SAUDI ARABIA: Worldwide Hub Of Wahhabi Terrorism And America’s Great ‘Ally’
SAUDI ARABIA: U.S. ALLY OR RADICAL FINANCIER OF TERROR?
A look at life, culture and darkest secrets of Arab state
(Editor’s Note: In 2014, journalist Anthony C. LoBaido traveled to Saudi Arabia and other nations in the region. During this time, he explored Arabic and Islamic culture and art, studied Shariah law, Sufism, as well as the Arabic language and calligraphy. This is the first installment of his new series “Arabiana.” In Part I, LoBaido investigates Saudi Arabia’s alleged links to terrorism, planned procurement of nuclear weapons from Pakistan, the Wahhabi branch of Islam, and Saudi Arabia’s treatment of Christians, amongst other issues.)
DHAHRAN, Saudi Arabia – Saudi Arabia is in the news – from the bombing of the Shia Houthis in Yemen to a not-so-delicate dance with ISIS to Riyadh’s quest to fund nuclear weapons research, development and procurement with Pakistan.
Freedom House claims Saudi Arabia is one of the least free nations on Earth. In this country of 30 million people (60 percent of whom are under the age of 30), there are no political parties, no elections, precious few rights for women and summary, public executions.
As such, some are openly beginning to question if the kingdom of Saudi Arabia is truly an ally of the United States. Consider that close relations date back to President Franklin Roosevelt. Also consider how the use of the Saudi-centric petrodollar ensures a global demand for U.S. currency, while allowing the U.S. to ostensibly export its inflation. Some wonder if, like North Korea, Saudi Arabia ranks amongst the world’s greatest persecutors of Christians. One might forgive observers for seeing Saudi Arabia as “North Korea with sand and oil” – a nation led by an almost “god-like leader” who holds exceptional sway over the citizenry.
Saudi Arabia is now being re-examined as an outpost of terrorism – ranging from the breeding ground of the agents of Sept. 11, to assisting the de facto rise of Da’ish or “ISIS” in a Sunni versus Shiite fight to the death. Yet others believe ISIS is engaged in a terminal battle with Saudi Arabia, since all of the Gulf monarchies stand in the way of ISIS’ agenda of establishing a universal caliphate.
Recently the U.S. had to shut down the embassy in Riyadh, and it issued a warning on March 13, 2015, that Western oil company workers were in danger of being kidnapped by terrorist groups. (Several attacks with guns and knives have occurred against foreigners.)
Critics claim Saudi Arabia’s new King Salman has been a long-time financier of jihadist groups, and that his reach extends to “Charlie Wilson’s War,” “Black Hawk Down” and beyond. These allegations continue to proliferate, although his defenders claim King Salman is merely a nice, harmless man who could easily be anyone’s amiable grandfather. His most zealous supporters believe critics should simply leave him, all of the Saudi princes, and the entire nation out of the debate about global terrorism, global terror financial networks and leadership decapitation.
Yet the critics feel there’s something not quite right – something going on inside Saudi Arabia that isn’t quite kosher.
Former British Intelligence agent Alastair Crooke writes (quoting French scholar Giles Kepel), “With the advent of the oil bonanza … Saudi goals were to ‘reach out and spread Wahhabism across the Muslim world’ … to ‘Wahhabize’ Islam, thereby reducing the ‘multitude of voices within the religion’ to a ‘single creed’ – a movement which would transcend national divisions. Billions of dollars were – and continue to be – invested in this manifestation of soft power.”
“Wahhabism was forcefully changed from a movement of revolutionary jihad and theological takfiri purification, to a movement of conservative social, political, theological, and religious da’wa (Islamic call) and to justifying the institution that upholds loyalty to the royal Saudi family and the King’s absolute power (emphasis added).
“ISIS … forcefully denies the Saudis’ claim of authority to rule. [Yet] … Today, ISIS’ undermining of the legitimacy of the King’s legitimacy is not seen to be problematic, but rather a return to the true origins of the Saudi-Wahhab project” (emphasis added).
With regard to Prince Bandar, the former Saudi ambassador to the U.S., Steve Clemons of the Atlantic writes, “ISIS, in fact, may have been a major part of Bandar’s covert-ops strategy in Syria.”
