Saudi support for religious radicalism in Germany: old questions, still unanswered

The Henry Jackson Society, a neo-conservative British think-tank, has issued a new report harshly condemning Saudi Arabia for funding religious extremism in the West.

The report, so far not accessible to the public, has been submitted to the British Prime Minister, Theresa May. The Henry Jackson Society speaks of a “clear and growing link” between jihadist terrorism and Saudi money and support.(( http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-40496778 ))

Saudi religious activism in Germany

The Society’s findings have been eagerly taken up abroad as well, including in Germany. Germany, too, has witnessed repeated public debates on the role of Gulf money in supporting Islamist extremism. In late 2016, a German intelligence report claimed that Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait were supporting radical Islamists in the country.

Speaking to Deutsche Welle, Susanne Schröter, anthropologist and professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Frankfurt, said that she was not at all surprised by the findings ofthe Henry Jackson Society. She asserted that Saudi Wahhabism was largely similar to the ideology of the so-called “Islamic State” and that the post-1979 Saudi attempts at exporting a rigid and violent understanding of religion had been a great success.(( http://www.dw.com/en/saudi-arabia-exports-extremism-to-many-countries-including-germany-study-says/a-39618920 ))

Long-standing accusations

In and of itself, none of these allegations are new. In journalistic as well as in academic discourse, it is commonplace to assert that the oil boom (al-tafra) allowed the Saudi Wahhabi establishment to go on such a spending spree that it managed to obtain what had eluded religious reformers for more than a thousand years – namely global hegemony over the Islamic nation (umma).

To be sure, this perspective has some valuable insights to offer: it is indeed true that the Saudi clerical and political establishments have sought to rely on the exportation of religious doctrine as a way of buttressing their own agendas. Nor can it be denied that individuals socialised in Saudi or Saudi-funded institutions have been amongst the proponents and perpetrators of jihadi violence.

Saudi money, Saudi control?

 

Yet what those pointing to the “Saudi connection” often fail to make explicit are the ways in which Saudi largesse does its work. More specifically, one might wonder about the extent to which Saudi monetary transfers to various religious causes and institutions actually lead to Saudi control. And here the Saudi track record does not look particularly good.

At almost every historical juncture – starting from the 1990/91 Gulf War, through the internal Saudi unrest of the 1990s and the wave of terrorist attacks of the early to mid-2000s, to the engagement of the Saudi state in Syria – the Islamist and jihadist scene, supposedly marked by the adhesion to Saudi dogma, in fact abandoned the Kingdom and worked on the side of the Kingdom’s enemies.

Local adaptations

In some ways, this should not come as a surprise: to many outside observers (Islamists and even jihadists included), the Saudi regime appears simply too corrupt and sclerotic to be worthy of sustained loyalty. And even where such questions of political allegiance take the back seat, Salafi preachers – even those educated in a Saudi setting – have always been forced to adjust their teachings to local circumstances.

To give but one rather colourful example in this regard, in order to make to with the gender norms prevalent in the country, Germany’s most well-known Salafi Pierre Vogel – touched upon in the abovementioned interview with professor Schröter – has stated that in the German context it is licit for women to have a prominent role as public speakers at gender-mixed Salafi events.

According to Vogel, haja (‘necessity’) in this case nullifies the prohibition on gender-mixing imposed by the doctrine of sadd al-dhara’i’ (‘blocking of the means’). Needless to say, this striking doctrinal innovation would certainly be regarded with a high degree of suspicion by Saudi scholars.((See Wiedl, Nina (2014). “Geschichte des Salafismus in Deutschland”. In Hazim Fouad and Behnam T. Said (eds.), Salafismus: Auf der Suche nach dem wahren Islam. Freiburg im Breisgau: Herder. ))

The attractiveness of the ‘Salafi’ creed

In her interview, Schröter discusses the proximity of various figures of the German Islamic associational scene to Saudi money and religious orthodoxy. Yet the precise workings of the stipulated causality are left unclear: how is it that generous financial backing from the Gulf leads to the radicalisation of Muslims in the West? And on which terms?

The most glaring lacuna in this respect is the failure to provide an account of the sources of the attractiveness of a Salafised religiosity: why is it that this particular religious form should be seen as appealing by a small but considerable number of European Muslims? Indeed, the Islamic tradition would offer a host of other spiritual paths, some of whom may also be deemed “radical” (though not necessarily violent).

More complex questions

This is not to deny the overwhelmingly illiberal nature of Saudi-sponsored religiosity. Nor is it to exclude that Saudi support may play a role in spreading a particularly rigid, Wahhabi-tinged religious thought and practice.  What appears necessary to scrutinise, however, are the ways in which a Wahhabi-Salafi creed resonates with the particular conditions of Muslim life in Germany and Europe.

