Search in the document preview
SAUDI PUBLICATIONS ON HATE IDEOLOGY
INVADE AMERICAN MOSQUES
Center for Religious Freedom Freedom House
Copyright © 2005 by Freedom House
Published by the Center for Religious Freedom
Printed in the United States of America. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be used or reproduced in any manner without the written permission of Freedom House, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
Center for Religious Freedom
Freedom House 1319 18th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036 Phone: 202-296-5101 Fax: 202-296-5078
ABOUT THE CENTER FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM The CENTER FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM is a division of Freedom House. Founded more than sixty years ago by Eleanor Roosevelt, Wendell Willkie, and other Americans concerned with the mounting threats to peace and democracy, Freedom House has been a vigorous proponent of democratic values and a steadfast opponent of dictatorship of the far left and the far right. Its Center for Religious Freedom defends against religious persecution of all groups throughout the world. It insists that U.S foreign policy defend those persecuted for their religion or beliefs around the world, and advocates the right to religious freedom for every individual. Since its inception in 1986, the Center, under the leadership of human rights lawyer Nina Shea, has reported on the religious persecution of individuals and groups abroad and undertaken advocacy on their behalf in the media, Congress, State Department, and the White House. It also sponsors investigative field missions. Freedom House is a 501(c)3 organization, headquartered in New York City. Its Center for Religious Freedom is a membership organization and all donations to it are tax deductible. It is located at 1319 18th Street NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-296-5101, ext. 136; www.freedomhouse.org/religion. FREEDOM HOUSE BOARD OF TRUSTEES R. James Woolsey, Chairman Ned Bandler, Vice Chairman Mark Palmer, Vice Chairman Walter Schloss, Treasurer Kenneth Adelman, Secretary Max Kampelman, Chairman Emeriti Bette Bao Lord, Chairman Emeriti Peter Ackerman, J. Brian Atwood, Barbara Barrett, Alan P. Dye, Stuart Eizenstat, Sandra Feldman, Thomas S. Foley, Malcolm S. Forbes Jr., Theodore J. Forstmann, Norman Hill, Samuel P. Huntington, John T. Joyce, Kathryn Dickey Karol, Farooq Kathwari, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, Mara Liasson, Jay Mazur, John Norton Moore, Azar Nafisi, Andrew Nathan, Diana Villiers Negroponte, P.J. O’Rourke, Orlando Patterson, Susan Kaufman Purcell, Arthur Waldron, Ruth Wedgwood, Wendell Willkie II, Jennifer Windsor, Executive Director Richard Sauber, Of Counsel CENTER FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM Nina Shea, Director Paul Marshall, Senior Fellow Elyse Bauer, Program Director
Acknowledgements 1 Methodology 2 Foreword 7
R. James Woolsey Introduction 11 Nina Shea
One Christians, Jews and Other “Infidels” 19
Two Jews 29 Three Other Muslims 34
Four Anti-American 39
Five Infidel Conspiracies 48
Six Jihad Ideology 57
Seven Suppression of Women 63
List of Sources 78
We are grateful to the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation and the JM Foundation, without whose generosity this project would not have been possible.
Freedom House is deeply appreciative of the volunteers and expert consultants who helped in the preparation of this report. The research, translation and principal analysis of the materials for the report were carried out by both Muslims and non- Muslims who wish to remain anonymous for reasons of security. In light of the recent targeted assassination and death threats for speaking out against Islamic extremism in the Netherlands, such concerns appear especially valid. All involved did so out of a conviction that the Saudi Arabian publications in this study, which espouse an ideology of hate and purport to be the authoritative interpretation of Islam, continue to be in plentiful supply at some of our nation’s main mosques and continue to be used as a principal educational resource on Islam for Muslims in America. We also wish to acknowledge the many Muslims who have requested our help in exposing Saudi extremism in the hope of freeing their communities from ideological strangulation; they have done so in the firm belief that public awareness of this problem will prompt the moderate majority of American Muslims to take steps to remedy it.
Freedom House’s Center for Religious Freedom Director Nina Shea edited the report. Center Senior Fellow Paul Marshall provided research and editorial advice and Center Program Director Elyse Bauer worked extensively on the materials.
Freedom House’s Center for Religious Freedom decided to undertake this project after a number of Muslims and other experts publicly raised concerns about Saudi state influence on American religious life.1 This report complements a May 2003 recommendation of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent government agency, that the U.S. government conduct a study on Saudi involvement in propagating internationally a “religious ideology that explicitly promotes hate, intolerance, and other human rights violations, and in some cases violence, toward members of other religious groups, both Muslims and non-Muslims.” 2 In releasing this report, the Center is also mindful of one of the key findings of the 9/11 Commission Report: “Education that teaches tolerance, the dignity and value of each individual, and respect for different beliefs is a key element in any global strategy to eliminate Islamist terrorism.”
The phenomenon of Saudi hate ideology is worldwide, but its occurrence in the United States has received scant attention. This report begins to probe in detail the content of the Wahhabi ideology that the Saudi government has worked to propagate through books and other publications within our borders.3 While substantial analysis has been previously published on Saudi Wahhabism in other countries, few specifics have been reported on the content of Wahhabi indoctrination within the United States. 4 Part of the reason may be that the vast majority of the written materials are in Arabic. Also, U.S. security investigations have focused on stopping money flows and curbing the activities of individual extremists resulting in, among other actions, the recent expulsions of dozens of religious teachers with Saudi diplomatic passports.5 Saudi officials argue that they have changed their textbooks at home, something we have not sought to confirm. We have ascertained that as of December 2004, Saudi-connected resources and publications on extremist ideology remain common reading and educational material in some of America’s main mosques.
