. In regions of Pakistan, children from impoverished communities are “graduated” through madrassas of extremist groups, like Deobandi or Ahl-eHadith, taught jihadi extremism, later deployed to regional training and indoctrination centers, and finally sent to terrorist training grounds in the FATA region. [22] Funds have also been laundered into terror networks, such as Al Qaeda. Though numbers remain murky, it is believed that more than $100 billion has been spent over 30 years in “exporting fanatical Wahhabism” to poor Muslim nations.[23] In stark contrast to the Soviet propaganda machine, only about $7 billion total by some estimates was spent by the Soviets in spreading Communist propaganda from 1921-1991. [24]

           

The Case for Reexamining Salafist Ideology

            Crabgrass –Addressing the roots of a manifestation – Why focus on ideology at all?

Former US Ambassador to Riyadh, Robert Jordan, on speaking of stemming Saudi funding to charities that support terrorism, said, “’It’s like trying to stamp out crabgrass. As soon as you stamp one of them out, something springs up somewhere else under a different name.’” [25] Saudi funding of Salafist or Wahhabist groups is a manifestation of a behavior or belief system. By seeking to address the roots of this manifestation, of Wahhabist funding, the ideology motivating millions of dollars in funding to extremism and terrorism, we may be able to get down the root of the crabgrass and eliminate it.

What is the utility in focusing on the ideology? Admittedly, ideology is not the only motivator for Salafist-inspired terrorism. Many terror groups simply use ideology as a tool to attract supporters, but it is not their core motivation. Many other factors, including economic, tribal, territorial, or nationalistic motivations may also be at the root of these groups’ actions. However, ideology is an important root to address because it is a powerful tool that attracts funding, supporters, and fighters, and it can be used to justify otherwise abhorrent actions. Targeting ideology zeros in on one of the best recruiting platforms Salafist terrorists have in their arsenal.

Engaging with Wahhabist ideology will require heavier reliance on persuasion and influence rather than on coercion. Yousaf Butt, Senior advisor to the British American Security Information Council, aptly points out that, “eliminating the occasional militant leaders in drone and special-forces strikes is of limited use in reducing extremism if millions of radicals are being actively trained in Wahhabi madrassas across the Muslim world.”[26] The fervor supporting these funding efforts can be seen in the emotional response and financial outpouring of the Saudi community on 11 April 2002, months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. King Faud called for a telethon to raise funds for the families of Palestinian martyrs. Saudis raised $92 million, one princess even giving up her dowry in donation to these families. [27] As long as Saudis see Wahhabist-inspired extremism as a worthy cause, funds will continue to flow and the crabgrass will not stop growing. Additionally, a military defeat without a political and economic defeat of any one manifestation of Salafist terror groups, such as ISIS, al Nusra Front, or Al Qaeda, will likely only open a power vacuum for other groups to fill.[28] The funding for these groups is kept flowing through the political and ideological support that these various groups cultivate. It is therefore essential that the Salafist ideology that supports violence in the name of Islam be engaged with and reformed.

 

            Benefits of Engaging Salafist Ideology for the Saudi Government

            The Saudi government would benefit from reexamining the tenets of its own Salafist ideology in order to clearly define how its ideology is different from and better than neo-Wahhabist ideology. This examination could erode political support for organizations that threaten to Saudi legitimacy (such as Islamic State (IS)), and it could boost support for its own legitimacy. Indeed, the similarities between Saudi and IS Wahhabist-rooted ideology and its manifestations in intolerance and human rights violations lead some to compare the Kingdom with the violent pseudo-state to the north.[29] Both similarly claim practice on pure, Salafist Islam and attract legitimacy and support based on that conflicting claim. If the Saudi regime draws legitimacy from religious purity sanctioned by its ulema, neo-Wahhabists in terrorist organizations like IS present an existential threat to Saudi sovereignty.[30] If popular support for the Saudi monarchy erodes through competing claims from IS or other groups to true Wahhabism or true Salafism, Saudi Arabia’s monopoly on true Salafist Islam and its control over its people may be threatened.