This means going beyond pointing to Saudi funding of mosques and preachers. It means starting to ask a host of questions that may be far more difficult to answer, and the answers to which might be far more unsettling.

Trump’s statement on Ramadan is almost entirely about terrorism

The Washington Post reports that President Trump issued a statement on Ramadan — a holy month of fasting and prayer for Muslims around the world — that focused primarily on violence and terrorism. In his statement, Trump called recent terrorist attacks in the United Kingdom and in Egypt, “acts of depravity that are directly contrary to the spirit of Ramadan. Such acts only steel our resolve to defeat the terrorists and their perverted ideology.”

Read the entire article here

 

Radical Islam Or Radical Islamism? It Depends Whom You Ask

The Orlando shooter, Omar Mateen, claimed allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State during a phone call to 911 early Sunday. And that’s reignited a debate over how to label the ideology that apparently inspired the attack.
Republican Donald Trump and many on the right say it’s “radical Islam.” But Democrat Hillary Clinton used a different term: “radical Islamism.” It’s not just a debate over semantics.
“What exactly would using this label accomplish?” President Obama asked Tuesday as he spoke about his administration’s fight against ISIS. He spoke at length about the language debate. “Would it bring in more allies? Is there a military strategy that is served by this? The answer is none of the above. Calling a threat by a different name does not make it go away. This is a political distraction.”
NPR.org: http://www.npr.org/2016/06/14/482011041/radical-islam-or-radical-islamism-it-depends-who-you-ask

Clinton Warns Against ‘Inflammatory, Anti-Muslim Rhetoric’

The day after the deadliest mass shooting in American history, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton warned against the possibility of future attacks and went after Donald Trump for “inflammatory” rhetoric.
“The threat is metastasizing,” Clinton said in a speech in Cleveland. “We saw this in Paris, and we saw it in Brussels. We face a twisted ideology and poisoned psychology that inspires the so-called lone wolves: radicalized individuals who may or may not have contact and direction from any formal organization.”
NPR.org: http://www.npr.org/2016/06/13/481896759/clinton-the-threat-is-metastasizing

Tony Blair: Islamic extremists’ ideology enjoys support of many Muslims

The ideology which drives Islamic extremists has significant support from Muslims around the world, Tony Blair has warned. The former British prime minister said that unless religious prejudice in Muslim communities is rooted out, the threat from the extremists will not be defeated.

Speaking at the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York City, Blair said that while the numbers who engage in violence through groups like Islamic State are relatively small, many of their views are widely shared. “The conspiracy theories which illuminate much of the jihadi writings have significant support even amongst parts of the mainstream population of some Muslim countries,” he said.

“There are millions of schoolchildren every day in countries round the world – not just in the Middle East – who are taught a view of the world and of their religion which is narrow-minded, prejudicial and therefore, in the context of a globalised world, dangerous.”

Blair acknowledged that attacking ideas which resonate in parts of mainstream Muslim society could appear to be an attack on Muslims rather than just extremists, but he said such concerns have to be overcome.

“The reality is that in parts of the Muslim community a discourse has grown up which is profoundly hostile to peaceful coexistence. Countering this is an essential part of fighting extremism.”

Officer criticizes prison’s Terrorism Department

Dutch Public Prosecution Service criticizes the strict manner jihad-suspects are being held in detention. Public prosecutor and coördinator counter-terrorism Bart den Hartigh tells that they are are not in favour of the treatment the inmates receive, but they do not determine the rules. The responsibility lies with the Dutch Custodial Institutions, a department of the Ministry of Security and Justice.

Suspects’ attorneys call the way the suspects are treated a form of paranoia, that instead of preventing terrorism, creates a extremist ideology. Examples of this treatment are: visitation of the private areas, staying 23 hours a day in cell and very restrictive contact with the outside world. But those treatments are not legitimate.

According to a spokesperson from the Ministry of Security and Justice the suspects’ complaints are exaggerated. ‘And it’s not a surprise they present themselves as victims’.

The government’s denial of the current stigmatization of French Muslims

French politicians react to a string of attacks by Muslims over the Christmas holiday. (Photo: AFP)
French politicians react to a string of attacks by Muslims over the Christmas holiday. (Photo: AFP)

Press release from Bertrand Dutheil de La Rochère, advisor of Marine Le Pen.
“To refuse to denounce the Islamist fundamentalism in the light of current acts of individual terrorism is to deny what is real. Such silence will not lead to measures that would isolate and repress the extremists. With government inaction in the face of these crimes, widespread censure should not fall on all of our Muslim citizens. Yet, those who wish to practice their faith while respecting the laws of the Republic are in the large majority. The official soothing discourse does not reflect recent events and leads to misconceptions.

