Archive for the ‘Islamist terrorist’ Category

Saudi Arabia-the beginning

December 6, 2018

Know your terrorist: the Wahabi sect of Saudi Arabia and the Family Saud.[1]

Yes, I know it’s been ages since I posted anything.  The Saud family and  Wahhabi Islam shouldn’t have taken so long.  I did keep busy with other things, of course, but the research for this report kept expanding.  I began to feel that I was writing a dissertation.  And, just a few days ago, I read an article by Carlotta Gall about Saudi influence in Kosovo.[2]  But more about that later.

Saudi Arabia, as far as I know, is the only country in the world named for its ruling family.  It was founded, in 1932 by Abdul Aziz bin Abdul Rahman Al Saud (Ibn Saud).  However, Ibn Saud was preceded by nearly two hundred years of determined ancestors whose beliefs made the Puritans seem easy going.

It all began in the early 1700s.  At that time, Arabia was ruled, in principle, by the Ottoman Empire.  It was actually a land of many tribes who spent most of their time fighting each other.  One aspect of the society was the blood feud.  This was not unique to Arabs.  As in other cultures, the tribe of the murderer could pay a blood price to the aggrieved family.  If this failed, there existed an elaborate system of rules. Revenge could reach to the fifth generation and if the perpetrator died before the family of the  victim could take revenge, his nearest relative would be targeted.[3]  Loyalty to the tribe was essential for self-protection.

The Ottoman rulers were not terribly interested in Arabia.  Most of its interaction with the outside world was trade. From the time of Herodotus, North Arabia  produced many luxury goods, not available  elsewhere: frankincense, myrrh, cassia, cinnamon, and laudanum.  They also transferred spices, silks and other luxury goods from India and Yemen.  [4]

Both the Saud family and their religion came from the central region of the peninsula. known as the Najd. (plateau)  Surrounded by coastline and mountains, it was little explored and thought to be inhabited only by nomadic Bedouin traders.  However, hidden among the arid dunes were a number of oasis towns.  Under the Najd is an enormous glacial aquafer.  Grain, dates and other fruit were grown and the culture allowed time for poetry and study. [5]  Gertrude Bell in 1927 was still surprised by the oases, “ It was curious riding through hilly ways and cultivated country to-day after three weeks of desert.”[6]

Now the stage is set.  Imagine this remote, independent cluster of towns at the beginning of the eighteenth century.  Apart from trade and Muslim pilgrims, most inhabitants neither know nor care about the world outside.

Part Two, The Purifier of Islam

Mohammad ibn Ahd al-Wahhib was born in the town of Uyaina, in 1704.  He came from a family of scholars.  His father was a qadi, or judge according to the Hanbali school of shari’a law.  Ahd was Mohammad’s first teacher.  By the time he was ten Mohammad had memorized the Quran.  He  then went to Mecca on the hajd, or pilgrimage.  There he studied for a time, then continued to Medina for further education.  Over the years, he traveled as far as Bagdad and Damascus.[7]

In his studies and his travels, ibn Abd al-Wahhib was shocked at how far the Muslim population had strayed from the teaching of the Prophet.  He began preaching a return to the roots of Islam. Only the Qur’an, and the Hadith were authoritative.  Every innovation since then was shirk, idolatry.

In Islam at the time, many people believed in the power of saints to give aid to the living.  Pilgrims brought offerings to their graves.  They also believed in holy stones, trees and caves, soothsayers and the power of djinn, all of which horrified ibn al-Wahhib.  Even more, he was shocked by the mysticism of the Sufis, who tried to achieve oneness with Allah. This was blasphemy.

His book of Islam is still studied by all Wahhabi followers,  It has influenced radical fundamentalist groups such as Al-Quaeda, ISIS and the Muslim Brotherhood. It begins with a commandment that may sound familiar:

“And verily, We have sent among every Ummah (community, nation) a Messenger (proclaiming): ‘Worship Allah (Alone), and avoid (or keep away from) Taghut (all false deities etc. i.e. do not worship Taghut besides Allah).’ 
(16:36)”

In some places where he preached, local authorities were tolerant of his ideas.  However, many towns made a good income from the pilgrims. Others saw no problem with popular belief and considered ibn al-Wahhib a trouble maker.[8]  He was expelled from one place to another until he had the good fortune to land in Dariyah, the home of emir Mohammed ibn Saud, who “presented himself before the Sheikh as one of his students of Islam, along with his family.”[9]  This was the beginning of the partnership that would result in the formation of the theocracy of Saudi Arabia,