Saudi Arabia’s control over its people may falter due to insurgency movements rather than terrorist organizations in the region. Ross Harrison, non-resident scholar at The Middle East Institute, characterizes IS and many other Sunni Salafist groups as an insurgency in the Arab world rather than terror groups.[31] Characterizing Salafist-inspired groups as an insurgency casts them as competing for legitimacy with established Arab governments. Groups like IS, Al Nusra Front, Al Qaeda, and other radical groups throughout the Middle East and North Africa represent an alternative method for citizens to achieve political and economic goals. A purely military defeat of these groups without engaging their ideology will allow other groups to take up the banner of insurgency.

Though Saudi Arabia did not principally fund IS specifically, it did help create the environment where Wahhabist Salafism was taught and extremism, hate, and violence for “unbelievers” was propagated.[32] As such, Saudi Arabia not only has a responsibility, but is uniquely positioned to engage in Salafist ideology. As Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud commands authority and is well connected to effect dialogue and open space for a verifying re-examination of Saudi Salafism and cement it in Qur’anic teachings.

Saudi Arabia is doing a lot to ideologically engage with Salafism and its own brand, Wahhabism. Terrorist acts have been condemned at the highest levels of the Saudi ulema. The Grand Mufti, Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Abdullah Al-Asheikh, reaffirmed that Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance and said that terrorist acts are, “’forbidden by Islamic law.’” [33] Saudi Arabian officials are already engaged in the “war of ideas” to prevent terrorism from taking root, through re-education efforts, direct outreach, and reinforcing concepts of moderation, tolerance, and erode intellectual or religious rationalization for violence.[34] These efforts cannot go without acclaim, however, more is needed to directly engage with this ideology.

 

            Benefits of Engaging Salafist Ideology for the Saudi people

Ed Husain, an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a senior adviser to the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, reported on the kind of environment dialogue with Salafism may encounter among the Saudi people. In 2005, in response to King Abdullah’s initiative to open the Salafist mentality, he called for a series of dialogues with believers of other faiths. In Jeddah, the most liberal city in Saudi Arabia, his Imam advised the congregants in his Friday Prayer sermon that these dialogues were prohibited because they, “put Islam on a par with ‘false religions.’” Husain explained how the Imam went on to explain that supporting Islam in dialogues with other faiths produced, “a slippery slope to freedom, democracy and gender equality…— corrupt practices of the infidel West.”[35]

Engaging the Saudi public ideologically on their closest held beliefs will be difficult. Indeed, it may even present its own existential threat to the Saudi government, long supported by the religious code it promised to protect in return for legitimacy. However, there are benefits for the Saudi Arabian people for exploring a discussion on the state religion. Engaging the faith in sensitive, incremental terms can reaffirm faith and unveil any poorly understood or under-implemented doctrine. Though the faith may be pure and the true faith in some minds, human imperfections in the administration or understanding of it arise. If they did not, one may have to claim that not only the faith was perfect, but the human leaders of it as well, and such a claim would be counter to Salafist beliefs. There are many, possibly a silent majority, that pondered after the 9/11 attacks and the 2003 Riyadh bombings how these violent acts could happen with so many of the perpetrators be from Saudi homes. This kind of introspection should be the basis for a small but increasing examination of Salafist doctrine and Salafist practice. The end result of clearer understanding and higher confidence in religious leaders will increase the overall confidence of Saudi Salafists in the end, even if it does cast a small shadow of uncertainty for a while. [36][37]

 

Explanation

This excerpt is from a longer paper that examines the links between the state religion of Saudi Arabia, Saudi funding, to Salafist terrorism. The paper expanded on Saudi Arabia’s state religion, Wahhabism or Salafism, and then reviewed Salafism’s and the Saudi state’s reliance on each other for power and legitimacy. It examined the large sums of money donated by Saudi citizens and the Saudi government to Salafist causes; many of these causes directly or indirectly supporting extremism and terrorism. This paper then asserts it is in the best interests of the Saudi government and the Saudi people to re-examine and reform the current brand of Salafism that inspires or condones terror groups. Methods for long term reform appear below and include a demeanor of mutual respect and friendship, dialogue, and education.