In undertaking this study, we did not attempt a general survey of American
mosques. In order to document Saudi influence, the material for this report was gathered from a selection of more than a dozen mosques and Islamic centers in American cities, including Los Angeles, Oakland, Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Washington, and New York. In most cases, these sources are the most prominent and well-established mosques in their areas. They have libraries and publication racks for mosque-goers. Some have full-or part-time schools and, as the 9/11 Commission Report observed, such “Saudi-funded Wahhabi schools are often the only Islamic schools.”6
The material collected consists of over 200 books and other publications, many of
which titles were available in several mosques. Some 90 percent of the publications are in Arabic, though some are in English, Urdu, Chinese and Tagalog. With one exception,
an Urdu-language document, the materials for this study were in Arabic and English. The Center had two independent translators review each Arabic document.
All the documents analyzed here have some connection to the government of Saudi Arabia. In some instances, they have five connections. The publications under study each have at least two of the following links to Saudi Arabia. They are:
• official publications of a government ministry; • distributed by the Saudi embassy; • comprised of religious pronouncements and commentary by religious
authorities appointed to state positions by the Saudi crown; • representative of the established Wahhabi ideology of Saudi Arabia;
and/or • disseminated through a mosque or center supported by the Saudi crown.
In many examples, the Saudi link is readily apparent from the seal or name appearing on the cover of the publications of the Saudi Embassy in Washington, or of the Saudi cultural, educational or religious affairs ministries, or of the Saudi Air Force. While not all the mosques in the study may receive Saudi support, some of the mosques and centers, such as the King Fahd Mosque in Los Angeles and the Islamic Center in Washington, are openly acknowledged to receive official support by the Saudi king as recorded on his website.7 While some observers distinguish between funding from the Saudi state and donations made by individual members of the Saudi royal family, it should be noted that King Fahd makes no such distinction. His website asserts, “King Fahd gave his support, either personally or through his Government….” The website also asserts that “the cost of King Fahd’s efforts in this field has been astronomical, amounting to many billions of Saudi Riyals,” resulting in “some 210 Centers wholly or partly financed by Saudi Arabia, more than 1,500 Mosques and 202 colleges and almost 2,000 schools for educating Muslim children.” The King and his son donated millions of dollars to the King Fahd mosque.8
Furthermore, the Saudi government has directly staffed some of these institutions.
The King Fahd mosque, the main mosque in Los Angeles, from which several of these publications were gathered, employed an imam, Fahad al Thumairy, who was an accredited diplomat of the Saudi Arabian consulate from 1996 until 2003, when he was barred from reentering the United States because of terrorist connections. The 9/11 Commission Report describes the imam as a “well-known figure at the King Fahd mosque and within the Los Angeles Muslim community,” who was reputed to be an “Islamic fundamentalist and a strict adherent to orthodox Wahhabi doctrine” and observed that he “may have played a role in helping the [9/11] hijackers establish themselves on their arrival in Los Angeles.”9
Several hate-filled publications in this study were also gathered from the Institute
of Islamic and Arabic Sciences in Fairfax, Virginia. According to investigative reports in the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S., served as chairman of this school’s Board of Trustees, and some
16 other personnel there held Saudi diplomatic visas until they were expelled for extremism by the State Department in 2004.10 Until late 2003, the institute was an official adjunct campus of the Imam Mohammed Ibn-Saud Islamic University in Riyadh, part of Saudi Arabia’s state-run university system, funded and controlled by the Saudi Ministry of Education.11 Although Saudi Arabia claims to have severed official links with it, the Institute the Saudis established continues to operate in northern Virginia.
Some of the works were published by the Al-Haramain Foundation, run from
Saudi Arabia with branch offices in the United States until the FBI blocked its assets in February 2004, finding that it was directly funding al Qaeda. In October 2004, the Saudi government’s Ministry for Islamic Affairs dissolved the foundation, and, according to a senior Saudi official, its assets will be folded into a new Saudi National Commission for Charitable Work Abroad.
Some of the Wahhabi materials in this study were printed by publishers and
libraries functioning as publishing houses in Saudi Arabia. Some of these are directly government-supported and-controlled, such as the King Fahd National Library and the General Presidency of the Administration of Scientific Research, Ifta’, Da’wa and Guidance (General Administration for Printing and Translation). Others, which may be privately run, are monitored closely by the state, which does not grant the free right to expression, and, according to the State Department, the government’s Ministry of Information has the authority to appoint and remove all editors-in-chief.12
A prolific source of fatwas condemning “infidels” in this collection was Sheik ‘Abd al-‘Aziz Bin ‘Abdillah Bin Baz (died 1999), who was appointed by King Fahd in 1993 to the official post of Grand Mufti. As Grand Mufti, he was upheld by the government of Saudi Arabia as its highest religious authority. Bin Baz was a government appointee who received a regular government salary, served at the pleasure of the King and presided over the Saudi Permanent Committee for Scientific Research and the Issuing of Fatwas, an office of the Saudi government. His radically dichotomous mode of thinking, coupled with his persistent demonizing of non-Muslims and tolerant Muslims, runs through the fatwas in these publications.
