Al Qaeda, Other Terror Groups Swim in Global Sea of Saudi-Funded Wahhabi Institutions
Majority of American Mosques Touched by Saudi Effort to Entrench Movement's Harsh Views
Saudi Arabia's pervasive influence on Islamic education in the United States has led to the development of a new breed of American: the jihadist. Since the 1970s, the Saudi government has been aggressively promoting Wahhabism, the country's dominant branch of Islam, in America and across the globe. Today, it has been estimated that 80 percent of American mosques are under Wahhabi influence, described by both scholars and U.S. officials as a radical, violent philosophical platform used by terrorists and their supporters to justify violence against Christians, Jews and other "non-believers."
"Al Qaeda has taken advantage of state-supported proselytizing around the world," the Treasury Department's Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing, Juan Zarate, declared four years ago. Zarate's office has taken a leading role in designating terrorist financiers and is pressing the Saudi government to crack down on them, as well, according to The Washington Post, October 2, 2003. Zarate later moved to the White House where he serves as Deputy National Security Advisor for Combating Terrorism. American officials have described as a Wahhabism, known as an intolerant, ascetic movement, was developed by theologian Mohammed ibn Abd Wahhab in the 18th century to purge what he saw as corrupting influences and return Islam to its original orthodoxy. Wahhab's ideas became dominant due to an alliance he formed with Mohammed ibn Saud, a Bedouin chief whose conquests spread Wahhabism throughout nearly the entirety of the Arabian Peninsula. Ibn Saud's descendants, the House of Saud, conquered the entirety of what is today known as Saudi Arabia by the early 1920s.
In 2006, Bernard Lewis, arguably the leading western scholar on Islam, called Wahhabism "the most radical, the most violent, the most extreme and fanatical version of Islam."
$75 Billion Spent by Riyadh Over 30 Years
As to how much money Saudi officials have spent since the early 1970s to promote Wahhabism worldwide, David D. Aufhauser, a former Treasury Department general counsel, told a Senate committee in June 2004 that estimates went "north of $75 billion." The money financed the construction of thousands of mosques, schools and Islamic centers, the employment of at least 9,000 proselytizers and the printing of millions of books of religious instruction.
According to a major investigation by Washington Post reporter David B. Ottaway published on August 19, 2004, the Saudi government's Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Endowment, Call and Guidance pays the salaries of 3,884 Wahhabi missionaries and preachers, who are six times as numerous as the 650 diplomats in Saudi Arabia's 77 embassies. Saleh Sheik, a direct descendant of Ibn Abdul Wahab, leads the ministry - the most important Saudi institution for exporting Wahhabism. Ministry officials in Africa and Asia often have had more money to dispense than Saudi ambassadors, according to several Saudi sources. The Islamic affairs officials also act as religious commissars, keeping tabs on the moral behavior of the kingdom's diplomats, Ottaway reported. In the United States, a 40-person Islamic Affairs Department established in the Saudi Embassy in Washington acted autonomously from the ambassador.
Edward L. Morse, an oil analyst at Hess Energy Trading Co. in New York, told Ottaway that King Fahd tapped a special oil account that set aside revenue from as much as 200,000 barrels a day - $1.8 billion a year at 1980s oil prices. The Saudis also pursued this outreach through the creation of multiple organizations such as the al-Haramain Foundation, the International Islamic Relief Foundation (IIRO) and the World Assembly for Muslim Youth (WAMY). All of these groups have been investigated for links to terrorism; the U.S. government subsequently declared al-Haramain and IIRO supporters of terror in March 2002 and August 2006, respectively.
Sheik estimated the Islamic affairs ministry's budget at $530 million annually and said it goes almost entirely to pay the salaries of the more than 50,000 people on the ministry payroll, Ottaway reported. That figure does not include the hundreds of millions of dollars in personal contributions made by King Fahd and other senior Saudi princes to the cause of propagating Islam at home and abroad, according to a Saudi analyst who insisted on anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. The real total spent annually spreading Islam is between $2 billion and $2.5 billion, he said.
80 Percent of U.S. Mosques Wahhabi Influenced
Eighty percent of major mosques in America are under Saudi-Wahhabi influence, according to Stephen Schwartz, Director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism, an organization that "challenges the dominance of American Muslim life by militant Islamist groups" including control of property, buildings, training and appointment of imams, content of preaching, literature distributed in mosques and charitable solicitation.
Most of the Wahhabi mosques work closely with Saudi state funded organizations such as the Muslim World League (MWL) and the World Association for Muslim Youth (WAMY), institutions identified as participants in the funding of al Qaeda. The Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a main Wahhabi ideological institution in America with a well-documented network of support for radical Islam, has received at least $750,000 from the Saudi government and its officials, including a donation by the Islamic Development Bank, a Saudi government-controlled financial institution, to purchase their headquarters in Washington D.C.
According to Schwartz's testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security on Thursday, June 26, 2003, the official Saudi government website stated in 2000, "In the United States, the Kingdom has contributed to the establishment of the Islamic Center in Washington, D.C.; the Omer Bin Al-Khattab Mosque in western Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Islamic Center, and the Fresno Mosque in California; the Islamic Center in Denver, Colorado; the Islamic center in Harrison, New York; and the Islamic Center in Northern Virginia."
The Kingdom is also affiliated with the Bilal Islamic Primary and Secondary School and the King Fahd mosque, both in California, according to Nina Shea in her 2005 Freedom House Report "Saudi Publications on Hate Ideology Invade American Mosques". Shea, an international human-rights lawyer, is the director of the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute. Additionally, the previously-mentioned official website of the Saudi Arabian government reported a donation of $4 million for the construction of a mosque complex in Los Angeles named for Ibn Taymiyyah, a historic Islamic figure whose works influenced Mohammed ibn Abd Wahhab. In his testimony, Schwartz estimated that the Saudis have spent a minimum of $324 million on Islamic institutions in America by 2003.