 

Methods

The methods I recommend for this kind of engagement with Saudi Salafist ideology is grounded in mutual respect and friendship and utilizes dialogue and education. These are discussed below.

Mutual Respect and Friendship

            Throughout this research, it became apparent that a common attitude toward Salafist funding from Saudi Arabia is adversarial hostility. Hostile language and confrontational, coercive approaches were adopted in rhetoric calling for stopping funding to terror organizations. With the loss of lives and widespread fear caused by these organizations, this hostility is understandable. However, to the means and ends of this intervention, coercive hostility is inappropriate and counterproductive. To engage at the root of a conflict, to influence and change the underlying ideas and motivations of a population in a lasting way so they themselves choose not to fund terrorist groups is the aim of this kind of intervention and it is best achieved through more sustainable strategies.

            Mutual respect is the first strategy. Reaffirming civility, the sanctity of human life, free will, and deeply held convictions, both mutual and opposing, on both sides needs to be acknowledged. It is only from this place of security that future dialogue and understanding can ensue. Saudi funding has been exporting Salafism for decades. Educationally, it will take decades to mend the damaging effects this ideology has influenced, and that is only after it is agreed en masse that the Wahhabism being exported is problematic. There is greater likelihood that lasting change will stick if it is internally motivated and the party who carries out the change is persuaded rather than feels forced in doing it.

With the aim of influencing or engaging with a belief system, there is greater likelihood of influencing a friend than an enemy. Friendship is the basis for the lasting change this kind of intervention seeks. Friendships between the Saudi royal family and its people, between Saudi clerics and Egyptian clerics, between Arab countries and the Saudi funding apparatus, or between Western diplomats and Saudi representatives, will all take time, but if sincere, the foundation they build can create permanent, positive change.

 

Dialogue

Dialogue in this case is an open and ongoing conversation about Saudi Salafism, its nature, and the funding that supports it. Dialogues would take place between interested parties, but likely always include Saudi parties. The conditions of these ongoing formal and informal conversations require parties to respect each other, listen, and openly share their thoughts and views and then receive other participants’ openly shared thoughts and views. These dialogues are the seedbed for frank discussions about Salafism and Salafist funding. Saudi official channels should initiate and host dialogues at different levels in the community and region and at regular intervals, taking a long-term view. These dialogues should be reported in periodicals and ideas spread throughout the nation. These dialogues should not be expected to produce tangible results in the short term, but over a course of years, progress should be traced by tracking ideas enacted that came from dialogues, public polls on attitudes toward Wahhabism and funding Salafist terrorism, and the amount of Saudi charitable funds funneling into international Salafist terror networks. Since long term change at root causes is the goal, the royal family and other institutions should not call for more dialogues than the Saudi population can tolerate. Treading lightly through a new and delicate area of examining faith is advisable. Other, non-official dialogues should also be encouraged. Even dialogues between parties who are not open to self-examination and self-reflection of Wahhabism should be pursued so as to expand the practice and normalcy of dialogue as a tool of society.

Today, there have already been several conference efforts initiated by the royal family on issues of Salafism that can lead to dialogue. One especially notable one was endorsed by the King and sponsored by the conservative Muslim World League. It took place significantly in Mecca on 23 February of this year. ‘Islam and the Fight Against Terrorism,’ was a three day conference on anti-terrorism and anti-extremism. In it, a speech from the king, delivered on his behalf by the Governor of Mecca, Prince Khalid Al-Faisal Bin Abdulaziz, called terror groups “’a grave threat to our Islamic Umma [the global Islamic community] and the entire world.’” In this statement, the King utilizes inclusive language of both Muslims and the world at large, appealing for a broad base of support. He further condemns terrorist organizations as “’misguided and misguiding’” and that these groups misrepresent Islam and vilify its name. [38]