Recently, Patrick Buchanan, a noted writer who served both Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, and almost won the Republican presidential nomination in 1996, wrote, “The Shiite majority in Bahrain, where the U.S. Fifth Fleet is berthed, will one day dominate that Gulf state. And the Shiites in oil-rich northeast Saudi Arabia will one day rise up against Riyadh” (emphasis added).
Buchanan also wrote, “John Kerry said he might talk with Syria’s Bashar Assad, and was denounced by the Saudis. The State Department backed off. But who are the Saudis to be telling us to whom we may talk when coping with the Islamic State?”
Mr. Buchanan succinctly addresses Saudi Arabia’s complex relations with ISIS as he states:
“As Joe Biden said at Harvard a while back, the Turks, the Saudis and the Emiratis provided much of the money and arms that initially fueled the Nusra Front (al-Qaida) and ISIS in Syria. Biden was forced to apologize for having told the truth (emphasis added). But if Assad falls, then the Nusra Front or ISIS comes to power, a strategic disaster for the United States, followed by a slaughter of Christians that could drag America back into yet another land war.
“If NATO’s Turkey, Israel, and the Gulf Arabs prefer Sunni Islamists in Damascus to an Alawite regime with which we have coexisted for 40 years, then President Obama is right to move us away from our old allies. U.S. national interests come first. Yet, a choice between Hezbollah and the Nusra Front, ISIS and the Shiite militias, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and the Houthi rebels, is a Hobbesian trap that is a conclusive argument for keeping U.S. troops out of this war of all against all in the Middle East.”
In the company of men
Saudi Arabia isn’t overly concerned about how its human rights record is perceived by the United Nations or other supranational and non-state actors like Open Doors and Amnesty International. The ability to put the gorgeous princess Ameera in front of the cameras to talk about Saudi Arabia puts forward a more positive portrait of the nation as perception is reality:
Saudi Arabia can be viewed as an actual nation-state or as an artificially created state midwifed by men like the fabled Lawrence of Arabia, British diplomat Harry St. John Philby and Stanford University graduate Max Steineke. The latter was a prominent geologist with Saudi Aramco.
Crooke writes, “Philby’s vision was not confined to state-building in the conventional way, but rather was one of transforming the wider Islamic ummah (or community of believers) into a Wahhabist instrument that would entrench the al-Saud as Arabia’s leaders. And for this to happen, Aziz needed to win British acquiescence (and much later, American endorsement).”
There are those who believe Saudi Aramco is the machine that keeps Saudi Arabia humming. (The wealth of the company has been estimated between $10 and $36 trillion.) If that’s the case, could we not at least on some level think of Saudi Arabia as a “company” rather than as a “country”? Big oil and transnational corporations are often derided in leftist American culture as comic-book variety boogeymen. Yet they are also a source of wealth creation, soft power, stability and the spreading of American and transnational culture. Critics will disagree.
It can be fairly argued that without Saudi Aramco, postmodern Saudi Arabia would not have attained its geostrategic importance in the fields of energy, finance and military cooperation. And without the crafty intelligence of those who run Saudi Aramco, and protect its brand and image, the company would not have risen to, and maintained the status of, a Goliath rivaling the British East India Company that turned India in the crown jewel of the British Empire.
Saudi Aramco has been described as a shadowy entity not unlike an intelligence agency. It has been called “The Stanford of companies.” You may have even heard the rumor that Saudi Aramco owns and operates two private airports inside the United States – the only private organization allowed by the FAA to do so.
How should those who hold truth as precious view America’s relations with Saudi Arabia? Perhaps the situation can be likened to a gigantic multidimensional jigsaw puzzle where multiple realities are all simultaneously coexisting. There’s always that looping cul de sac that leads one to ask what’s at the core of Saudi Arabia’s national character.
One cannot help but to be reminded of the HBO series, “True Detective,” in which actor Matthew McConaughey, while in the midst of investigating a series of ritual, Satanic murders in the swamps of Louisiana says, “All your love, all your hate, all your memories, all your pain – it was all the same thing. It was all the same dream, a dream that you had inside a locked room … and like a lot of dreams, there’s a monster at the end of it.”
