Wahhabis in the Old Dominion
What the federal raids in Northern Virginia uncovered.
by Stephen Schwartz
04/08/2002, Volume 007, Issue 29 - Weekly Standard
FEDERAL LAW ENFORCEMENT has kicked over quite an anthill in Northern Virginia. A U.S. Treasury task force, Operation Green Quest, has been investigating the funding of Islamic terror. Raids on March 20 struck an extraordinary array of financial, charitable, and ostensibly religious entities identified with Muslim and Arab concerns in this country, most of them headquartered in Northern Virginia.
Reaction to the raids suggests the Feds inflicted serious injury on the Wahhabi lobby, the Saudi-backed extremist network that largely controls Islam in America. Officials of the targeted groups as well as their non-Muslim apologists--notably GOP operative Grover Norquist, the chief enabler of Islamic extremists seeking access to the White House--have condemned the raids as civil rights violations.
The convoluted system of interlocking directorates, global banking transactions, and ideological activities exposed in Northern Virginia will take time to sort out. Operation Green Quest has drawn attention to a previously overlooked aspect of support for extremism in this country: The principal threat comes not from the thousands of working-class Arab immigrants in places like New Jersey and Michigan who contribute modest sums to the so-called Islamic charities, but from the Arab elite.
9/11: Saudi, Balkan Echoes
By Stephen Schwartz
FrontPageMagazine.com | September 13, 2002
Two topics occupied my thoughts on the first anniversary of September 11.
First, after the passage of a year, the U.S. has yet to receive even the slightest serious accounting from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the presence of 15 Saudis out of the 19 hijackers. We are told that Crown Prince Abdullah sent a letter to President Bush expressing his dismay at the involvement of his subjects in the horror inflicted on our country. But Princes Sultan and Nayef remained silent — the defense minister who enriched himself on U.S. military deals and the interior minister considered by rank-and-file Muslims to be even worse than bin Laden. King Fahd also had no words to offer, perhaps because he is a vegetable.
The second matter on my mind comes from the Kosovar Albanian journalist Blerim Shala, writing in the Prishtina daily Zeri. Blerim, a friend of mine, pointed out something noble and admirable that has been ignored by American commentators on 9/11: Before the passengers on United Flight 93 rebelled and brought down the hijacked airliner, they did something the world sees as totally American — they took a vote. Blerim wrote, "Even in the toughest moment of their lives, these ordinary American citizens didn't lose their will to respect democratic procedure. In this way, they confronted those who, against any law and any religious and moral norm, killed civilians."
STEPHEN SCHWARTZ, THE TWO FACES OF ISLAM AUTHOR: The Saudi's public statement is that the money was pledged for martyrs for the particular organizations the Committee for Al-Quds, Intifadas and Solidarity.
Then we have the Israelis coming up with, so-to-speak, receipts and the allocation of the money. We already have the Saudi side of the pipeline. Then we have the Israeli side that shows how the money was handed out. I don't understand where there's any kind of doubt here or any reason to question any of this?
GIBSON: Well, Mr. Al-Jubeir, the Saudi adviser to the Crown Prince Abdullah, said today in Washington that the money went to rebuild Palestinian homes, to build sewers, to build hospitals, all that kind of stuff. That it didn't go to terrorism.
GIBSON: Once again, is that a credible argument?
SCHWARTZ: Not when the Saudi government's Web site says the money was pledged for martyrs. The Web site, which I just checked an hour ago, still says the money was pledged for martyrs.
GIBSON: I take it you address this in your book. What is it that the Saudis are doing? Funneling money to Palestinian suicide bombers, and then coming here and saying that their hands are clean, that the money went towards charitable stuff?
SCHWARTZ: All I can say is that there's a long pattern here of attempting to address their constituency by speaking in one way and attempting to address us by speaking in another way. I don't want to be harsh about it, but I think it's time for them to be straight with us.
