Who Created Wahhabism and Islamic extremism?
By Maryam Shariat
The article ‘Britain and the Rise of Wahhabism and the House of Saud’ which surveys the relationship between Britain and Wahhabism says Wahhabism was born in the middle of the 18th century in the sleepy desert-village of Dir’iyyah located in the Arabian Peninsula’s central region of Najd. The Wahhabi sect derives its name from the name of its founder Mohammad Ibn Abdul-Wahhab (1703-92).
Although Ibn Abdul-Wahhab is considered to be the father of Wahhabism, it was actually the British who initially impregnated him with the ideas of Wahhabism (Sindi, 2004).
According to the book "Confessions of a British Spy", Hempher the British spy who found Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab suitable person to establish Wahhabism says the Ministry of the Commonwealth assigned a commission from each of the colonies including the Middle East for the execution of two tasks:
1- To try to retain the places Britain has already obtained;
2- To try to take possession of those places it has not obtained yet.
To do the tasks, Hempher adds what made Britain nervous most was the Islamic countries because:
1- Muslims are extremely devoted to Islam.
2- Islam was once a religion of administration and authority.
3- Britain was extremely uneasy about Islamic scholars because they were considered undefeatable obstacles against London objectives.
Britain found Mohammad Ibn Abdul-Wahhab (Mohammad Najd) ‘typical fool’ to remove such obstacles, destroy Islam and achieve its goals. The Ministry devised a subtle scheme for Muhammad of Najd to carry out:
1- He is to declare all Muslims as disbelievers and announce that it is halâl to kill them, to seize their property, to violate their chastity, to make their men slaves and their women concubines and to sell them at slave markets.
2- He is to allege that the mausoleums, domes and sacred places in Muslim countries are idols and polytheistic milieus and must therefore be demolished.
3- He is to do his best to produce occasions for insulting Prophet Muhammad, and all prominent scholars of madh-habs.
4- He is to do his utmost to encourage insurrections, oppressions and anarchy in Muslim countries (CONFESSIONS of A BRITISH SPY and British Enmity Against Islam, 2010).
The article ‘Britain and the Rise of Wahhabism and the House of Saud’ says that although the fanatically violent Wahhabism was destroyed in 1818, it was soon revived with the help of British colonialism. After the execution of the Wahhabi Imam Abdullah al-Saud in Turkey, the remnants of the Saudi-Wahhabi clan looked at their Arab and Muslim brothers as their real enemies, and to Britain and the West in general as their true friends. Accordingly, when Britain colonized Bahrain in 1820 and began to look for ways and means to expand its colonization in the area, the Wahhabi House of Saud found it a great opportunity to quickly seek British protection and help (Sindi, 2004).
The article says in 1843 the Wahhabi Imam Faisal Ibn Turki al-Saud escaped from captivity in Cairo and returned to the Najdi town of Riyadh. Imam Faisal then began to make contacts with the British. In 1848 he ―appealed‖ to the British Political Resident in the Persian city of Bushire ―to support his representative in Trucial Oman‖. In 1851 Faisal again applied to the British for assistance and support.
As a result, the British sent Colonel Lewis Pelly in 1865 to Riyadh to establish an official British treaty with the Wahhabi House of Saud. To impress Pelly with his Wahhabi fanaticism and violence, Imam Faisal said that the major difference in the Wahhabi strategy between political and religious wars was that in the latter there would be no compromise, for ―we kill everybody‖ (Sindi, 2004).
The Role of British Libraries in promoting Islamic Extremism
According to the book How British libraries encourage Islamic extremism, British libraries’ range of books reflects the breadth of interests of the nation. However a number of public libraries in the UK stock substantial quantities of literature preaching violent jihad in the most heavily Muslim areas of the country including in the libraries of Tower Hamlets in east London which has the largest Muslim population of any London borough. Tower Hamlets’ eight leading libraries contain several hundred books and audiotapes by radical Islamists, stocking the works and words of the leaders of many senior Wahhabi clerics and even preachers who have been convicted in the UK of incitement to murder.
Many of these books stocked in the Islam section of libraries:
• Glorify acts of terrorism against followers of other religions
• Incite violence against anyone who rejects jihadist ideologies
• Endorse violence and discrimination against women
In a number of cases these books are not only on library shelves but are also given special prominence in displays. Such books abuse traditions of rationalism and tolerance and risk damaging community cohesion. In the worst cases they are the tools of radicalization and increase the risk of Islamic terrorism. The predominance of such texts risks radicalizing Muslims while making non-Muslims more hostile towards the Islamic faith (James Brandon, Douglas Murray, 2007).
According to the book How British libraries encourage Islamic extremism, writers representing Salafist and Wabbabist schools of thought are well-represented in the libraries of Tower Hamlets. Many of the books are printed by publishers in Saudi Arabia who are closely linked to the Saudi government. Although many of these Wahhabi-influenced books deal with theological issues which may appear abstract and worldly, they can play an important role in encouraging Muslim readers to see themselves as separate, and opposed to, mainstream British society.
The book adds compared to the massive stocks of pro-jihadist and salafi authors, the libraries’ holdings of more moderate writers who do not advocate systematic violence towards non-Muslims are relatively slight. For instance, while the libraries stock only 39 copies of books and recordings by Tariq Ramadan – regarded by some as one of Europe’s most significant Islamic thinkers – the libraries stock 15 clearly marked copies of ibn Abdul Wahhab’s key work, the
Ketab at-Tauhid, in a variety of different editions. However, the huge number of such books, in all languages, makes it unlikely that so many intolerant, and often violent, texts could have been acquired purely by accident (James Brandon, Douglas Murray, 2007).
CONFESSIONS of A BRITISH SPY and British Enmity Against Islam. (2010). Istanbul: Hakikat Kitabevi.
James Brandon, Douglas Murray. (2007). How British libraries encourage Islamic extremism. London: Centre For Social Cohesion.
Sindi, A. M. (2004, January 16). Britain and the Rise of Wahhabism and the House of Saud. Kana'an, pp. 1-9.