If you’re asking who these people are exactly at their inner core, then filling in the vast holographic spaces of the Empty Quarter is no easy task. Saudi Arabians are basically moral and decent people who just happened to be born into their culture, just as people in the Congo or Sweden have been. Saudi Arabia’s citizens are not “all on board” with jihadist ideals. For the most part, they are kind human beings who are also concerned about global problems and the future of their children. That said, the hunt for something deep and dark inside of Saudi Arabia must have a starting point – and an ending point.
Fundamentalism is not purely an Islamic phenomenon. It can also be found in places ranging from India to Indiana. Consider, for example, the emergence of a “Christian Taliban” inside the Ukraine as an illustration of how fundamentalism is on the rise in many places around the world. Globalization, the decay of family life, the loss of traditional values, drugs (legal and illegal) and unrelenting mass-media stimulation all make daily life less and less “normalized” compared to previous generations. This new zeitgeist influences men, women, teens and even very small children.
From Allah McBeal to Allah-Non
As for the plight of women in Saudi Arabia verses American and Western women, there’s the “Allah McBeal paradigm.” American women by and large have lost their femininity. They struggle with issues ranging from drugs to alcohol, guilt over their abortions, and the inability to find a moral mate. In Saudi Arabia, women can’t drive and are viewed as chattel. Their lives are not ideal. It’s true that they’re protected from Paris Hilton and Brittany Spears, yet they don’t seem ebullient. They do appear obsessed with American culture and wearing makeup. Saudi Arabia’s worse kept secret might be that some of their women wear sexy underwear under their ninja-clad burqa garb. For many, their dress and mannerisms are more cultural than religious.
Then there’s the hot-button issue of homosexuality. In Saudi Arabia, it’s not merely about gay men wearing a towel around their head after a shower, all the catty banter and listening to “broken yoga chicks” talk about how they can’t find a man who respects them. In Saudi Arabia, homosexuals face tremendous persecution. They can be tortured and summarily executed with the full blessing of Shariah law. For them, it’s a serious issue of life and death, as they live and work in constant fear. Nevertheless, they do exist in Saudi society and hold some surprisingly important positions. There’s even a semi-thriving gay culture – since the entire nation is pretty much “in the closet” in some varying form.
As for Evangelical Christians living in Saudi Arabia, they’re pretty much in the same boat as gay people. (As opposed to recent events in Indiana). Christians in Saudi Arabia can be mutilated, whipped and beheaded. One Saudi girl who converted to Christianity saw her father cut out her tongue and set her on fire in a murderous act of tough love. Apparently, “Saudi Arabian fathers” such as these can actually hold important positions inside the Saudi regime. The father who cut out his daughter’s tongue and set her on fire served with something called the “Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.” Like Santa Claus, they “know who has been naughty, and who has been nice.”
As for alcohol and drug abuse, it exists, except there’s no Al-Anon to help you and your family navigate deviant, anti-social, destructive behavior. There’s only “Allah-non.” Drug traffickers are put to death in very public ceremonies, and sometimes Westerners – such as this writer – are actually invited to attend. One cannot help but to be reminded of Washington Irving’s classic short story, “The Headless Horseman.”
The bête noire for some Saudi Arabians might be Christians, Westerners and homosexuals. Many Americans fear radical Islamic jihad, the collapse of the petrodollar, and the prospect – even theoretical – of having to give up their love affairs with drugs, alcohol, pornography and abortion. There’s a wilderness of mirrors where schadenfreude (pleasure derived from others’ misfortunes) is the order of the day. Each group rallies in support of having the other group(s) identified, vilified, isolated and eliminated.
Perhaps this explains why Saudi Arabia is so misunderstood by Americans, Westerners, other foreigners, Christians and others. And why Saudi Arabians must now struggle to understand themselves, and their place, in an increasingly globalized world beyond the 7th century. Since Christianity and Islam are opposites, and can’t seem to coexist, peace is elusive at best.
The multi-dimensional jigsaw puzzle
According to Open Doors, a U.K.-based organization dedicated to servicing persecuted Christians worldwide:
“Wahhabism, a strict interpretation of Islam, dominates life here, and all Saudis are considered Muslims. The legal system is based on Shariah, and it is illegal to evangelize Muslims; conversion to another religion is punishable by death. There are no church buildings and house churches are raided; Christians risk arrest, imprisonment, lashing, deportation and sometimes torture. Most Christians in Saudi Arabia are expatriates or migrant workers, but there are a small number of Muslim-background believers. There are many reports of God revealing Himself to Muslims through dreams and visions.”