That certain perpetrators of these crimes are psychologically disturbed, that some are recent converts has little relevance: their inspiration always comes from dangerous jihadist ideology. To be certain, they are not part of a plot organized in Mosul or in Kabul. But they follow the Islamic State’s and other extremist groups’ radical ideology. These are no longer myths of self-radicalization or of radicalization in prisons, they find places in France where their criminal intentions are not discouraged. Sometimes they are even encouraged. It is the government’s responsibility to employ all its resources and to eventually come up with new measures to eradicate these fundamentalist groups.

With Marine Le Pen, the Marine Blue Gathering requires that every person who is a leader in the Muslim community publicly and firmly condemn all violence and all calls to violence committed in the name of the religion. In mosques, the sermons must be in French. The associations much be monitored with vigilance, and any serious suspicion must bring about their dissolution. Funding must be strictly controlled. In addition, encouragement and most of all participation in jihad must be severely punished, and those with dual citizenship must automatically lose their French citizenship. More than ever, immigration must be stopped. France must regain control of its borders and leave the Schengen Area.”

Secular France Moves to Confront Jihadism After Slow Start (Reuters)

France has been slow to respond to the spread of jihadist ideology because strict state secularism forbids any incursion into individuals’ religious affairs. This has created a breeding ground that has pulled in converts like Guillaume, radicalized while in prison for assaulting a police officer.(Reuters)

Mosque distances itself from ISIS

The al-Moslimin mosque in the city of Nijmegen distanced itself from ISIS and it’s violent jihadistic ideology that don’t correspond with the Quran. According to the mosque a lot of Muslims feel scared and threatened by the hatred towards Muslims that is the consequence of ISIS’ actions.
Board member Said Bouharrou says more Islamic organizations should speak against ISIS and other extremistic organizations to avoid people becoming scared of their Islamic neighbour. The statement is also meant for youth who consider travelling to Iraq or Syria: “You are on the wrong path.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali and the dangerous anti-Islamic logic of the war on terror

April 20, 2014

 

Ayaan Hirsi Ali lost an honorary degree from Brandeis for articulating the same twisted thinking as Dick Cheney

It’s been over a week since students at Brandeis compelled their university to refuse Ayaan Hirsi Ali an honorary degree, and the blogosphere is still roiling with grievance. Kirsten Powers laments Islam’s preferential treatment in USA Today. Mark Steyn notes the incident, as part of a eulogy to free speech in this weekend’s Spectator. Bill KristolJohn PodhoretzAndrew Sullivan and Ross Douthat have all registered their disgust at this assault on a free and open discourse. Zev Chaffets at Fox News.com describes the incident as an “honor killing.”

The Change.org petition that cost Ali her honorary degree acknowledges the legitimacy of her grievances with Islam, but condemns the “hate speech” through which she expresses them. The petition quotes her as saying:

Violence is inherent in Islam – it’s a destructive, nihilistic cult of death. It legitimates murder … the battle against terrorism will ultimately be lost unless we realize that it’s not just with extremist elements within Islam, but the ideology of Islam itself …

Ali told Reason magazine in 2007, “There are Muslims who are passive, who don’t all follow the rules of Islam, but there’s really only one Islam, defined as submission to the will of God. There’s nothing moderate about it.”

Curiously, not one of the pieces protesting Brandeis’ decision actually quotes Ali’s past rhetoric. Instead, they refer obliquely to her “stinging attacks on non-Western religions,” “provocative ideas” or, most opaquely, her “life and thought.” The simplest explanation for this chronic omission is that to actually engage with Ali’s rhetoric would be to expose the absurdity of the Judeo-Christian persecution complex that informs so much of the genre.

The backlash the students of Brandeis have incurred for asserting that Islamaphobia is in fact bigotry, reflects precisely what makes Ali’s rhetoric so dangerous. Far from being a fringe position in our discourse, the idea that Islam is a uniquely malevolent ideology is the necessary fiction behind the war on terror.

To be clear: Fundamentalist religion is a scourge. And without question, fundamentalist Islam enjoys more political salience in many countries across the Middle East, than fundamentalist Christianity does in American politics (though the influence of the latter is considerable). What is fictitious in Ali’s rhetoric, and in the logic of our public policy, is the notion that Islam is uniquely susceptible to violent interpretation, and therefore all Muslims are inherently suspect.

Salon.com: http://www.salon.com/2014/04/20/ayaan_hirsi_ali_and_the_dangerous_anti_islamic_logic_of_the_war_on_terror/