From the March 7, 2005 issue:
Confronting Saudi evangelism in Kuwait,
Europe, and the United
Volume 010, Issue 23
THE PAST FEW WEEKS, Kuwait
has been waging its own war on terror at home. The police have engaged in five
fierce and bloody gun battles with extremists since January 10, as reported by
the Associated Press. Five policemen have been killed in these encounters,
along with four security men and two bystanders; foreign observers described
police conduct as "ham-handed." But the police also managed to kill 9
suspected terrorists and arrest more than 40.
Jolted by this first serious clash with Islamist
terrorists, Kuwaiti authorities acted swiftly to tackle the root of the
problem: They are closing down unlicensed mosques and barring Saudi imams, the
tireless purveyors of Islamist extremism, from preaching inside the emirate. In addition, the AP confirms that Kuwaiti authorities
are blocking Islamic websites that incite violence, seizing radical books from
mosques, and purging textbooks of extremism.
the nub of the new policy, former Kuwaiti oil minister Ali al-Baghli wrote in the Kuwait daily Al Qabas
on February 2: "What is needed is to cut off the snake's head, namely the
masters of terror and all those who propagate terror in mosques and the
even as tiny Kuwait,
a Muslim country, confronts the problem of Saudi-funded propagation of
extremism, European governments continue to treat it with something like benign
worse: In Germany,
Wahhabi materials (produced by the extremist Saudis
also called Salafis) are used to teach about Islam in
public schools. To be sure, this came about by inadvertence. German law allows
schools to offer optional religious instruction, so long as it is provided not
by state authorities, but by the various religious communities themselves.
Bernard Lewis, the doyen of Middle East scholars, explained recently at the
Hudson Institute, when Germany's
large Turkish minority applied for the inclusion of classes on Islam in
schools, they offered to supply textbooks from Turkey. As these were government
textbooks, they were deemed unacceptable by the German authorities, who
requested materials produced by the local Islamic community. The result, Lewis
says, were materials produced by private Muslim
institutions--funded by Saudi
Arabia. As always, he says, it was "the
Wahhabis who had the necessary combination of
passion, money, and a complete lack of scruples.
the Islam that is taught in Turkish schools is on the whole a modernized,
secularized, sanitized version of Islam. The Islam which is taught in German
schools is the complete Wahhabi version." And
Lewis adds this footnote: "As an interesting result of that, of 12 Turks
arrested so far who have active membership of al Qaeda, all 12 were born and
brought up in Germany, none
which I think is rather remarkable."
In Spain, where the very large Islamic Center of
Madrid has been directly financed by Saudi Arabia, Wahhabism
is on the rise. As long ago as 2002, the Spanish secret services were worried
about the radicalization of the local Muslim community. It came as no surprise
when, after the March 11, 2004, train bombings in Madrid,
a link was established between a Madrid
mosque and the men arrested for the bombing.
in France--which hosts the
largest Muslim community in Europe, somewhere
between 5 million and 8 million people--the link between radical mosques and
terrorism is strong. As Louis Caprioli, former head
of the counterterrorism unit of the DST, the French equivalent of the FBI, put
it, "Behind every Muslim terrorist is a radical imam."
such, imam Chelali Benchellali, has been preaching jihad since 1991 in Vénissieux, a suburb of Lyon.
Apparently his message is getting through. Three of the seven French prisoners
held at Guantanamo
are from Vénissieux, including Benchellali's
own son. Two other men from Vénissieux were arrested
by the DST on November 5, 2002, and charged with terrorism; both are relatives
of Nizar Nawar, the
suspected mastermind of the terrorist attack on the Djerba
synagogue in Tunisia,
which killed 19 people on April 11, 2002.
DST finally arrested imam Benchellali on January 6,
2003, along with his wife, another son, and a Vénissieux
pharmacist suspected of planning a major chemical attack in France. Only
this month, the daily Le Parisien reported that a
group of newly arrested Islamists have confirmed that Benchellali
had installed a chemical lab in his apartment and was on his way to
manufacturing bombs containing the deadly poison ricin.
the picture, three young French Muslims died recently fighting the Coalition in
and three more were arrested by American troops in Falluja.