While in the San Francisco Bay Area, you might hear godless liberals say (as a joke), “Christians should be put into camps,” in Saudi Arabia that kind of statement is for wimps and it’s no joke. One is reminded of archetype “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policies. Conversion to Christianity – be it redefined, discredited and made almost obsolete in America and the West – is to be ruthlessly hunted down inside Saudi Arabia, just as it’s hunted inside the Hermit Kingdom of North Korea.
There’s no room for hypocrisy or lukewarm Christians. While anti-Evangelicals inside the United States might rightly or wrongly blame George W. Bush and his devotees for ruining America, Iraq, Afghanistan and stuff like that, in Saudi Arabia, Evangelical-minded Christians are blamed for merely existing. Being a Christian could get you arrested or even killed in a certain situation – if you say the wrong thing to the wrong person (like to the religious police), if you’re a convert, or if you try to convert a Muslim to Christianity. Only Islamists are destined to “make disciples of all nations.”
Yet Saudi Muslims are better positioned for a moral future in their own way than Americans might realize. They know exactly what they can and cannot do in Saudi Arabia. This while in juxtaposition, normal Americans must try to stomach the personal anarchy of Justin Bieber, and watch in disbelief and horror as Dennis Rodman acts as de facto ambassador to North Korea.
To Americans, Saudi Arabia might seem terrifying – a North Korea-like world where state worship (Shariah vs. “Juche”) is supreme. In the U.S., people have “democracy” – in some sense the broad participation in the agenda of liberal political and cultural elites. Americans have a new state religion that’s also debatably irrational – Darwin’s theory of evolution – which is now being reconsidered as a stepping stone into transhumanism (H+). Yet in Arabia, they have something far more powerful – the unity of religious and cultural purpose riding shotgun with the agenda of Islamic conservative elites and their highly motivated religious police. To them, their state religion is very rational. Westerns might assume Islamists in Saudi Arabia are irrational, yet they are extremely devoted and eloquent about their worldview. “Insha’Allah!” is constantly articulated. Their view of a Supreme Being is never far from their hearts and minds.
To be sure, it’s a place of extremes. As noted, alcohol, drugs and Bible smuggling might get you imprisoned, whipped and then publicly executed. Yet, of course, not every Saudi Arabian citizen is on board with this agenda. Many Saudis just want to have a normal life, travel to places like Cuba, get married, eat at McDonald’s and make the world a better place for their progeny.
In effect, many Saudi Arabians feel only pity for Westerners who, despite the sword of the penalties hanging over their heads, still take the risk of drinking alcohol inside of their Saudi compounds. Alcohol use and abuse exists, even if it’s frowned upon. The “Barney” character from “The Simpsons” would envy some of the drinking binges Saudi Arabians delve into in neighboring Bahrain. This has to be seen to be believed and is a source of national disgrace.
That said, there are many expatriates who attend weekly church services, although a popular saying in Arabic when you mess up in Saudi Arabia is “Jebt Eleed,” meaning, “I brought Christmas.” There’s always that sense of a dark cloud. You’re not clean. You’re a non-believer.
There’s a line of evangelism that’s not to be crossed. You can be a Christian if you keep it to yourself. You can bring your own personal Bible into Saudi Arabia, especially if you don’t make a big show of it at customs. Your Christmas decorations are supposed to be confiscated, according to local urban legend, but most likely they won’t be. Contrast this with North Korea, where Christians have been executed in public by steamrollers. It would be safe to say that North Korea is more hostile to Evangelicals than Saudi Arabia. Choose your poison – having your head cut off by a sword or getting run over by a steamroller. Koreans and Saudi Arabians share an honor/shame culture, so it’s best not to make them feel dishonored.
Secretly, there are Muslims and Christians inside Saudi Arabia who meet together discuss global problems like pollution, Fukushima, ISIS and Ebola. Since at least 50 percent of the world’s population is either Christian or Muslim, some believe these two religions should work together to solve global problems for the sake of future generations – lest the Earth become barren. Others fear such a meeting of the minds would be a dangerous precursor to a “global religion” and a “one-world government.” Most people would probably see Christians and Muslims working together to solve global problems as a positive thing.