After this speech from King Salman, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar in Cairo, Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb, the most prominent cleric in the foremost Sunni Islamic educational institution in the world, delivered a speech that lambasted extremist Salafist ideology. He asserted the Islamic world was, “under attack by a ‘plague’ of extremist thinking,” and that the solution for preventing future radicalization lay in “reforming Islamic education programs in Muslim countries which had become infiltrated with ‘extreme and incorrect interpretations of Islam.’”[39] He then went on to reveal an interesting viewpoint. He said that the only hope for the Umma regaining its strength, unity, and brotherhood, “as well as its ability to develop and keep up with other countries” lay in overhauling religious education.[40] This comment linking development to properly living Islamic law is not new. However, it provides economic- and prestige-based motivation from the highest authorities in Sunni Islam to engage with extremist and terrorist thinking and open it up to criticism. As this takes place, ideological links between terrorism and extremism and Salafism will likely be revealed. At that point, Muslim communities can parse through the implications of these connections and critically assess the differences or similarities in ideologies and practices and make necessary changes.

 

Education

Educational efforts, as called for by Sheikh Al-Tayeb, are necessary for a concerted effort to address the root motivation for Salafist funding of terror groups. An education overhaul, starting with top Saudi clerics, then reaching local clerics, and then the population, is necessary. This effort, like dialogue, should be expected to take a long period of time, and it should be influenced by the ideas coming out of dialogue. As critical thinking and self-criticism is nurtured through the dialogic process, the Saudi political establishment should ensure that those practices of self-criticism enters the discussions between top Saudi clerics. As these clerics hold conferences and create new curriculum for mid-range clerics, resistance will likely be strong. Just as in dialogue, treading lightly, but with resolve, gathering consensus and ensuring clerics and citizens feel secure and have their other basic human needs of identity and recognition fulfilled will smooth this process. Again, as relationships of mutual respect and friendship are developed, many of these imperatives to respect basic human needs will come as second nature toward a friend rather than forgotten toward a dehumanized enemy or unfamiliar “other.”

In this process of reviewing educational materials, emphasis should be placed on linking Wahhabist injunctions directly with writings of Wahhab, the Sunnah and Hadith, or the Qur’an. This act alone will reveal several teachings or precedents that have questionable grounding in Islam as the Prophet lived it.

These educational materials should be reviewed and presented in councils. The time honored Islamic traditions of ijtihad (independent reasoning) and ijma (consensus of the Muslim community) can in this way be utilized to verify true Salafist teachings and build a broad base of Muslim support for more clearly defined or new practices.

As these efforts take root, Wahhabist curricula should be revised to include these more closely examined viewpoints. There will still be intolerance for certain viewpoints, but as a process of openness, self-criticism, and self-reflection take root over time, these viewpoints may also be found to be out of line with accepted doctrine or practices.

Several efforts toward expanding education have already taken place in Saudi Arabia. When King Abdullah ascended the throne four years after September 11th, he conducted a major overhaul in education. He expanded the number of Saudi universities from eight to 25, he closed conservative teaching colleges, and focused teacher training on critical thinking skills rather than rote memorization. He also emphasized in textbooks that Islam was a “moderate” religion.[41] His crowning achievement was his overseas scholarship program that places thousands of young Saudis in universities around the world. Last year, 125,000 Saudi students were studying in 30 countries in subjects from English to engineering. The king valued not only the useful job skills that would come from this education, but he wanted Saudi youth’s “minds opened up by experiencing foreign cultures and modern societies.”[42] This overseas program could be expanded and its effect magnified by publishing students’ stories in a periodical and asking them to speak to a couple groups about their experiences upon their return. This will help minds expand and cultural awareness and tolerance to increase for communities across Saudi Arabia.