All six had attended the same mosque in Paris
and answered the call to jihad of the imam, who has since been arrested. The
mother of one of them told a reporter her son had been brainwashed and manipulated
by an Islamist guru.
vast majority of the imams preaching in France are foreigners, and
most are in the country illegally. Back in May 2004, I asked Jean-François Copé, chief spokesman for the French government, whether it
would make sense to deport them, particularly those preaching hatred. He
answered that most have been in the country some time, have their families and
their lives in France,
and cannot be easily deported. Nevertheless, France has started to expel the
most outrageously extremist imams: a total of five in 2004.
a country with 1,500 imams, this is a drop in the sea. Even deporting the most
virulent will scarcely make a dent in the growing radical movement, considering
the hold Saudi Wahhabism has on French Islam. As long
ago as May 2001--before 9/11--King Mohammed VI of Morocco
warned the French interior minister of the danger posed by the influence of Saudi Arabia
through French mosques. To no avail.
is omnipresent. It financed the luxurious Institute of the Arab World in Paris, the Lyon mosque,
and the King Fahd Islamic Center of Mantes-la-Jolie. When asked about Saudi influence in France,
Jean-François Copé brushed off the question, stating
it was irrelevant. He added that the French government was determined to
encourage the emergence of a French Islam and to insist that from now on imams
at least speak French (as only half do today).
the development of Saudi institutions in France continues apace. A new
school for training French imams will be financed by the Saudi-sponsored
Islamic Countries Educational, Scientific, Cultural Organization (ICESCO),
reports the Arabic newspaper Al Watan. Just last
week, Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin told Le
Figaro Magazine that a decision of the European Court of Justice prevents
European governments from barring the foreign funding of mosques. So much for a truly independent French Islam.
the government of the Netherlands
has been on a steep learning curve since the murder of Theo Van Gogh, on
November 2, 2004, by an Islamist following the release of Van Gogh's
documentary critical of Islam. The government has just issued a report on
"Saudi Influences in the Netherlands:
Links between the Salafist Mission, Radicalization
Processes, and Islamic Terrorism" (available in English on the website of
the Dutch Interior Ministry). It documents the usual patterns of funding and
incitement, including "sermons and prayers [in Dutch mosques] that showed
overt jihadist features, in which for example Allah
was asked to 'deal with the enemies of Islam,' namely Bush, Sharon, and the
'enemies of Islam in Chechnya
ABOUT THE UNITED STATES? A landmark report initiated at the request of American
Muslims has just been released by Freedom House's Center for Religious Freedom.
The report, edited by the center's Nina Shea and Paul
Marshall and available on the web, meticulously documents the presence of Saudi
government propaganda in mosques and Islamic centers in Los
Angeles, Oakland, Dallas,
Washington, D.C., and New York. Researchers confirmed the
availability, as recently as December 2004, of over 200 books and other
publications teaching the Wahhabi ideology of hatred,
intolerance, and sometimes violent jihad.
small sample from a book for high school students published by the Saudi
Ministry of Education and found at the Islamic Center of Oakland, California:
"To be true Muslims, we must prepare and be ready for jihad in Allah's
way. It is the duty of the citizen and the government. The military education
is glued to faith and its meaning, and the duty to follow it."
is telling that the researchers, translators, and principal analysts of this
material have chosen to remain anonymous. Even in the United States,
those who take on the Islamic extremists must live in fear.
fact that Islamofascist ideology is being propagated
within our borders is, as the Freedom House report underscores, a national
security concern. That this is being done through the agency of an allied
foreign government points to the need for strong diplomatic action.
is good reason to believe the public would support this. An August 2004 poll by
Luntz Research found that 82 percent of respondents
want the president to put much more pressure on Saudi Arabia in the fight against
terror. Now that Freedom House, a private organization, has further exposed
this urgent problem, it is up to Washington
to take vigorous action. If Kuwait can do it, why not we?
Guitta is a freelance writer specializing in Islamic
radicalism and Europe.
Copyright 2005, News Corporation, Weekly Standard, All Rights Reserved