I think our president is being straight with them. I'm sure our president is being very straight with Ariel Sharon. Sharon is straight with our president. I think it's time for the Saudis to be straight with us.
All the Hate That's Fit to Print
America's poison-pen Muslim press.
by Stephen Schwartz
07/22/2002, Volume 007, Issue 43
WHEN THE SHOOTER who chose July 4 to start a gun battle at Los Angeles airport's El Al ticket counter turned out to be Hesham Mohamed Hadayet--an Egyptian native with a "Read Koran" sticker on his apartment door--many people not unreasonably wondered if he had picked up his hostility to America and Israel at an extremist mosque. No evidence of Hadayet's mosque attendance has been reported. What's gone unremarked is that he could just as easily have been incited by the steady diet of violent rhetoric served up by the American Muslim community media--periodicals with names like The Minaret, Islamic Horizons, the Weekly Mirror International, and the Muslim Observer, which toe the anti-American, anti-Israel line of Saudi Arabia's Islamofascist Wahhabi sect.
While the "mainstream" Islamic establishment--groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the American Muslim Council (AMC), and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA)--offers perfunctory support for the anti-terror war and hovers around President Bush for photo ops in mosques, the poison pens of its media produce an unceasing stream of insult and loathing directed against America. One expects appeals to the extremist jihad to be heard in the streets of Karachi, in the canyons of Tora Bora, and from the government media of Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Some of the most strident voices, however, are here in the United States, directed not from the Middle East or South Asia, but from modern offices in Los Angeles, Chicago, and the Detroit suburbs.
These publications make no attempt to hide their attachments to international extremist groups. Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood--which preaches the classic neo-Wahhabi doctrine of the supremacy of Islam and condemnation of non-extremist Muslims as irreligious--receives support from at-Talib (The Student), published at UCLA by the Islamic Center of Southern California, and from Islamic Horizons, based in Plainfield, Indiana. The Jamaat-al-Islami movement, which perpetuates the same extremist mentality in Pakistan, appears to enjoy the sympathy of the Weekly Mirror International, based in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn, New York, and other papers. The Muslim Observer publishes anyone given to an exaggerated anti-U.S. idiom, and its contributors have included Osama bin Laden. Most of these media once defended the Taliban for refusing to surrender bin Laden, and most of them equivocated on his guilt last September.
Islamic Fundamentalism in the Balkans.
By Stephen Schwartz, author of Kosovo: Background to a War and the forthcoming Two Faces of Islam.
November 13, 2001 12:50 p.m.
Editor's note: This was originally published in Partisan Review, Number 3, 2000. Readers will also be interested in Mr. Schwartz's "A Certain Exhaustion," published in the October 2000 issue of The New Criterion, and with the report "Religion in Kosovo" published by the International Crisis Group. (They have also just published a timely report, "Bin Laden and the Balkans.") Mr. Schwartz's most recent piece for NRO was "Seeking Moderation."
he Jewish woman stood in the office of Bosnian president Alija Izetbegovic. She was distraught. She placed a handful of broken tiles on the desk in front of her and told the president's adviser, "it's a crime, a crime against culture. They are destroying a holy place, a place that is of incalculable value to Sarajevo."
"There's nothing we can do," the adviser replied sorrowfully. "They have the money and they are going to do what they want."
The most interesting aspect of this incident, which took place after the end of the Bosnian war in 1995, is that the temple the Jewish woman, an art expert named Zoja Finci, was attempting to protect was neither, as one might expect, a synagogue, nor even a Serbian church. Rather, it was the Begova or Governor's mosque, the largest in the former Yugoslavia, and the main Islamic structure in Sarajevo.
