This morning I read that Saudi Arabia has postponed Friday’s public flogging of activist and blogger Raif Badawi on medical grounds. Badawi, who set up the “Free Saudi Liberals” website, was arrested in June 2012 for offences which also included cybercrime and disobeying his father – a crime in Saudi Arabia. The prosecution had demanded he be tried for apostasy, which carries the death penalty in Saudi Arabia, but a judge dismissed that charge. He was sentenced last year to 10 years in jail, a fine of 1 million riyals ($267,000) and 1,000 lashes after prosecutors challenged an earlier sentence of seven years and 600 lashes as too lenient.
I remembered a talk I had two days ago with my colleague Dr. Kamal Alsaedi, an Iraqi-American. Dr. Alsaedi and a group of activists started protesting against the Saudi Embassy in Washington DC in 2011. This group has been active through lectures and meetings with political officials in trying to bring awareness on the Wahhabi religion movement’s influence on our country and the rest of the world.
“The Wahhabis, not Islam, are responsible for the terrorism acts happening today,” he said. “Wahhabis consider themselves ‘the chosen people’ and so anyone outside of their religion is a sinner and ought to be killed – that includes me, even though I am Muslim.”
Because he is a Shia Muslim, Dr. Alsaedi is viewed as much a sinner as Christians and Jews. Non-Wahhabi Sunnis are also considered sinners, but they are given an opportunity to convert.
“Wahhabis look at all religions, all people as sinners,” he said.
The Wahhabi religious movement is a fundamentalist Islamic order that advocates a strict interpretation of the teachings in the Quran. It was founded in the 16th century in what is now Saudi Arabia as a reaction against the influences of Sufism and the Shia interpretation of Islam. The early Wahhabi leaders believed that Islam had become rife with superstition and what they believed to be deviant practices. These practices included invoking the names of prophets or saints for veneration, practicing magic and sorcery, and changing the accepted methods of worship.
“The religion for terrorists is Wahhabism,” he said, noting that between 1970 and today, there have been 250,000 individual Saudis involved in terrorism acts around the world. Before the Iraq war there were 459 nonprofit organizations inside of Saudi Arabia that collected money for terrorists. Right before the September 11th attack, the United States shut down 250 of them. And the obvious – 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis.
The 9/11 Commission Report ultimately went on to explain why so many Saudis were involved in the hijackings to begin with. According to Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, the mastermind of the September 11 plot, as he toured Al Qaeda’s training camps in Afghanistan in the years leading up to the attacks, he found that the vast majority of the recruits being trained there (by his count 70%) were from Saudi Arabia (p.232). This assessment has been further corroborated by two other prominent Al Qaeda operatives who estimated that a full 80% of Al Qaeda’s members were from Saudi nationals in an interview with the PBS news program Frontline.
“Politics is above humanitarian issues,” he said. “It’s not about consciousness, it’s about money. The Saudis pay ISIS money to take down countries. The other problem is the media. Nothing negative is ever said in the news about Saudis. Never. Why? Because they pay the American news channels $12 billion a year.”
Dr. Alsaedi has started a petition urging that Saudi Arabia be listed as a country that represents, supports and sponsors terrorism. To learn more, visit: https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition/UN_united_nations_we_want_Saudi_arabia_to_be_listed_as_a_terrorist_country/?copy