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The Saudi Double-Game

The confrontation with Al Qaeda is first and foremost-a battle of ideas. Ideas are one of the most important exports of Saudi Arabia in its quest for Islamic dominance as it regards itself as the spearhead of the Muslim world as the Guardian of the two Holy Places committed to taking care of Muslim communities and minorities around the world. Al-Qaeda’s intellectual origins are a synthesis of two interlinked and equally important sources of influence first, by Abdullah Azzam. Second, from the Saudi Wahhabi purist doctrine, arose in the early 1990s and sought to Islamize Saudi society in response to a perceived Western “cultural attack” on the Muslim world. The Saudi Ulama (Islamic Religious Scholars) have designed to conduct a two-pronged plan to thwart the perceived “Western conspiracy”: in the inner arena they sought to purgeSaudi Arabiaof any Western influences and Islamize all aspects of Saudi life, including its judiciary, media, financial institutions, and educational systems. On the external transnational borderless Ummah level, the Saudi Ulama sanctioned—backed by the Saudi establishment–a state sponsored international counterattack campaign in which they attempted to influence the Western world, mainly via Muslims living around the world.

The Means of Combating the Intellectual Attack on the Muslim World, a book published in Mecca by the Saudi-controlled, pan-Islamist Muslim World League, is a typical manifestation of this conception. The author, Hassan Muhammad Hassan, describes the Western intellectual attack as a tumor whose timely detection is critical to the body’s recovery. He argued that the West planned a three-stage offensive: first, the West would seek to convince Muslims that Islam is not a complete way of life but merely folklore; then Muslims would doubt their faith, before lastly, abandoning it.

The seeds of the Saudi-Wahhabi radicalization on the global scale can be identified during the early 90’s when the Ulama cautioned that the western “cultural attack” was a threat against the Muslim world in general and against the House of Saud, and the state of Saudi Arabia in particular. The House of Saud did not oppose this conception. The Saudis were even ready to accept some of the Ulama’s demands, such as increased allocations for proselytizing overseas, so long as the Ulama did not violate certain red lines, including challenging the Saudi kingdom’s military alliance with the United States. In the minds of the House of Saud, the war against the “cultural attack” was fine, as long as its prosecution would be conducted outside the kingdom and would not threaten the regime’s stability. Since the beginning of the 90’ the Saudi government incorporated of notions of “Western cultural attack” in its political religious actions and rhetoric internally but even more vigorously externally. The king the royal family and the government sharply increased their involvement, financial allocations, built and reorganized administrative and governmental systems to enhance the religious activities mainly abroad. The Saudi government also launched a number of initiatives to strengthen the Islamic identity of Muslim Diasporas within the Saudi perception and duties as the guardian of the two holy places responsible on Muslim minorities around the world. The king himself described the establishment of the Middle East Broadcasting Center (MBC) as outreach to Muslims living in Europe.

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