The Saudi influence in America is far from benign. "From Islamic centers to student associations, from relief organizations to bookstores, an ideology committed to the destruction of Western civilization is being offered as the only solution to the plight of the ummah [Islamic nation]," Epstein testified. The materials that the Kingdom has distributed to American schools and mosques in particular, have been proven to be pro-jihad, anti-Semitic, and anti-American. "In thousands of public school districts across the United States, without ever knowing it, taxpayers pay to disseminate pro-Islamic materials that are anti-American, anti-Israel and anti-Jewish… teaching programs funded by Saudi Arabia make their way into elementary and secondary school classrooms," a 2005 Jewish Telegraphic Agency staff report "What Your Kids are Learning about Israel, America and Islam," noted.
Saudi-Provided Texts Full of Hate
In the Freedom House report, materials found in mosques across America have been shown to be virulent and hate-filled. A book found in the King Fahd mosque, distributed by the Saudi embassy in Washington D.C., and published by the Saudi government, read: "Be dissociated from the infidels, hate them for their religion, leave them, never rely on them for support, do not admire them, and always oppose them in every way according to Islamic law." A recurring theme is the idea that a peaceful coexistence between Muslims and non-Muslims is impossible. A Saudi-government text for tenth-grade students entitled "Science of Tawheed", copies of which were obtained at the Al-Farouq Mosque in Houston, teaches that if a Muslim "thinks it is permissible to be under their [infidels] control, and he is pleased with the way they are, then there is no doubt that he is no longer a Muslim."
Democracy in particular is demonized in Wahhabi ideology. In one book published in Riyadh by the Al-Nahawi Printing House, collected by Freedom House from the Abu Bakr Mosque in San Diego, it is written, "Satan and his soldiers have found a home for themselves there… Democracy is in need of someone to save it from itself." In order to rectify the evils of democracy, the Wahhabi American mosques advocate for jihad and terror, teaching that, "[we] will pursue this evil force [modernist civilization] to its own lands, invade its Western heartland, and struggle to overcome it until all the world shouts by the name of the Prophet and the teachings of Islam spread throughout the world. Only then will Muslims achieve their fundamental goal, and there will be no more 'persecution' and all religion will be exclusively for Allah…" That quote comes from "To Be a Muslim", published by Saudi Arabia's International Islamic Publishing House and collected from the Al-Farouq Mosque in Houston.
The hate-filled materials distributed by "American mosques and…spread, sponsored or otherwise generated by Saudi Arabia…demonstrates the ongoing indoctrination of Muslims in the United States in the hostility and belligerence of Saudi Arabia's hard-line Wahhabi sect of Islam" Shea noted.
Tablighi Jamaat Penetrates the U.S.
Saudi-affiliated proselytizers also spread the Wahhabi message. The Tablighi Jamaat (TJ) is an Islamic missionary organization based in Pakistan that preaches an almost identical ideology to the Wahhabi jihadist ideology. TJ has a headquarters located at the Al-Falah mosque in Queens, New York. "We have a significant presence of Tablighi Jamaat in the United States, and we have found that al Qaeda used them for recruiting, now and in the past," Michael J. Heimbach, then a deputy chief of the FBI's international terrorism section, said according to The New York Times, July 14, 2003.
The Saudis have made TJ's penetration into non-Muslim societies such as America's possible. The late Sheikh 'Abd al 'Aziz ibn Baz, who was appointed Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia in 1993, recognized the Tablighis "good work" and encouraged his Wahhabi followers to participate in proselytizing missions with them; TJ has received large scale Saudi financing, benefiting from the huge budget of organizations like the World Muslim League, wrote Alex Alexiev in "Tablighi Jamaat: Jihad's Stealthy Legions" that appeared in the Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2005. The WML is known to have financed TJ's Western Europe headquarters and, according to Alexiev, the Wahhabis pay the TJ missionaries better than the European Union pays some of their teachers. Tablighi missionaries are also known to operate out of Wahhabi mosques and Islamic centers.
"The vision of Islam defeating and subjugating the west is a major element in the appeal of the jihadists, supported by the Wahhabi clerics in Saudi Arabia, to their mostly-young followers around the world," Schwartz said in an interview.
The cases of American Islamist terrorists are "incidents that reflect the general tone in the Muslim community, and they have been here, and dominant, through the 1980s and 1990s," stated Schwartz. John Walker Lindh (a California native convicted of aiding the Taliban in Afghanistan), the Lackawanna Six (a group of six American citizens convicted of materially supporting al Qaeda), Iyman Faris (an American citizen born in Kashmir, discovered to be plotting an attack on the Brooklyn Bridge), Jose Padilla (a Brooklyn native known as the "dirty bomber" designated an "enemy combatant" by the Justice Department), Hassan Akbar (a Los Angeles native convicted of killing two fellow U.S. soldiers in Iraq in 2003), and Adam Yahiye Gadahn (the American-born English-language spokesman for al-Qaeda), have revealed an unpleasant truth. As Schwartz said, "Jihadist ideology in American Islam was financed by Saudi Arabia…Wahhabi and related Pakistani and Muslim Brotherhood propaganda is the basis of it… The money comes from Saudi, the preachers from Saudi Arabia and Pakistan and various Arab states, and the donations go to Hamas. That is life in institutional American Islam today," declared Schwartz.
Note: The content of external articles does not necessarily reflect the views of Center for Islamic Pluralism.