There is a common theme among those who, due to political correctness, keep trying to absolve religion from all wrongdoing, and those who, for political ideology, see wrongdoing by the US or “the West” (whatever the latter means) behind every bad thing in the world. According to all these groups, the rise in violence by Islamist groups has nothing to do with religious doctrines. Rather, it is actions by the US (or Israel, which is viewed as a US proxy) that has triggered the violence. Religion has always existed, the thinking goes.
As it happens, however, the claim is quite implausible and, a good number of very, very poorly thought out acts by western leaders notwithstanding, fails to take into consideration the root of Islamist violence. It turns out that the rise of Islamic militancy has more to do with what happens at your local gas station than with errors of western leaders.
The claim is implausible on its face. For instances, it gives no explanation for rise of “mainstream” Islamist organizations founded by men who preached “jihad” (war against those not believing in Islam) as a religious duty by Muslims. The problem becomes more complicated when we remember that, when these organizations were founded, in many of those countries (Indonesia, Pakistan etc) no grievances against the US existed.
This doesn’t mean that certain acts by the US and other western nations have not made the problem worse. The war in Iraq, for instance, was a very bad idea, was plagued with incompetence, and certainly gave Al Qaeda an opportunity to spread. And cozying up to Islamist dictators by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, blinded by their anti-communist zeal to dangers of political Islam, was a grave error.
And yet, these mistakes did not cause the problem even though they did make it worse.
So where does that problem come from? Well, it comes from the doctrine of jihad, and those who preach it. And while there has never been a shortage of such preachers since the dawn of Islam, over the last few decades, as it happens, they have had some very, very wealthy benefactors, without whose help Islam would certainly look different.
A recent report by the European Parliament reveals how Wahabi and Salafi groups based out of the Middle East are involved in the “support and supply of arms to rebel groups around the world.” The report, released in June 2013, was commissioned by European Parliament’s Directorate General for External Policies. The report warns about the Wahabi/Salafi organizations and claims that “no country in the Muslim world is safe from their operations … as they always aim to terrorize their opponents and arouse the admiration of their supporters.”
The nexus between Arab charities promoting Wahabi and Salafi traditions and the extremist Islamic movements has emerged as one of the major threats to people and governments across the globe. From Syria, Mali, Afghanistan and Pakistan to Indonesia in the East, a network of charities is funding militancy and mayhem to coerce Muslims of diverse traditions to conform to the Salafi and Wahabi traditions. The same networks have been equally destructive as they branch out of Muslim countries and attack targets in Europe and North America.
Despite the overt threats emerging from the oil-rich Arab states, governments across the globe continue to ignore the security imperative and instead are busy exploiting the oil-, and at time times, blood-soaked riches.
The militant Muslim groups are so shameless that they don’t even make a secret of their displeasure if their sponsoring regimes give them a pay cut for not toeing the line-even as those regimes insist that their support for the militants is “moral”. And of course we don’t know exactly how much of their peoples’ money these regimes give to militant ideologues, but it appears that they have been quite generous:
The European Parliament’s report estimates that Saudi Arabia alone has spent over $10 billion to promote Wahabism through Saudi charitable foundations. The tiny, but very rich, state of Qatar is the new entrant to the game supporting militant franchises from Libya to Syria.
And while there is little public discussion of this, it is not that no one knows about it:
While the recent report by the European Parliament documents the financial details connecting the Arab charities with extremists elsewhere, it is certainly not the first exposition of its kind. A 2006 report by the US Department of State titled, International Narcotics Control Strategy Report – Money Laundering and Financial Crimes, reported that “Saudi donors and unregulated charities have been a major source of financing to extremist and terrorist groups over the past 25 years.” One of the WikiLeaks documents, a cable from the US Consulate in Lahore also stated that “financial support estimated at nearly 100 million USD annually was making its way to Deobandi and Ahl-e-Hadith clerics in the region from ‘missionary’ and ‘Islamic charitable’ organizations in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates ostensibly with the direct support of those governments.”
And the tentacles of these groups reach very, very far indeed, sparing only their donors.
While ordinary citizens in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other countries have suffered the deadly consequences of militancy supported by the Wahabi and Salafi charitable organizations, the Saudi government had remained largely dormant. This changed in 2003 when militants attacked targets in Riyadh. Since then, the Saudi government has kept a close watch on the domestic affairs of charities, making it illegal to sponsor militancy, but the government has done precious little to curtail activities by Saudi charities abroad. In fact, evidence, as per the European Parliament’s report, suggests that Saudi and Qatar-based charities have been actively financing militants in Egypt, Syria, Libya, Mali, and Indonesia.
Next time you are filling the gas tank, you may want to take a moment to ponder in what kinds of hands your money may end up.