Bin Baz is famously remembered by many Saudis for a ruling he issued in 1966 declaring the world flat. He was also responsible for the fatwa, unique in Islam, barring Saudi women from driving.13 Perhaps as a way of atoning for a fatwa he reluctantly issued in 1991 at the time of the Gulf War accepting the presence of non-Muslim troops in Saudi Arabia, in subsequent years Bin Baz seemed to go out of his way to pronounce against Christians, Jews, and “infidel” Westerners. His fatwas, which carry considerable weight, have been circulated through official Saudi diplomatic channels to mosques and schools throughout the world, including some in the United States, and have been particularly influential in radicalizing Muslim youth at home and abroad. The extremist views proclaimed in these official fatwas belie what Adel al-Jubeir, the articulate Saudi spokesman and special advisor to Crown Prince Abdullah, asserts during televised press conferences about fanatical sheiks in the Kingdom being mainly “underground,” and the fatwas they issue being merely expressions of “their personal opinions.” Though Bin Baz
is now dead, his fanatical fatwas continue to be treated as authoritative by the Saudi government.
The bulk of the material was collected in November and December 2003. In December 2004, additional samples were collected from mosques in Washington, Falls Church, Los Angeles, Orange County and Chicago showing that the problem continues as this report goes to press. One of the documents from Saudi Arabia’s Islamic Affairs Ministry bears the post-9/11 publication date of 2002, while most of the other titles were published in the 1980s and 1990s. Notwithstanding the fact that some of the titles were published by groups and entities that in the last two years have been shut down or have broken ties with the Saudi government following U.S. government terrorism investigations, and despite the Saudi government advertising campaign that their textbooks are being revised, the offensive titles and similar publications remain widely available in America, and in some cases dominate mosque library shelves, and continue to be used to educate American Muslims.
Copies of the documents and their translations are kept on file at Freedom House. A listing of the mosques and centers where these publications were found and a bibliography of the documents analyzed in this report follow.
R. James Woolsey* (This foreword is adapted from testimony delivered on May 22, 2002, before the House Committee on International Relations Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia.)
Since the Saudi conquest of the Hejaz from the Hashemites in 1924 and the formal establishment of the state of Saudi Arabia in 1932 – more or less simultaneously with the discovery of huge oil deposits in the kingdom – Saudi Arabia has been of substantial importance in the world. So although the Saudis have existed as a tribe and a family in control of a small portion of Arabia for centuries, their influence, even their existence as a nation, has come about within the life span of many now living, including the kingdom’s effective ruler today, Crown Prince Abdullah.
Until less than thirty years ago, our relations with the Saudis were generally smooth. We were on the same side in the cold war, and the Saudis valued our support (and we theirs) against Soviet influence in the Mideast. Of course the oil embargo of 1973 created major stress, but the watershed year was 1979, when Khomeini came to power in Iran and extremists took over the holiest of Islam’s shrines, the Mosque in Mecca, which was under the protection of the Saudi King; it was reclaimed by the Saudis only after substantial loss of both life and face.
As recently as the late 70's before these two events occurred the world of US- Saudi relations was a reasonably close and relaxed one. A number of Saudis prominent in government, the military, and the oil business had been educated in the West and were on quite easy terms, at least privately, with Western values and ways. If you will permit me one personal but I think useful vignette, I was in the Kingdom on Navy-related matters (I was Under Secretary of the Navy at the time) in 1978 and through a friend of a friend I was invited to a Saudi home for dinner. There were several Saudi men there, all of whom had been educated in the West; they were accompanied by their wives, who had also spent substantial time in the West, wearing modest but lovely Western dresses; everyone had an aperitif before dinner; the conversation about world events was informed, sophisticated, and urbane. It was very much like an evening I spent shortly thereafter in Israel.
I dare say that sort of evening would not occur in today’s Saudi Arabia. Not only would the dinner be all-male (and certainly no aperitifs) but I would imagine that the Saudi participants would be far less likely to have either studied in the West or be familiar with many issues from a Western perspective.
A major part of the reason for this and other important changes in the Kingdom was the Saudi royal family’s reaction to the tumultuous year of 1979. We are still feeling
the after-shocks today. The Saudis chose after the twin shocks of that year to strike a Faustian bargain with the Wahhabi sect and not only to accommodate their views about propriety, pious behavior, and Islamic law, but effectively to turn over education in the Kingdom to them and later to fund the expansion into Pakistan and elsewhere of their extreme, hostile, anti-modern, and anti-infidel form of Islam. The other side of the bargain was that if the Wahhabis would concentrate their attacks on, essentially, the U.S. and Israel, the Saudi elite would get a more-or-less free ride from the Wahhabis and the corruption within the Kingdom would be overlooked.
As a result, this Wahhabi sect, which would have been regarded as recently as fifty years ago as an austere, fringe group by a large majority of Muslims, is now extremely powerful and influential in the Muslim world due to Saudi government support and the oil wealth of the Arabian peninsula. Former Secretary of State George Shultz, not known for either a propensity for overstatement or for hostility to the Saudis, calls this deflection of Wahhabi anger toward us "a grotesque protection racket."