I see ‘Mr. One Eye’ has emerged
One EMT worker based in Dammam told this writer, “I can tell you that the families of Saudi Arabian men who abuse alcohol are treated very badly [by these same men]. It’s an example of how out of balance we are. The world as it is now isn’t going to make it. Christians and Islam are at each other’s throats. Why? Mainly because of our different views on Jesus as a prophet, his Holy Mother Mary, and exactly whom or what the Antichrist [Masih ad-Dajjal] as yet to appear will be. Zechariah 11:17 in your own Holy Book says the right eye of the false shepherd shall be darkened. That’s how we who follow Islam believe we’ll identify the Dajjal.”
This EMT worker makes a salient point. No one asked to be born Muslim or Christian, or in Ivory Coast or in Argentina. We are who we are mostly because of how our parents raised us, and where we were born. Not one person asked to be born to any race, family or nation-state.
One cannot help but overhear the very real Islamic fear of the Dajjal, or the “Muslim antichrist.” He’s coming, but no one knows exactly when. He’s supposed to lead an army of 70,000 Jews out of Persia. He’s going to set up a special camp inside of Saudi Arabia not far from a holy site where pilgrims visit, and these pilgrims will be drawn to follow him. We are told by sincere Muslims that the Dajjal sees only through his left eye. We are told this idea of “the one-eyed man” is popularized in Western culture through Illuminist symbolism. The logos of CBS, Chase Bank, Pepsi, AOL and the back of the U.S. $1 bill are offered as examples. Whether you believe this or not, people in Saudi Arabia (and elsewhere) believe the spirit of antichrist may actually exist. They believe in these symbols. They are waiting for the other shoe to drop.
John MacArthur, regarded as one of America’s top pastors, explains the different views on the Antichrist held by Christians and Muslims:
There’s that sense in Saudi Arabia – and to billions of people around the world – that things are out of control. The weather and the financial markets, the loss of basic human decency, crime, Ebola, the lies of the political leaders, the lack of respect for parents and elders, addiction to technology, a pill for every single mood, men and their pornography, women devolving to lose their special “women’s intuition.” Maybe that’s where this fear of the Dajjal comes from. The Dajjal could be an archetype and a microcosm of everything that seems to be wrong with mankind, and the postmodern world. Just as some Americans believed the infamous 1938 “War of the Worlds” Martian invasion broadcast was real due to the long-standing problems of the Great Depression, so too might devotees of Islam believe the Dajjal is coming. For how can the Dajjal not be coming when one reads the daily headlines? The Dajjal is echoed within the faux-biblical Christian antichrist depicted on HBO’s series, “Carnivale.” “Carnivale” was the most expensive television series ever produced, as a cost of $5 million per episode. Only Islam and Christianity spend this much hand-wringing over the antichrist. It’s the “Omen.” It’s Sam Neil. It’s Clancy Brown. Coming soon …
Yet instead of seeking righteousness, sanctification, purity and holiness in these troubled times, on the other side of the coin what often emerges is horrendous barbarism. Where the mantra, “It is better to conquer one’s self rather than entire cities and regions,” should reside, we have what some might call a demonic principality bent on regional and global conquest on the march. The victims cannot be counted, as the face of the demons directing the maniacal killers of ISIS enter our temporal realm via ISIS’ bloodlust. “By their fruits ye shall know them …” But what’s the real difference between ISIS and, for example, the man in Florida who ate another man’s face? Consider this New York Post story detailing a cannibalism website.
One might recall Seeress Regina of turn-of-the-20th-century Germany, who said, “About the time of the end a peculiar generation shall come. They will contain within themselves no urge for inner growth, but will rather carry the seeds of death for the whole human race.” These kinds of people are in every country, and not just in Saudi Arabia, Syria and Somalia. They could be in London, D.C., Tel Aviv, Beijing, Moscow, Colombia, Cuba, Haiti and Sierra Leone.
One expatriate worker in Saudi Arabia (an ethnic Iranian who is a born and bred American), said, “Look at the state of the world. Look at the proliferation of evil. This is Satan’s time … the time for Satan and his followers.”