[1] Nawaf E. Obaid. “In Al-Saud We Trust”,   Foreign Policy, No. 128 (Jan. – Feb., 2002), p. 74

[2] Carlotta Gall. “How Kosovo Was Turned to Fertile Ground for ISIS” New York Times, (May 21, 2016) http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/22/world/europe/how-the-saudis-turned-kosovo-into-fertile-ground-for-isis.html

[3] Alexi Vassiliev, History of Saudi Arabia, Saki Books, (2013) Kindle edition. Chapter One, p. 25 As a side note, there was a gang-related murder in Ireland recently where the victim was a relative of a target who could not be found,

[4] Sharifah M. Al-Boudi, “Najd, the Heart of Arabia”. Arab Studies Quarterly  (Summer, 2015)

[5] Al-Boudi p 10

[6] Gertrude Bell, Letters Jan. 10, 1927. http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks04/0400341h.html#ch13

[7] Vassilev, Chapter 2 p. 3

[8]Joseph Nevo, “Religion and National Identity in Saudi Arabia”,  Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 34, No. 3 (Jul., 1998), pp 37-38

[9] ‘Alamah’ Abd al-Rahman al-Sa’di. Explanation ‘ Of an by Mohammad Ibn Wahhadi ‘s Kitab the At-Tauhid ,   nd

______________________________________________________________________________IIf there is interest in my thumbnail sketch of how we got so entangled with Saudi Arabia and why I, along with many others, find it unsettling, let me know and I’ll post another piece on how we wound up in this situation.  There are many good books on the topic.  I’m writing for those who just want the basic information.  Thanks, Sharan.

Know Your Terrorist

February 1, 2015

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The recent tragic events in France have made it clear that most of us are a little vague on the different terrorist groups operating in the world today. Even the terrorists there weren’t sure who they were working for. When I realized that even they were confused, it seemed like a good idea to give a simplistic explanation of the major non-governmental terrorists so that the next time someone takes you hostage and says that they are from the Broccoli Liberation front, you can explain to them why they should kill you for another reason, rather than to free oppressed broccoli.

Here are the most active free-lance groups. In my next essay, Ill consider the governmental and corporate terrorist organizations that have created the more openly violent cadres.

BOKO HARAM

As the link below and all the news reports seem to agree, Boko Haram, operating in Northeastern Nigeria, is the most brutal and least comprehensible of the active terrorists. They love mayhem, murder and rape and don’t seem to be making any ideological demands apart from a fuzzy connection to Islam. Originally a non-violent group that protested oppression by the Nigerian government, it grew to oppose any form of what it considers western influence. This is why even Muslim children are killed or kidnapped at western-style schools. They say they are Islamic but, as with another group, ISIS/DAESH, they are imagining a mythical Islamic past. Actually, I think they are also imagining a mythical Africa derived from western films seasoned with Lord of the Flies.

For connected topics see: Nigerian Army, Nigerian Government, International Oil Cartels, Koch Brothers

A more academic explanation is here:

http://ijpr.org/post/nigeria-boko-haram-continues-its-campaign-terror

AL-QAEDA

This is not the oldest group but one of the most visible. It began in the late 1980s in the wake of the years of Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. “With Soviet forces withdrawing …, the idea of a global jihad suddenly seems possible, and al Qaeda, literally “the Base,” is born. “We used to call the training camp al Qaeda,” bin Laden would later recall. “And the name stayed.”´ [sic] (http://foreignpolicy.com/2014/03/17/al-qaeda-core-a-short-history) Doesn’t that sound cozy? Al-Qaeda was founded by Osama bin-Laden, born in 1957 to a Syrian mother and Yemeni father. The senior bin-Laden was a self-made millionaire contractor who became the major builder for the Saudi Arabian monarchy. PBS Frontline has posted a fascinating biography, written by one of bin-Laden’s followers, portraying him as a pious young man who was doing contracting in Afghanistan when the invasion of Kuwait began: “While he was expecting some call to mobilize his men and equipment he heard the news which transferred his life completely. The Americans are coming. He always describes that moment as shocking moment. He felt depressed and thought that maneuvers had to change. Instead of writing to the king or approaching other members of the royal family, he started lobbying through religious scholars and Muslim activists.”  [sic] (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/binladen/who/bio.html)

Al-Qaeda was born because of the American support of the Saudis and vice-versa. Osama was considered a terrorist by the Saudis and, under him, A-Qaeda organized mutual support with the Taliban. “The leader of Taliban Mulla Omer was keen to meet Osama. He met him early 1997 after two TV interviews, Channel 4 and CNN.[!?] Mulla Omer expressed respect and admiration but requested him to have low profile…. Bin Laden noticed that the driving force in Taliban were Ulema (religious scholars). He made very good links with them and lobbied specifically for the subject of American forces in the Arabian Peninsula. He was able to extract a fatwah signed by some 40 scholars in Afghanistan sanctioning the use of all means to expel the American forces from the Peninsula. The issue of that fatwah was an asset to him inside Taliban domain. He felt that Ulema were at his back and he can go high profile after long silence.” (ibid)

“His relation with Taliban would best be understood if Taliban themselves are understood properly. First of all Taliban are not simply another Afghan faction supported by Pakistan. Taliban are sincere to their beliefs, a religiously committed group unspoiled by political tactics. They would never bargain with what they see as matters of principle. Bin Laden for them is a saint. He is a symbol of sacrifice for the sake of jihad. They see him as very rich Arab from the Holy Land who gave up his wealth and luxury to fight for the sake of his brother Muslims in Afghanistan.” (ibid)

I wish there were more such biographies.  It is essential for us to comprehend the rationale of the many people who support the terrorists. One problem we have is understanding why these terrorist leaders are so protected. If you read the whole article, it continues explaining why the Taliban and Osama were so revered. The author doesn’t mention bombings, murder, or the oppression of women and minorities, of course.

Even before Osama bin-Laden was killed, his grip on Al-Qaeda was slipping. Other groups in the Sudan, Nigeria and Syria, were not looking to them for leadership. Many, such as ISIS and Boko Haram, do not have a firm theological base other than, West and Jews = bad; our Islam =good.

See Taliban, George W. Bush, Oil Cartels

THE (SO-CALLED) ISLAMIC STATE

Of the Muslim-associated terrorist groups, this is the most interesting to me because, unlike the others, there is a medieval flavor about it. Sadly, as I mentioned above, they don’t seem to have any historians among them, so that the caliphate they plan is drawn from fantasy. They do appear to have some serious and competent Muslim scholars in their ranks, but they haven’t made it clear what school of Shari’a law they are working from. Of course, few people outside of fundamentalist Islam know that there is more than one branch. Have you ever noticed how many problems occur because no one thought to consult an expert in history?

ISIS grew from the Syrian al-Qaeda sector as a result of the Syrian civil war. The reasons for that war, beyond the Arab Spring, have been minutely dissected without any consensus. Suffice to say that ISIS is the richest and best-organized of the Islamist groups operating today. As with the first two groups, they succeeded because a dictator or other person in power was tormenting a minority group and they were able to come in and fill a vacuum. In this case, they began as rebels against the government of Bashir al Assad, which is not only dictatorial but heretical in their eyes. They state that they have set up an Islamist Caliphate.   The last Caliphate in the area was defeated by the Ottoman Empire over 600 years ago so the blueprint is rather old. Both the Abbasid and Umayyad Caliphates in the 8th through 11th centuries tended to be fairly easy going about minorities, even Islamic ones. I believe that, like Boko Haram, ISIS has been taken over by the psychopathic wing of the party. Their treatment of the Yazidi is an example of this. It’s not likely that their Caliphate will resemble the ancient ones.

Much has been made of the foreign volunteers coming to fight for ISIS. Some of these fighters arriving from other countries are devout Muslims who may be horrified by what they find. Indications are that others come in a spirit of adventure or from a feeling of failure at home. But too many recruits have come because they love having power and not having any rules of behavior. For historians out there, think French Revolution.

There are many other terrorist groups that have no religious attachments. Most of these are political or territorial. ETA, or Basque liberation, has been attempting to find a peaceful solution recently as has the socialist FARC, in Columbia. Greece has the far-right Golden Dawn; Ireland, the reformed Sinn Fein. All of these have used violence and terrorism in their quest to achieve their goals.

There have been many explanations for the success of the recent Islamist terrorists. Some say that it is a relic of European colonialism. Others that the terrorists are a reaction to oppressive governments and cultures of corruption and bribery at every level. Well, I don’t think any of these things helped. Certainly, many of the most violent groups are fighting against leaders who have ignored and oppressed sections of the society.

After much consideration, it seems to me that we and much of the media are looking at the problem from the wrong direction. We see the horrific actions of ISIS and Boko Haram, but these are distracting us from much more widespread and pernicious terrorism.

As I was working on this, I began to realize that, while we are busy trying to stop murderers, rapists and torturers, the people who are really responsible for their actions are thousands of miles away, moving pieces on metaphorical chess boards.

This will be the topic of my next post.