This Faustian bargain has had a huge effect on opinion in the Kingdom. Bernard Lewis points out that throughout most of the history of Islam in most parts of the Muslim world, Muslims have generally been more tolerant than many other religions – Jews and Christians, as "People of the Book", were dealt with especially tolerantly. Today in the Kingdom, however, young people are systematically infused with hostility for “infidels.” Moreover, most young Saudis are not equipped when they graduate from school to perform the jobs necessary to operate a modern economy. Instead many are employed, if that is the right word, as, e.g., religious police – walking the streets to harass women whose veils may not fully cover their faces, for example. Young Saudis’ anger based on their lack of useful work and their indoctrination is palpable. It is not an accident that 15 of the 19 terrorists who attacked us on September 11 were Saudis. The New York Times (January 27, 2002) cited a poll conducted by Saudi Intelligence, and shared with the U.S. government, that over 95% of Saudis between the ages of 25 and 41 have sympathy for Osama bin Laden. Whether this report from the Saudi government of their young adults’ views is accurate or distorted, it makes an important point about hostility to us, either by the government, the people, or both.
The Saudi-funded, Wahhabi-operated export of hatred for us reaches around the globe. It is well known that the religious schools of Pakistan that educated a large share of the Taliban and al Qaeda are Wahhabi. But Pakistan is not the sole target. I had in my office recently a moderate Muslim leader from an Asian country. He was in the U.S., seeking to obtain funds from foundations, so that he could have printed elementary school textbooks to compete with the Wahhabi-funded textbooks that are flooding his country and that are being made available to schools at little or no cost. The Wahhabi textbooks in his country, like textbooks in Saudi Arabia, teach that it is the obligation of all Muslims to consider all infidels the enemy. As an illustration of the consequences of such teaching, I have heard that in some cases during the fighting in Bosnia in the early nineties, American churches and synagogues that were raising funds for food and other aid for the Bosnian Muslims would approach local mosques and suggest a cooperative effort. On a number of occasions they were turned down and didn’t understand why. The
reason was that for a Wahhabi Imam (and Sheikh Kabbani, perhaps the U.S.’s leading moderate Muslim leader, says that a substantial percentage of American mosques have Wahhabi-funded Imams), it is normally not believed to be permissible for Muslims to work with infidels, even if the purpose is to help Muslims. I don’t believe at all that this attitude reflects the views of a substantial number of American Muslims, but it may indicate one way that the Wahhabi reach extends into this country as well.
Americans are not normally comfortable distinguishing between what is acceptable and what is not acceptable within a religion, unless they are, say, debating views within their own church. Because of the First Amendment and American culture, most Americans tend not to make judgments about others’ religions. But the Wahhabis and the Islamists whom they work with and support have a long political reach and their views have substantial political effect. Some of the consequences of this "grotesque protection racket" have been quite lethal: American deaths and the failure to apprehend the terrorists who killed them.
One analogue for Wahhabism’s political influence today might be the extremely angry form taken by much of German nationalism in the period after WW I. Not all angry and extreme German nationalists (or their sympathizers in the U.S.) in that period were or became Nazis. But just as angry and extreme German nationalism of that period was the soil in which Nazism grew, Wahhabi and Islamist extremism today is the soil in which al Qaeda and its sister terrorist organizations are growing. We need to recognize the problem posed by the international spread of this hate ideology, including within the American homeland.
This report is a first step in an effort to contain the destructive ideology being proliferated by the Wahhabis within the American homeland. Hopefully it will lead to the removal of tracts spreading hatred within American mosques, libraries and Islamic centers. The publications analyzed in this Report and others like them that advocate an ideology of hatred have no place in a nation founded on religious freedom and toleration.
*Chairman of the Board of Directors of Freedom House, and former Director of Central Intelligence in 1993-95
On December 3, 2004, Ahmed, an Arab exchange student, walks down a palm- lined boulevard in a working class neighborhood of Los Angeles. Since it is Friday, he bypasses the Hispanic restaurants, the 7/11, and the sporting goods store, and enters the King Fahd mosque – an elegant building of white marble etched with gold, adorned by a blue minaret, that is named after its benefactor, the King of Saudi Arabia. Later he will join 500 other California Muslims in prayer but, because it is early, he visits the mosque library where he picks up several books on religious guidance, written in Arabic, that are offered free to Muslims like him, newly arrived and uncertain on how to fit into this modern, diverse land.
The tracts he opens are in the voice of a senior religious authority. They tell him
that America, his adoptive home, is the “Abode of the Infidel,” the Christian and the Jew. He reads:
“Be dissociated from the infidels, hate them for their religion, leave them, never rely on them for support, do not admire them, and always oppose them in every way according to Islamic law.”
The advice is emphatic: “There is consensus on this matter, that whoever helps unbelievers against Muslims, regardless of what type of support he lends to them, he is an unbeliever himself.”
As he reads this warning, Ahmed thinks back to the U.S. government’s request to the American Muslim community for their voluntary cooperation in the fight against terrorism and he is afraid. He knows that the tracts’ author views such officials as “unbelievers,” so that, if he helped them, he would be an unbeliever himself, a renegade, an apostate from Islam who should therefore be put to death. He begins to worry too about his cousin, an American citizen who recently enlisted in the U.S. military.
The books give him detailed instructions on how to build a “wall of resentment” between himself and the infidel: Never greet the Christian or Jew first. Never congratulate the infidel on his holiday. Never befriend an infidel unless it is to convert him. Never imitate the infidel. Never work for an infidel. Do not wear a graduation gown because this imitates the infidel.