By Terry Eastland
The Weekly Standard | November 4, 2002
Stephen Schwartz's "The Two Faces of Islam: The House of Sa'ud from Tradition to Terror" (Doubleday, 288 pp., $25) takes as its point of departure September 11 and the terrorist attacks on America. They were carried out, we now know, by nineteen Muslims who subscribed--like their leader, Osama bin Laden--to a radical strain of Islam known as Wahhabism. No writer has done more to expose Wahhabism than Stephen Schwartz, formerly of the Voice of America and now a fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. (We are proud to add that much of that work was done originally in essays for The Weekly Standard.)
Now, in "The Two Faces of Islam," Schwartz expands his account at the greater length a book affords. He relates the life of Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab, born in 1703 in central Arabia. Wahhab "showed extremist religious tendencies" in his youth and in his thirties called fellow Arabs to his vision of an authentic Islam that (in violation of all previous understandings) required the submission of Muslims deemed to have departed from it. Indeed, killing such Muslims was now conceived as a religious duty.
3. Wahhabism justifies terrorism, whether that of the Saudis in 1924, bin Laden, or Hamas. Hizbullah represents a Wahhabized Shiism. The Taliban are a non-Wahhabi sect that has been bought by Wahhabi petrodollars. If Forte wishes to find some moderate fundamentalists, he should start with the Taliban.
4. Wahhabism rejects any and all coexistence with Judaism and Christianity, and would treat the good Forte more or less as the aliens in Independence Day treated the dancing hippies calling for cosmic love — by killing him. Wahhabis would be much happier with Noam Chomsky, but they would kill him too, eventually.
5. Wahhabism, like every totalitarian ideology that has gained power, faces the terrible problem of its own historical inconsistency. Since it is based on power alone, once in power it must foster compromises for its own protection that end up undermining its legitimacy with its followers.
6. Wahhabism is at this very moment fomented by Saudi Arabia, even while Saudi Arabia benefits from the benign gaze of Secretary of State Colin Powell.
7. Wahhabism, like Nazism and Communism, will be a threat to the peace of the world as long as it is allowed to flourish under Saudi patronage. Its funding must be cut off. This is not a matter of the human rights of Wahhabis, but of the human rights of their victims. Its opponents must be supported. Once its Gulf patronage is ended, it will dwindle to a feeble remnant, as did the once-powerful Yugoslav Communists — but, let it be noted, probably not without shedding more blood, just like said Yugocoms.
ovember 8, 2002
The Saudis' Brand of Islam and Its Place in History
By RICHARD BERNSTEIN
In April 2002, eight months after the attacks of Sept. 11, a Saudi cleric named Sheik Saad al-Buraik, preaching in a mosque in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, called for the enslavement of Jewish women by Muslim men. "Do not have mercy or compassion toward the Jews," Mr. al Buraik said. "Their women are yours to take, legitimately. God made them yours."
Mr. al-Buraik, it is important to note, was a member of the official Saudi delegation that accompanied Crown Prince Abdullah during his visit to President Bush in Crawford, Tex., at the end of April 2002. And Stephen Schwartz argues in "The Two Faces of Islam" that the closeness to power of one who proclaims Jewish women to be Muslim slaves illustrates the deep hypocrisy and corruption of politics in Saudi Arabia, a country that promotes and fosters an extreme, intolerant, terroristic Islamic cult even as it presents itself, in Crawford and other places, as pro-Western and moderate.
It has always been thus there, Mr. Schwartz contends, or, at least, it has been thus since the 18th century when an obscure, vengeful, narrow vagabond-cleric named Muhammad bin Abd al-Wahhab became the spiritual leader of a Saudi tribe, the House of Saud, that eventually became masters of most of the Arabian peninsula. Mr. Schwartz's book is essentially a history of Wahhabism, which is still Saudi Arabia's official, exclusive and, in Mr. Schwartz's view, darkly medieval religion.
His central theme is that Wahhabism has over the centuries waged a bitter struggle against all other variants of Islam, most particularly the tolerant, peaceful, poetically mystical schools of thought that, in Mr. Schwartz's view, are the true and admirable historic Islam. Moreover, he maintains that Wahhabism, which gave rise to Osama bin Laden and the Afghan Taliban among others, is the most dread menace faced in the world today by the forces of tolerance and pluralism, whether Muslim or otherwise.
