I am reposting this piece that I wrote in November 2015.
As policy makers focus on what to do about the Islamic State over the coming months — you will hear people talking about the role of the Wahhabi version of Islam of Saudi Arabia, and what connection it has to the spread of this new wave of terrorism everyone is talking about.
For decades, there has been a school of thought that blames the Saudis for Al-Qaeda, or Salafism, and now, the Islamic State, as a result of some conscious strategy by the Saudi ruling class to “export” their version of Islam.
How Saudi Arabia Exported the Main Source of Global Terrorism
Central to this idea is that, if the Saudis did not take these actions to export their version of Islam, different things would be happening. Such as:
- Islam as practiced in many Arab countries would be more moderate
- Certain radical mosques in say France, wouldn’t exist
- Fewer Belgians would have traveled to fight in Syria.
- Radical clerics would have less followers on Twitter.
I have always argued — and will argue in this post — that the spread of more conservative Islamic views across the Middle East, and amongst Muslims in the West, both now, and over the course of the last several decades, cannot be blamed on any conscious strategy by people or organizations inside Saudi Arabia.
It is merely a natural reflection of the “demand” for more conservative religious views. People chose more conservative Islam because it is logical to them based on their personal surrounding environment.