Saudi Salafism and violence in the Middle East

Ed Husain, an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a senior adviser to the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, has written a very important and long overdue essay on Saudi Arabia's long ties -- and theological support -- for the Salafis of the Middle East. These are the most extreme Islamic fundamentalists. They are determined to set up a pan-national Islamic state in the Middle East and will kill those who resist. 

Islam can only be reformed from within. The vast majority of peace-seeking moderate Muslims have, for reasons not fully clear, been reluctant to speak out against extremists. This makes Husain's piece all the more important. 

US policy has consistently supported the Saudis even has they have bred extremist thought. 

Writes the author: "Unlike a majority of Sunnis, Salafis are evangelicals who wish to convert Muslims and others to their “purer” form of Islam — unpolluted, as they see it, by modernity. In this effort, they have been lavishly supported by the Saudi [Arabian] government, which has appointed emissaries to its embassies in Muslim countries who proselytize for Salafism. ... 

After 9/11, under American pressure, much of this global financial support dried up, but the bastion of Salafism remains strong in the kingdom, enforcing the hard-line application of outdated Shariah punishments long abandoned by a majority of Muslims. Just since Aug. 4, 19 people have been beheaded in Saudi Arabia, nearly half for nonviolent crimes.

I recommend this analysis to those trying to understand some of the theological divisions within Islam and how they affect ongoing conflicts.

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