Ahmed looks carefully at the book’s cover. It says “Greetings from the Cultural
Department” of the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington, D.C. The book is published by the government of Saudi Arabia. The other books are textbooks from the Saudi Education Ministry, and collections of fatwas, religious edicts, issued by the government’s religious office, published by other organizations based in Riyadh.
In another book he reads that, if relations between Muslims and non-Muslims were harmonious, there would be “no loyalty and enmity, no more jihad and fighting to raise Allah’s work on earth.”
Ahmed’s experience is repeated, not only in Saudi Arabia and the notorious
madrassas of Pakistan, but throughout America: the texts he read have been spread from coast to coast and now fill the libraries and study halls of some of America’s main mosques. To be sure, not all the books in such mosques espouse extremism and not all extremist works are Saudi. Saudi Arabia, however, is overwhelmingly the state most responsible for the publications on the ideology of hate in America.
The Center for Religious Freedom has gathered samples of over 200 such texts
over the last twelve months -- all from American mosques and all spread, sponsored or otherwise generated by Saudi Arabia. They demonstrate the ongoing indoctrination of Muslims in the United States in the hostility and belligerence of Saudi Arabia’s hardline Wahhabi sect of Islam.
All Saudis must be Muslim, and the Saudi government, in collaboration with the
country’s religious establishment, enforces and imposes Wahhabism as the official state doctrine. 14 In 2004, the United States State Department designated Saudi Arabia as a “Country of Particular Concern” under the International Religious Freedom Act after finding for many years that “religious freedom did not exist” in the Kingdom.15 The Saudi policy of denying religious freedom is explained in one of the tracts in this study: “Freedom of thinking requires permitting the denial of faith and attacking what is sacred, glorifying falsehood and defending the heretics, finding fault in religion and letting loose the ideas and pens to write of disbelief as one likes, and to put ornaments on sin as one likes.”
The Wahhabism that the Saudi monarchy enforces, and on which it bases its
legitimacy, is shown in these documents as a fanatically bigoted, xenophobic and sometimes violent ideology.16 These publications articulate its wrathful dogma, rejecting the coexistence of different religions and explicitly condemning Christians, Jews, all other non-Muslims, as well as non-Wahhabi Muslims. The various Saudi publications gathered for this study state that it is a religious obligation for Muslims to hate Christians and Jews and warn against imitating, befriending, or helping such “infidels” in any way, or taking part in their festivities and celebrations.Theyinstill contempt for America because the United States is ruled by legislated civil law rather than by totalitarian Wahhabi-style Islamic law. Some of the publications collected for this study direct Muslims not to take American citizenship as long as the country is ruled by infidels and tells them, while abroad, above all, to work for the creation of an Islamic state. The Saudi textbooks and documents spread throughout American mosques preach a Nazi-like hatred for Jews, treat the forged Protocols of the Elders of Zion as historical fact, and avow that the Muslim’s duty is to eliminate the state of Israel. Regarding women, the Saudi state publications in America instruct that they should be veiled, segregated from men and barred from certain employment and roles.
In these documents, other Muslims, especially those who advocate tolerance, are condemned as infidels. The opening fatwa in one Saudi embassy-distributed booklet responds to a question about a Muslim preacher in a European mosque who taught that it is not right to condemn Jews and Christians as infidels. The Saudi state cleric’s reply rebukes the Muslim cleric: “He who casts doubts about their infidelity leaves no doubt about his.” Since, under Saudi law, “apostates” from Islam can be sentenced to death, this is an implied death threat against the tolerant Muslim imam, as well as an incitement to vigilante violence. Other Saudi fatwas in the collection declare that Muslims who engage in genuine interfaith dialogue are also “unbelievers.” As for a Muslim who fails to uphold Wahhabi sexual mores through homosexual activity or heterosexual activity outside of marriage, the edicts found in American mosques advise, “it would be lawful for Muslims to spill his blood and to take his money.” Sufi and Shiite Muslims are also viciously condemned. Regarding those who convert out of Islam, it is explicitly asserted, they “should be killed.”
Much of the commentary in the West on Wahhabihate ideology is restricted to
shallow statements that it is “strict” or “puritanical.” The Saudi publications in this study show that there is much more of concern to Americans in this ideology than rigid sexual codes. They show that it stresses a dualistic worldview in which there exist two antagonistic realms or abodes that can never be reconciled -- Dar al-Islam and Dar al- Har, orAbode of War (also called Dar al-Kufr, Abode of the Infidel) -- and that when Muslims are in the latter, they must behave as if on a mission behind enemy lines. Either they are there to acquire new knowledge and make money to be later employed in the jihad against the infidels, or they are there to proselytize the infidels until at least some convert to Islam. Any other reason for lingering among the unbelievers in their lands is illegitimate, and unless a Muslim leaves as quickly as possible, he or she is not a true Muslim and so too must be condemned.