"Wahhabism exalts and promotes death in every element of its existence, the suicide of its adherents, mass murder as a weapon against civilization, and above all the suffocation of the mercy embodied in Islam," Mr. Schwartz writes. "The war against Wahhabism is therefore a war to the death, as the Second World War was a war to the death against fascism. But triumph over death is the victory of life."
As that paragraph indicates, the emphatic Mr. Schwartz, a journalist and scholar who writes for several American publications, minces no words. The 4,000 members of the Saudi ruling family are, as he puts it, "a vast mafia of princely parasites." He holds the Western oil companies, especially the Aramco partners and "the American political and media elites that have served them," responsible for "the continuation of dishonesty and injustice in Arabia."
Contrary to the standard view of him, Mr. Schwartz writes, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of Iran is at the opposite end of the spectrum from Wahhabi extremism and actually represents "the pluralist face of Islam."
All of these assertions will bring rejoinders from those who have different views, but Mr. Schwartz's opinions are not just forcefully expressed; they are also born out of a sophisticated and informed vision of history, and he merits both an open mind and a close reading. His book demonstrates a comprehensive mastery of history and historical connections, as well as a deep humanistic concern for those who have been oppressed by Wahhabi ruthlessness.
When, for example, Mr. Schwartz turns to the powerful influence of Wahhabism during the years of the anti-Soviet "holy war" in Afghanistan, he not only shows that he understands Afghan politics, but he also makes a strong case that the American failure to understand the complexities of global Islam are one of the main reasons that Afghanistan fell into the Taliban-bin Laden camp.
In Mr. Schwartz's version of events, the Americans failed to understand that "two faces of Islam" were present in Afghanistan from the beginning. "On one side, there was the bright aspect of Sufi traditionalism, ever renewed, happy, filled with love of God and humanity," he writes. "On the other was the ugly visage of Wahhabi fundamentalism, narrow, rigid, tyrannical, separatist, supremacist and violent." The Taliban, the products of Saudi-financed Wahhabi schools in Pakistan, clearly represented this second visage, and Mr. Schwartz contends that they could have been avoided altogether had American policymakers only understood that.
But Mr. Schwartz argues that "Islam, especially in the days of Khomeini, remained too alien and frightening" for the State Department to make such distinctions. Or, if American policymakers did make distinctions, he says, they made the wrong ones, preferring the Saudi-backed guerrillas to anyone who echoed Khomeinism. Still, Mr. Schwartz writes, "The real exporters of international Islamic extremism were the Saudis," though "the Saudis did not miss the opportunity to stoke the Western fear of Iran in order to bolster their false image as Arab `moderates.' "
One might argue here that Khomeinism, which dispatched the terrorist Hezbollah, or Party of God, into the world, did its share of exporting extremism, as it did when it called on good Muslims to execute the writer Salman Rushdie for the crime of blasphemy. And while Afghan traditionalism may have been filled with love of God, over the centuries it produced its share of blood-letting even without the help of the Saudis. In other words, some of what Mr. Schwartz writes makes you want to argue with him, or at least raise some questions.
Nonetheless, there is an admirable shrewdness, a suffer-no-fools briskness, to his analysis, and he has that ability to make the hard-to-see historical parallels. Among the most interesting of them: in the first half of the 20th century, the Saud-Wahhabi alliance came to supreme power in Saudi Arabia by cleverly aligning itself with British imperialism; how similar that now seems to the Saudi ability to enlist unwitting American support for putting into power the Wahhabi faction in Afghanistan (at least until it was dislodged after Sept. 11). It is fascinating suggestions like this that give "The Two Faces of Islam" some of its value — along with its more general ability to engage the mind, making it grasp matters in a new way.
By Randall Parker at 2002 November 11 11:57 AM