This kind and devoted Islamic family man was not calling America “The Great Satan.” This man was identifying the increasing wickedness all around the world as a manifestation of Satan. When the New York Post publishes a photo of a 4-year-old girl in Syria who thinks a camera is a gun, and puts her hands up to surrender, you can deconstruct the state of humanity this man is talking about. When Google and Time Magazine tell you that, by 2045, mankind will “become immortal,” you might begin wondering about humans turning into robots, downloading your consciousness onto the Internet and other eerily esoteric issues.
In an era when many Americans would rather fixate on a “zombie apocalypse” than a real, positive future, the religiousness of Saudi Arabians, and their fear of “what’s out there,” seems almost natural. There’s basically no secular worldview, with exceptions, of course.
One cannot be helped but to be reminded in Saudi Arabia of what life in the Middle Ages must have been like in Europe. Religion is never far away in Saudi Arabia. Escaping the judgment of the Supreme Being is seen as the most important thing in life. To be secular is to be out of step with society. Islam is submission to Allah, and this submission must be total. Many Americans and other expatriates working in Saudi Arabia will openly tell you how sad it is that they had to leave America and come to Saudi Arabia to protect their children from drugs, alcohol, pornography, MTV immorality, socially deviant role models and all kinds of sexual perverts.
The fears of an Islamic (and a Christian) worldview have been criticized as irrational. Something that was also put forth in the HBO TV series, “True Detective,” was the view that religion is the “transference of fear and self-loathing to an authoritarian vessel. It’s catharsis. [Religious preachers] absorb their [followers’] dread with his narrative. Because of this, he’s effective at proportion to the amount of certainty he can project. Certain linguistic anthropologists think that religion is a language virus that rewrites pathways in the brain. Dulls critical thinking.”
Islam and Christianity both run counter to this notion, for the supernatural is seen as the real basis of all existence.
Lest we forget however, in the Middle East, we don’t see anything resembling a moral utopia. Rather we see beheadings and crucifixions of Christians and foreign-aid workers, suicide bombings and other aspects of a death cult. The website Jihad Watch tracks the agenda and carnage.
Then there’s the issue of child brides. Mainly young (child) brides in Saudi Arabia are recruited for their impressionable ages rather than for statutory rape and sex. Some reports claim there are 5,000 child brides in Saudi Arabia.
Taking a page out of “Leave it to Beaver,” the Guardian reported:
Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2015/04/saudi-arabia-u-s-ally-or-radical-financier-of-terror/#TOcPP5LXdgd3w7UH.99
“The girls are getting married because their financially struggling father needs the money that their dowries will provide: young girls of this age can fetch as much as $40,000 each. “Three Saudi ministries share the blame for allowing and facilitating child marriages. The health ministry is tasked with conducting genetic tests for couples considering marriage. Saudi law requires potential brides and grooms to provide certificates of genetic testing before marriages can officially proceed. “The justice ministry regulates the marriage process and issues licenses. And the interior ministry registers families and documents the relationships between family members. It is also the most powerful government agency; it has authority over all other ministries and can direct their activities at will. “As with many pernicious practices, child marriage would not exist without tacit support and approval from the country’s leadership. Far from condemning child marriage, the Saudi monarchy itself has a long history of marrying very young girls.”
Nada al-Ahdal made international news concerning an alleged arranged marriage to a wealthy Yemeni expatriate in Saudi Arabia. Watch this controversial video of a would-be and beautiful child bride, only 11 years old, who bravely spoke out about her plight on the Arabian Peninsula. Then decide if her story is, in fact, true.
The Christian Science Monitor and Reuters ran a story about the issue of Saudi Arabia’s Justice Ministry setting a minimum age for marriage. In 2009, Saudi courts refused to nullify the marriage of an 8-year old girl to a 58-year-old man.
Readers may recall the now-disgraced Brian Williams airing a story on the NBC Nightly News some years ago about how young Christian girls driven from Iraq (by America’s war in search of weapons of mass destruction) and into Syria were in turn sold off at a de facto slave market in Damascus to men from Saudi Arabia. As consumers of ancillary NBC cultural products such as news and advertising, patriotic Americans might indeed be tempted to invite Mr. Williams back – if only to provide him with the opportunity to do follow-up journalism on these types of vital stories inside Saudi Arabia.