In addition to educational reforms and programs, funding transparency and education can also take place in such a way that will help decrease funds going to Salafist terror groups. With the 1994 royal decree mandating all funds going overseas to charitable causes be approved by the government, Saudi Arabia should build a transparency program to show where charitable funds go and also watch for organizations that are terrorist fronts.[43] This measure would educate people on where their contributions go. It would also allow the Saudis to police funders of terrorism. A unit designed to stop terror financing has already been put in place. After 9/11, King Abdullah established the Financial Investigations Unit designed to stop terror financing and crack down on extremism preached in mosques.[44] This, combined with greater transparency for overseas funding, can go a long way in stopping some forms of Salafist-inspired terrorist funding.

 

Conclusion

In the connection between Saudi Salafist ideology and funding terror networks, a lasting, time-intensive, approach to stemming funding is to re-examine the ideological, root-motivations for Salafist funding. This reexamination is designed to influence core motivations away from supporting terrorism based on Islamic ideals. The Saudi royal family, in its centuries’ long alliance with the Wahhabist infrastructure supporting its rule, has initiated efforts to dialogue and expand education. However, these efforts are still too young and push back is felt from a conservative society which has been indoctrinated with Salafism for centuries. The Saudi government is on the right track by crafting its strategy, “to take on the radical ideologies that foster violent extremism” in its country.[45] However, more engagement, a regular and careful dialogue program, educational reform, and transparency for foreign charitable funds, all carried out in an attitude of respect and friendship, needs to be undertaken to address the root causes of Saudi funding for Salafist terrorism and dry up these funds at their root.

[1] A Chronology: The House of Saud.” PBS. August 1, 2005. Accessed May 2, 2015.

[2] Malik, Nesrine. “Islamic State Requires Saudi Arabia to Rethink Its Support for Extremism.” Theguardian.com. August 29, 2014. Accessed May 2, 2015.

[3] A Chronology: The House of Saud.” PBS. August 1, 2005. Accessed May 2, 2015.

[4] Khan, Muqtedar. “Rethinking Saudi Arabia’s Soul and Future | The Progressive.” Rethinking Saudi Arabia’s Soul and Future. May 12, 2004. Accessed April 30, 2015.

[5] Malik, Nesrine. “Islamic State Requires Saudi Arabia to Rethink Its Support for Extremism.” Theguardian.com. August 29, 2014. Accessed May 2, 2015.

[6] Woodward, Mark, Muhammad Sani Umar, Inayah Rohmaniyah, and Mariani Yahya. “Salafi Violence and Sufi Tolerance? Rethinking Conventional Wisdom | Woodward | Perspectives on Terrorism.” Salafi Violence and Sufi Tolerance? Rethinking Conventional Wisdom. January 1, 2013. Accessed April 30, 2015.

[7] DeLong-Bas, Natana J. “The Trajectory of Wahhabism: From Revival and Reform to Global Jihad.” In Wahhabi Islam from Revival and Reform to Global Jihad, 250. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10]Ibid.

[11] Abu-Nimer, Mohammed. “Islamic Principles of Nonviolence and Peace Building.” In Nonviolence and Peace Building in Islam: Theory and Practice, 48-71. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 2003.

[12] Malik, Nesrine. “Islamic State Requires Saudi Arabia to Rethink Its Support for Extremism.” Theguardian.com. August 29, 2014. Accessed May 2, 2015.

[13] Butt, Yousaf. “How Saudi Wahhabism Is the Fountainhead of Islamist Terrorism.” The Huffington Post. January 20, 2015. Accessed April 27, 2015.

[14] Posner, Gerald L. “Funding Terror.” In Secrets of the Kingdom: The inside Story of the Saudi-U.S. Connection, 167. New York: Random House, 2005.

[15] Ibid, 169.

[16] Ibid, 169.

[17] “Alexiev Testifies on Wahhabi Influence in US.” Center for Security Policy. June 25, 2003. Accessed April 27, 2015.

[18] “Alexiev Testifies on Wahhabi Influence in US.” Center for Security Policy. June 25, 2003. Accessed April 27, 2015.

