Qunfuz

Robin Yassin-Kassab

Archive for the ‘Wahhabism’ Category

America versus America

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My children have a Dreamworks animated film called AntZ. I suppose it’s better than the average American children’s film, but still, once you’ve watched 15 minutes you can predict both the conclusion and the moral message that will be rammed violently past your gullet for the next hour and a bit. As in very many Disney films for children or in the Hollywood versions for adults, the message is BE YOURSELF. BE AN INDIVIDUAL. STAND OUT FROM THE CROWD.

It seems contradictory that the country which feeds its children unto obesity with this message is also the country with the most conformist of populations. Americans are more likely than any other people to confuse their national identity with their state machinery, to identify themselves with their leaders and their flag, to believe that their country has a divinely-ordained manifest destiny. The ability of Americans to contemplate alternative perspectives on the world, or even to understand that people in different countries may not want to speak English or eat hamburgers, is severely limited. The declared ideology is individualism, but the reality is rigid conformism.

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Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

February 27, 2007 at 6:42 am

Posted in Iran, Saudi Arabia, USA, Wahhabism

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The Horns of Satan

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The lovely mufti of Saudi Arabia

The lovely mufti of Saudi Arabia

The Arabs and Muslims have many internal enemies. But the greatest of these, in my opinion, are the Saudi regime – America’s key Arab ally – and the Wahhabi doctrine it has at different times promoted, exploited and tolerated. Its malign influence has spread to Pakistan, Afghanistan, West Africa, Egypt and inner-city Europe, where traditional and plural Islamic cultures are being crushed by reductive ‘rulebook’ religion and sectarian intolerance. The Saudis are currently interfering in Lebanon to prop up the Siniora government, funding and providing manpower for Sunni terror organisations in Iraq, and discussing attacks on Iran with the Israelis.

Despite being the chief sponsor of the Taliban and the homeland of most of the September 11th bombers, Saudi Arabia’s alliance with the United States remains strong. American miltary bases remain dotted around the country, secret police continue to cow people into suspicious silence, criminals (but not the big ones) are still beheaded in public squares on Friday afternoons.

How long will this traitorous and barbaric regime last? In ‘The Rise and Coming Fall of the House of Saud’ Saeed Aburish predicted the regime’s downfall – for the late 1990s. When I was in Saudi Arabia, from 2001 to 2003, there was a widespread sense that the regime was in its last days. Al-Saud governance – rigidly Islamist at home, supinely pro-imperialist in its foreign relations – satisfied no-one at all, from Taliban types to Western-educated shabab who wanted more personal freedoms.

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Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

December 9, 2006 at 11:31 am

Posted in Saudi Arabia, Wahhabism

The Islamism of Not

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One of my correspondents has suggested that islamist economic policy cannot improve the dire social conditions of Muslim countries. I think it is being overly generous to islamism to think that it has an economic policy, or any kind of policy at all. Beyond vague promises to implement sharia law (and there’s a concept that means very different things to different people), islamism is best understood by what it is not. It is a rhetorical function rather than anything of substance.

Of course, there are as many different islamisms as there are contexts in which it thrives. Sunni and Shia islamism, right and left islamism, peaceful and violent, macho and feminist, and so on. Perhaps one good way to divide islamisms, however, is into two kinds: islamism to protect established power and islamism to challenge it.

Islamism which protects established power is the older form. The West complained less about it, because the West was happy with the status quo. The classic manifestation of this kind of islamism is the Wahabism of Saudi Arabia, which takes Ibn Taymiya’s anti-Shia, anti-Sufi, anti-innovation discourse to ever more puritan lengths, and which designates the Al-Saud family as guardians of the doctrine. So long as the Sauds suppress religious diversity, demolish shrines, allow full rein to the religious police, they are free to make whatever decisions they wish on the country’s oil wealth and foreign alliances. The king is ‘wali al-amr’ and it is part of religion to obey him.

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Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

September 13, 2006 at 1:12 pm