One insidious aspect of this propaganda is its aim to replace traditional and
moderate interpretations of Islam with Wahhabi extremism. Wahhabism began only 250 years ago with the movement created by fanatical preacher Muhammad Ibn Abd al- Wahhab. Once a fringe sect in a remote part of the Arabian peninsula, Wahhabi extremism has been given global reach through Saudi government sponsorship and money, particularly over the past quarter century as it has competed with Iran in spreading its version of the faith. 17 With its vast oil wealth and its position as guardian of Islam’s two holiest sites, Saudi Arabia now claims to be the leading power within Islam and the protector of the faith, a belief stated in the Saudi Basic Law. Saudi Foreign Policy Adviser Adel al-Jubeir publicly states that “the role of Saudi Arabia in the Muslim world is similar to the role of the Vatican.”18 Even as the Saudi state asserts that it strives to keep the faith “pure” and free of innovation, it invents a new role for itself as the only legitimate authority on Islam.19
One example of how Saudi Arabia asserts its self-appointed role as the
authoritative interpreter of Islam within the Muslim world is provided in a collection of fatwas published by the Saudi Embassy’s Cultural Department in Washington. Its one- page introduction laments the dearth of competent Islamic scholars among Muslim
emigrant communities abroad, and the confusion this has caused about Islamic beliefs and worship. The opening line reads, “The emigrant Muslim communities suffer in these countries from a lack of religious scholars (ulema).” It states that this deplorable situation has led the highest committee of Islamic scholars in the Kingdom to offer authoritative replies to questions frequently asked by Muslims living in the non-Muslim world. These replies are given in authoritative pronouncements that the introduction urges should be official guides for preachers, mosque imams, and students living far from the Kingdom.
Saudi Wahhabism is dominant in many American mosques. Singapore’smain
newspaperrecently published an interview with Sheik Muhammad Hisham Kabbani, the Lebanese-American chairman of the Islamic Supreme Council of America, based in Washington, D.C.: “Back in 1990, arriving for his first Friday prayers in an American mosque in Jersey City, he was shocked to hear Wahhabism being preached. ‘What I heard there, I had never heard in my native Lebanon. I asked myself: Is Wahhabism active in America? So I started my research. Whichever mosque I went to, it was Wahhabi, Wahhabi, Wahhabi, Wahhabi.’”20
Within worldwide Sunni Islam, followers of Wahhabism and other hardline or
salafist (literally translated as venerable predecessors) movements are a distinct minority. This is evident from the millions of Muslims who have chosen to make America their home and are upstanding, law-abiding citizens and neighbors. In fact it was just such concerned Muslims who first brought these publications to our attention. They decry the Wahhabi interpretation as being foreign to the toleration expressed in Islam and its injunction against coercion in religion. They believe they would be forbidden to practice the faith of their ancestors in today’s Saudi Arabia, and are grateful to the United States and other Western nations for granting them religious freedom. They also affirm the importance of respecting non-Muslims, pointing to verses in the Koran that speak with kindness about non-Muslims. They raise examples of Islam’s Prophet Mohammed visiting his sick Jewish neighbor, standing in deference at a Jew’s funeral procession, settling a dispute in favor of a truthful Jew over a dishonest person who was Muslim, and forming alliances with Jews and polytheists, among others. They criticize the Wahhabis for distorting andeven altering the text of the Koran in support of their bigotry. They say that in their tradition jihad is applicable only in the defense of Islam and Muslims, and that it is commendable, not an act of “infidelity,” for Muslims, Jews, and Christians to engage in genuine dialogue.
The publications in this study, found in some of America’s most important
mosques, pose a grave threat to non-Muslims and to the Muslim community itself. They now have become a matter of national security since 15 of the 19 September 11 hijackers were Saudi subjects indoctrinated from young ages in just such Wahhabi ideology, possibly from the very same textbooks and fatwa collections. Saudi state curriculum for many years has taught children to hate “the other” and support jihad, a malleable term that is used by terrorists to describe and justify their atrocities. For example, a book for third-year high school students published by the Saudi Ministry of Education that was collected from the Islamic Center of Oakland in California, teaches students, including
even now some American Muslims, to prepare for jihad in the sense of war against Islam’s enemies, and to strive to attain military self-sufficiency: “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.”
The same hostility toward “infidels” propagated in official Saudi Islamic
publications and fatwas surfaces repeatedly in statements by Muslim terrorists.21 A prime example occurred on May 29 and 30, 2004, when a terrorist squad went through the compound of foreigners in Khobar, Saudi Arabia, segregating the Muslims from the non-Muslims (mainly Christians and Hindus) before slitting the throats of the latter, and in some cases, beheading them. To the remaining terrified Muslims the slaughterers calmly explained how certain verses in the Koran should be read and understood to preach hatred of “unbelievers.” Their explicit aim was to cleanse the land of Mohammad of Christians and polytheists.22 While Saudi officials were quick to denounce this ruthless act of terror, it followed logically from the state’s relentless indoctrination in hate ideology.
