The extremist link between Saudi Arabia and the world

by Michelle Ylaya

The New York Times has recently published a criticism on Saudi Arabia, calling for the nation to revise the radicalism of its educational institutions and mosques.  The recent wave of Islamic terrorism has led to the deeper scrutiny of Saudi Arabia’s role in spreading fundamentalist ideology.

The Times article, “Saudis and Extremism: Both the Arsonists and the Firefighters,” explains the link between Wahhabism and Saudi Arabia which has roots in the origins of the Saudi Kingdom itself.


old photo of Ibn Saud and Iraqi King Faisal in 1922
photo credit:

Wahhabism is central to the Saud family’s rise to power during in the 18th century.  Its founder Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab made an alliance with Muhammad bin Saud for protection of his religious movement, which enforced a literalist version of the Quran.  The alliance has endured centuries later along with the transformation of Saudi Arabia from a fierce dessert tribe to an oil superpower.

Given the immense wealth of Saudi Arabia and its stature, as the location of Islam’s holiest cities, Mecca and Medina-the influence of Saudi Arabia weighs heavy on the Muslim world.  From mosques in America, Canada, London, Madrid, Brussels and Geneva as well as the numerous colleges and schools which Saudi Arabia and the royal family has helped financed all around the world—the nation has reportedly given billions for the training of imams and teachers.

According to “Saudis and Extremism,” the Wahhabis ideology is still found in Saudi Arabia’s educational system and in what influence Saudi Arabia exports across the Muslim world. The problem is, Wahhabism teaches the strain of Islam that the West associates with terrorism and hate.

The intolerance for other faiths that Wahhabism teaches is retained in the English translation of the Qurans that Saudi Arabia has exported to millions of Muslims all around the world for at least two decades.  A passage from the translation explicitly mentions other faiths and directs hate towards them: “those who earned Your Anger (such as the Jews), nor of those who went astray (such as the Christians).”

The article goes as far as reinstating that Saudi Arabia hindered the 20th Century reformation of Islam.  “The idea has become a commonplace: that Saudi Arabia’s export of the rigid, bigoted, patriarchal, fundamentalist strain of Islam known as Wahhabism has fueled global extremism and contributed to terrorism.”

However, little is known about the link between extremism and Saudi Arabia in the media because of Saudi Arabia’s reactionary efforts in fighting terrorism–and while the secularists call for a progress in Saudi Arabia’s educational policy, traditionalists continue to resist change.

Source: Shane, Scott (2016, August 25). Saudis and Extremism: The Arsonists and Firefighters. Retrieved from






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