[19] Butt, Yousaf. “How Saudi Wahhabism Is the Fountainhead of Islamist Terrorism.” The Huffington Post. January 20, 2015. Accessed April 27, 2015.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Posner, Gerald L. “Funding Terror.” In Secrets of the Kingdom: The inside Story of the Saudi-U.S. Connection, 176. New York: Random House, 2005.

[26] Butt, Yousaf. “How Saudi Wahhabism Is the Fountainhead of Islamist Terrorism.” The Huffington Post. January 20, 2015. Accessed April 27, 2015.

[27] Posner, Gerald L. “Funding Terror.” In Secrets of the Kingdom: The inside Story of the Saudi-U.S. Connection, 166. New York: Random House, 2005.

[28] Harrison, Ross. “Defeating the Islamic State Militarily Is Only Half the Battle | Middle East Institute.” Defeating the Islamic State Militarily Is Only Half the Battle. October 3, 2014. Accessed April 28, 2015.

[29] Butt, Yousaf. “How Saudi Wahhabism Is the Fountainhead of Islamist Terrorism.” The Huffington Post. January 20, 2015. Accessed April 27, 2015.

[30] Khan, Muqtedar. “Rethinking Saudi Arabia’s Soul and Future | The Progressive.” Rethinking Saudi Arabia’s Soul and Future. May 12, 2004. Accessed April 30, 2015.

[31] Harrison, Ross. “Defeating the Islamic State Militarily Is Only Half the Battle | Middle East Institute.” Defeating the Islamic State Militarily Is Only Half the Battle. October 3, 2014. Accessed April 28, 2015.

[32] Malik, Nesrine. “Islamic State Requires Saudi Arabia to Rethink Its Support for Extremism.” Theguardian.com. August 29, 2014. Accessed May 2, 2015.

[33] “Efforts to Combat Extremism.” Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia Fact Sheet. September 1, 2014. Accessed May 1, 2015. http://www.saudiembassy.net/files/PDF/Fact_Sheet_Efforts_to_Combat_Extremism.pdf.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Husain, Ed. “Saudis Must Stop Exporting Extremism.” The New York Times. August 22, 2014. Accessed May 2, 2015.

[36] Schwartz, Stephen. “The Real Islam.” The Atlantic. March 19, 2003. Accessed April 30, 2015.

[37] “D.C. Branch Of Saudi University Closed; Had Been Known For Extremism.” The Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Watch. April 4, 2008. Accessed May 2, 2015. http://www.globalmbwatch.com/2008/04/04/dc-branch-of-saudi-university-closed-had-been-known-for-extremism/.

[38] “Kingdom Sparing No Effort in Fight against Extremism, Terrorism: Saudi King.” ASHARQ AL-AWSAT. February 23, 2015. Accessed May 2, 2015. http://www.aawsat.net/2015/02/article55341784/kingdom-sparing-no-effort-in-fight-against-extremism-terrorism-saudi-king.

[39] “Kingdom Sparing No Effort in Fight against Extremism, Terrorism: Saudi King.” ASHARQ AL-AWSAT. February 23, 2015. Accessed May 2, 2015. http://www.aawsat.net/2015/02/article55341784/kingdom-sparing-no-effort-in-fight-against-extremism-terrorism-saudi-king.

[40] Ibid.

[41] Smith, Janet, and Caryle Murphy. “The Struggle to Erase Saudi Extremism.” The New York Times. November 21, 2014. Accessed May 2, 2015.

[42] Ibid.

[43] Posner, Gerald L. “Funding Terror.” In Secrets of the Kingdom: The inside Story of the Saudi-U.S. Connection, 167. New York: Random House, 2005.

[44] Smith, Janet, and Caryle Murphy. “The Struggle to Erase Saudi Extremism.” The New York Times. November 21, 2014. Accessed May 2, 2015.

[45] Ansary, Abdullah F. “Combating Extremism: A Brief Overview of Saudi Arabia’s Approach.” Combating Extremism: A Brief Overview of Saudi Arabia’s Approach. June 1, 2008. Accessed May 2, 2015.

Advertisements