The Saudis’ totalitarian doctrine of religious hatred – now planted in many
America mosques -- is inimical to our tolerant culture, and undermines the war on terrorism by providing the intellectual foundation for a new generation of Islamic extremists.23 Several of the Saudi embassy titles in this study are expressly aimed at the immigrant and traveler. It should be remembered that the leaders of the 9/11 hijackers were themselves immigrants and became radicalized in the West.24 And while our Los Angeles mosque-goer Ahmed is fictitious, Saudi hijackers Nawaf al Hazmi and Khalid al Mihdhar are not. Upon their arrival in America, they promptly made the King Fahd mosque the center of their lives, the base from which they received assistance, made friends, and no doubt could find moral reinforcement -- perhaps including from the mosque reading material -- to justify their planned terror mission against New York’s twin towers. Fahad al Thumairy, a King Fahd mosque imam at that time, was a well- known Wahhabi extremist and Saudi diplomat whom the U.S. expelled for suspected terrorism in 2003.25
Recent converts with limited experience of Islam can be particularly susceptible
to the Saudi publications’ toxic message.26 Adam Gadahn, thought to be the “American jihadi” who appeared in a mask on a videotape just before the 2004 elections threatening that America’s street would “run with blood,” had converted to Islam and became radicalized after spending hours studying Islam with seven or eight other young men at the Islamic Society of Orange County in California, the mosque chairman is quoted telling the Washington Post. We cannot tell precisely what he and his group were reading, but the mosque chairman told the Post: ‘“They were very rigid, cruel in talking to people….’ They criticized [the chair] for wearing Western clothes, for not wearing a beard, for trying to reach out to the local Jewish communities. Seizing on his American nickname, Danny, they circulated fliers around the mosque calling him ‘Danny the Jew.’”27 This attitude reflects perfectly the teachings given by the Saudi embassy in
several of the documents in our collection, copies of which were gathered from, among other places, the very Orange County Islamic Society where Gadhan studied.
Saudi commentators, themselves, have drawn the link between, on one hand, the
large number of Saudis involved on September 11 and among the al Qaeda prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, and, on the other, the culture of religious rage and violence that is part of Saudi religious education. A study presented to a Saudi forum of 60 intellectuals, researchers, clerics and public figures, convened by Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah in December 2003 as part of a “National Dialogue” series, found “grave defects” in the religious curricula of the state’s boys’ schools, particularly with regard to “others,” that is, non-Muslims and non-Wahhabi Muslims.28 The researchers concluded that this approach “encourages violence toward others, and misguides the pupils into believing that in order to safeguard their own religion, they must violently repress and even physically eliminate the ‘other,’” according to a summary of the study by MEMRI.29 The Saudi forum concluded with recommendations for reforming the religious curriculum. The Saudi government is currently waging a multi-million dollar public relations campaign30 in the United States, which among other activities advertised in American journals that the Kingdom’s textbooks are being “updated.” We have not attempted to investigate this claim but we remain skeptical based on our own recent interviews of Saudi official religious scholars who denied that reform was necessary and said that textbook reform would have to “evolve slowly over many years,” 31 as well as other reports.32 We have confirmed that, as of December 2004, the retrograde, unreformed editions of Saudi textbooks and state-sponsored, hate-filled fatwa collections remain widespread and plentiful in many important American mosques.
The spread of Islamic extremism, such as Wahhabism, is the most serious ideological challenge of our times. Senator Jon Kyl, chairman of the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Terrorism, who held hearings on Wahhabism, asserted: “A growing body of accepted evidence and expert research demonstrates that the Wahhabi ideology that dominates, finances and animates many groups here in the United States, indeed is antithetical to the values of tolerance, individualism and freedom as we conceive these things.”33
Wahhabi extremism is more than hate speech; it is a totalitarian ideology of hatred that can incite to violence.34 The fact that this hate ideology is being mainstreamed within our borders through the efforts of a foreign government, namely Saudi Arabia, demands our urgent attention. The press has previously written of the extremist infiltration of the prison and military chaplain programs in the United States. 35The Saudi publications described in this report could also pose a serious threat to American security and to the traditional American culture of religious toleration and freedom.
Not only does the government of Saudi Arabia not have a right – under the First
Amendment or any other legal document – to spread hate ideology within U.S. borders, it is committing a human rights violation by doing so. A government that advocates religious intolerance and hatred violates the religious freedom and tolerance provisions of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Planted as authoritative reading
materials in some of America’s most prominent mosques (many of which also receive Saudi state support) these state-backed publications, in effect, represent a continuing breach of international law.
We need more rigorously to defend American ideals of equality and freedom against the Saudi government’s spread of Islamic extremism. The 9/11 Commission 2004 Report concluded that our efforts in this regard should be as strong as they were in “combating closed societies during the Cold War.” As the United States formulates foreign policy, it must take into consideration the high-stakes struggle over ideology within Islam and the central role Saudi Arabia continues to play in it. Security probes over the past two years have resulted in the United States expelling dozens of Saudi diplomats, some having served here as mosque imams and religious teachers; one result is that the Institute of Islamic and Arabic Sciences in America, one source of Wahhabi extremist publications, is now a shadow of its former self and Saudi Ambassador Bandar has resigned from the chairmanship of its board.36 They have shut down Saudi charities linked to terrorism within the United States.37 They have also prompted the Saudi embassy to close its radical Islamic Affairs office and reform its website. 38 These actions have curbed the flow of new Wahhabi publications but they do not address the threat posed by the materials these personnel and other Saudi government officials have left behind.
Freedom House wholeheartedly endorses the recommendation made by the U.S.
Commission on International Religious Freedom for an official study of the Saudi export of hate ideology around the world. We also believe, based on our own study, that the United States should not delay in making an official protest at the highest levels to the Saudi government about its publications and fatwas lining the shelves of some of our most important mosques, mosques whose operations and personnel in some cases the Saudi government continues to support. It is ironic that Saudi Arabia itself has publicly announced the security need to update religious educational materials at home (albeit it remains to be verified whether such reform is carried out and to what extent) yet the unreformed textbooks and Wahhabi publications remain among the main religious resources for American Muslims. The problem is compounded when some American public libraries and schools rely on Wahhabi Islamic centers and institutions for their own acquisitions and course curriculum, and Wahhabism, still a minority sect, becomes seen as the norm within Islam by non-Muslims.39 As it engages in the battle of ideas, the United States should assert American principles of religious freedom and human rights against Saudi Wahhabism and confront directly the teachings of Saudi hate ideology. We urge mosque leaders to remove these hateful publications and materials. We also encourage private sources of financing to come forward to fill the need for educational materials in American mosques with textbooks and tracts that emphasize religious toleration and the principles of individual religious freedom and other basic human rights.
