CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 15 September 2018

Print Version    Email to Friend
Funding from Saudi and distorted Islam springboard for Marawi siege

On May 23 this year, Marawi City in the southern Philippines was put under siege by a Muslim jihadi group known as the Maute that has pledged its loyalty to the rebellion of the Islamic State.
 
Over 1,000 people have died in the subsequent five months, the vast majority of them Muslims from Marawi.
 
The complete population of the majority Muslim city has fled and the Maute wrote on a jihadist website, “If you can’t reach Syria, go to The Philippines!”
 
The group is inspired by the sectarian forms of Sunni Islam, known as Wahhabism.
 
Wahhabism is named after an 18th-century preacher and activist, Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab (1703 to 1792). He was born near Riyadh and began a puritan reform movement in Islam in the remote, sparsely populated region of Najd.
 
He trained as a holy man and was constantly torn between a puritan interpretation of the Qu’ran and a more tolerant inclusive version of Islam.
 
Al-Wahhab was a mixture of ideals. He thought that women who committed adultery should be beheaded. He also challenged the widespread practice found among Sunni Muslims of venerating saints and visiting their tombs.
 
Al-Wahhab considered these practices to be idolatry and a betrayal of true Islam. 
 
He consistently taught that the pious Muslim must be totally focussed on Allah.
 
Eventually he formed a pact with a local leader, Muhammad bin Saud. Al-Wahhab offered political obedience to bin Saud, who in turn promised protection and support for the Wahhabi movement.
 
Today, Al-Wahhab’s teachings are the official, state-sponsored form of Sunni Islam in Saudi Arabia.
 
With the help of funding from Saudi petroleum exports, the movement has spread right across the Muslim world, from Boko Haram in Nigeria to Abu Sayyaf in The Philippines.
 
He teaching says that those who do not follow this way, such as Shiite or Sufi Muslims, as well as Christians, “Should be killed, their wives and daughters violated and their possessions confiscated.”
 
Irish journalist, David McWilliams, claims, “When you follow the money, all radical (Islamist) roads lead back to Saudi Arabia.
 
“From the majority of the Nine/Eleven (2001) hijackers, Bin Laden, his al-Qaeda chief lieutenants and now those of the Islamic State, as well as each of these extremist organisations are the offspring of Muhammad Abd al-Wahhab, the cleric who came out of the desert in the 1730s and the institution he allied with in 1745: the House of Saud.”
 
There is huge money involved. For 70 years now, Saudi Arabia has paid for the construction of mosques and religious buildings worldwide and, in the process, enabled the spread of Wahhabism.
 
This sectarian doctrine fuels and inspires Sunni extremism in the Middle East, Asia, the United States of America and Europe.
 
The following are some examples of what is going on. In April 2017, Bangladesh approved the construction on its territory of 560 new mosques. The project is financed by the Saudi government to the tune of over a US$1 billion ($7.75 billion).
 
Rezaul Haq Chandpuri, a member of a federation of Sufi Muslims, says that the Saudi financing is worrying (as it) could use their money to promote Wahhabism.”
 
British historian, Charles Allen, one of the few academics who has studied the economic aspect of Saudi religious diplomacy, believes that Saudi Arabia has spent more than US$70 billion ($524.5 billion) since 1979 in financing such projects abroad.
 
These projects include mosques, schools and Islamist cultural centres throughout the world—from Brussels to Yvelines, from Kosovo to China, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Afghanistan to Africa.
 
A system of scholarships was also set up, enabling preachers from various parts of the world to go and study for many months in Saudi Arabia. When they return to their own countries, these imams are well equipped to spread the strictest vision of the Qu’ran that they have been taught.
 
Pierra Conesa, a senior Defence Ministry official in France, said in an interview with Le Point magazine in September that according to his figures, 30,000 people have been trained in these Saudi Islamic universities.
 
He then claimed that they are then found in the entire Sahelian strip, in Mali, Niger and the Central African Republic.
 
In recent times Saudi Arabia has accused Qatar of sponsoring terrorism. This might be the time for the world community to insist that the Riyadh government stop promoting its Wahhabi ideology which has led to the great pain, destruction and death in the city of Marawi, where I spent five of the happiest years of my life.
 
 

• Father Sean McDonagh