Nina Shea Director, Center for Religious Freedom Freedom House December 15, 2004
I. CHRISTIANS, JEWS AND OTHER “INFIDELS” Wahhabis, the followers of Saudi Arabia’s established and extreme version of Sunni Islam, condemn as “infidels” all non-Muslims. The Saudi state denies them rights to practice their religions within the country. In the Saudi Wahhabi literature found in the United States Christians and Jews are often paired together for attack. They are portrayed as infidels par excellence: not to be greeted first, not to be taken as friends, and not to be imitated.
To Wahhabis, Christianity is considered polytheistic and its doctrine of the Trinity represents an ultimate expression of blasphemy: deifying Jesus and associating other created entities with the one God (shirk). Moreover, Christianity stirs up images of crusaders and colonialists and is the dominant religion throughout the “Abode of Unbelief,” in particular America.
The Wahhabi literature published and distributed by Saudi Arabia is replete with condemnations of Christians and their beliefs, and directs Muslims to actively hate them. The Saudi state’s religious authorities promote an us-versus-them mentality among Muslims that extends to social, cultural and political matters, far beyond the realm of religious doctrine. One Saudi government document [Document No. 2], collected from a San Diego mosque, expresses the need to maintain a “wall of resentment” between Muslims and non-Muslims. If the “wall” were to come down through amity, jihad (holy war) would end, as that particular tract makes explicit. San Diego mosque-goers are instructed by this Saudi publication that:
“[I]t is basic Islam to believe that everyone who does not embrace Islam is an unbeliever, and must be called an unbeliever, and that they are enemies to Allah, his Prophet and believers.” [Document No. 2]
In a book entitled Reality of Monotheism and Polytheism, [Document No. 40]
published by the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs, copies of which were found at the Al- Farouq Mosque in Brooklyn, New York, the late Saudi official, Grand Mufti Bin Baz, wrote that Islam since the time of Adam and through successive prophets has preached belief in Allah’s unity (tawheed). The Jews and Christians, however, became misguided unbelievers when they rejected Mohammed, despite the presence among them of some who proclaim God’s unity.
According to the Wahhabi view, it is a Muslim’s religious duty to cultivate enmity between oneself and unbelievers. Hatred of unbelievers is the proof that the believer has completely dissociated from them. A work entitled Loyalty and Dissociation in Islam [Document No. 45], compiled by the Ibn Taymiya Library in Riyadh and
distributed by the King Fahd-supported Islamic Center of Washington, D.C., states emphatically:
“To be dissociated from the infidels is to hate them for their religion, to leave them, never to rely on them for support, not to admire them, to be on one’s guard against them, never to imitate them, and to always oppose them in every way according to Islamic law.” [Document No. 45]
The Saudi Air Force publishing house has issued a series of hate-filled fatwas
pronounced by Bin Baz and another of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent writers on religious questions, Sheik Mohammad al-Salih Ibn al-‘Athimein (died in 2000), aimed at Muslim travelers and emigrants. The Cultural Department of the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Washington distributed this 140-page book [Document No. 52] in the United States. Copies were collected from a number of different sources. It contains virulent denunciations of Christians and of the infidelity of their beliefs and practices. It offers intricate guidelines concerning the proper relations Muslims should have with non- Muslims while they reside in the latter’s “lands of shirk and kufr” (i.e. lands of idolatry and infidelity).
The opening question in the embassy-distributed booklet, entitled “Rulings for Travelers and Emigrants” captures the extreme intolerance of the Saudi ideology. The fatwa responds to a question that seeks clarity regarding a Muslim preacher in an unspecified mosque in Europe who “claims in a study of his that declaring Jews and Christians infidels is not allowed.” The Saudi state cleric’s reply rebukes the unnamed European cleric: “He who casts doubts about their infidelity leaves no doubt about his own infidelity” [Document No. 52]. This condemnation of tolerant Muslims also appears in the religious edicts of Saudi Arabia’s Permanent Committee for Scientific Research and the Issuing of Fatwas, collected from the Masjid Abu Bakr mosque in San Diego: “[T]he one who does not call the Jews and the Christians unbelievers is himself an unbeliever” [Document No. 2].
This raises the issue of takfir, accusing individuals or groups of blasphemy and
condemning them for infidelity; included are other Muslims regarded by the fanatics as apostates. This is the most serious denunciation that could be made of another Muslim because Wahhabis believe apostates should be put to death, and it could be interpreted by fanatics as justification for murder. At a minimum, Wahhabi hardliners delegitimize and intimidate their Muslim opponents by labeling them as “infidels” or “apostates.”
The first fatwa in the Saudi Embassy book [Document No. 52], condemning tolerant Muslims, is followed by selective Koranic verses that spell out the infidelity of Jews and Christians and condemn them to the eternal fires of hell. One quotation from Ibn Taymiya, also known as Sheik al-Islam, a medieval extremist frequently invoked by Osama bin Laden, offers support for the charge of infidelity made against Christians and Jews: