In the “war on terror”, President Bush has tried to prevent the cynical from pointing fingers at Islam as the cause.

So when tens of Muslim pilgrims were killed last week, aside from being headline fodder to imply Bush’s surge wasn’t working, few tried to see the “why” behind this senseless killing.

Obviously it was good Iraqis trying to kill the Bush crusaders, right? whoops, wrong. It was Iraqi civilians including children who were killed. Well, maybe it was the Baathists trying to goad the Shiites into a civil war, right? But why would they do that? Most of the Baathists are in Syria, and many of the Sunnis remaining are starting to support the central government. Indeed, much of the “surge” was to destroy or redirect the rage of the Shiite death squads who kill Sunnis in revenge for suicide bombings, in order to prevent more Sunnis from fleeing Baghdad.

Well, Ralph Peters analyzes the why, and points out a small fact that I haven’t seen in other reports: That the “suicide bombers” were not Iraqi “insurgents”, but Saudi citizens. And Peters notes something that those of us whose relatives worked there already know: That the religion in Saudi Arabia is intolorant not only to other religions, but to the Shiites who live in that country.

Unless one realizes the Sunni hatred of Shiite Islam, or the worries of the Saudis of a Shiite monopoly of Gulf oil the reason for the bombings just doesn’t make sense.

Indeed, last week’s meeting between the Iranian president and the Saudis was a way to defuse the tension between the groups.

But there is an even bigger danger to both the Mullah’s repressive distorted democracy and the repressive theocratic monarchy of Saudi Arabia: The danger that a multicultural, democratic Iraq would make their own people stand up and wonder: Why not us?
The quiet piety of a billion Muslims are not the cause of terror. Indeed, the majority of Muslims are not Arabs, and do not live in the Middle East. The largest Muslim country is actually Indonesia, where an easy going Islam is mixed with the folk beliefs in thousands of villages. And the country that has the second largest number of Muslims is India, a democracy.

But things are now changing, thanks to the Saudi’s attempt to radicalize the religion of peace into their puritanical rigid version of Islam whose intolorance can easily be distorted into terror as a means to spread the “true” religion.
The dirty little secret is that the major exporter of radical Islam is not the Mullahs of Iran but Saudi Arabia. And they do it in several ways:

One, through funding terrorists under the guise of “charities”.

Two: by buildling and staffing madrasses to retrain the younger generation of Asian boys into their version of Islam.

Robert Marquand’s article on this phenomenum quotes Vali Nasr, a specialist on Muslim extremists at the University of San Diego, Calif., (and a Shia Muslim) on the problem.

“I’ve been to Pakistan over the past 20 years, and the Pakistan I see today is unrecognizable to me, even though I’ve been working on fundamentalism from the beginning,” he says. Speaking of the impact of Saudi funds for madrassahs, he says, “a madrassah … was a seminary where a student spent years at the foot of educated scholars, ulema, and became well versed in all aspects of Islamic jurisprudence, law, philosophy, theology…. In recent years, some are just [run by] petty mullahs with a half-baked understanding [of Islam].”

Again, a quote from Marquand’s article:

Saudi oil wealth gives what would be a minority orthodox faction in the Muslim world a disproportionate amount of influence. Saudi funds pour out, officially and unofficially, across the globe – paying for new mosques from Bosnia to Boston, as well as Islamic centers, university chairs, conferences, and organizations for the promotion of orthodox Islam, primary schools, charities, and visiting scholars.

Exact figures on the petrodollars pushing Saudi orthodox Islam are hard to come by. But few experts say that Saudi funds are directly used for the export of militant training. …(italics mine).

Nor does Saudi money come labeled as “Wahhabi funding.” (Wahhabism in many parts of the world is viewed suspiciously.) Rather, funding for mosques or schools simply comes with the requirements that certain teachings and practices be observed: Women should cover their heads and be subservient, students should focus more on the Koran and less on “worldly” instruction, Islamic law (sharia) should be taught as the only real law, and other forms of Islam should be abandoned. Yet in practice, and even if unintentionally, experts say, the spread of Wahhabist or revivalist Islam, has been a breeding ground for militant behavior, and for an assault on local traditional forms of Islamic practice.

So how is this religious threat met? Well, as Marquand’s article points out, in South East Asia, often the independent mind of the Indonesian and Philipino society are able to resist the indoctrination.

One of the “good aspects” of countries with the culture of corruption is that people tend to be more easy going and flexible toward rules.

Second is the willingness of the governments to decrease the threat by a combination of offering economic aid to poor areas, offering truces and amnesties to those willing to cooperate, and by (to put it bluntly) killing those who won’t make peace.

Here in the Philippines, it also involved the identification and freezing of bank accounts of “charities” that fund these terrorists, and cooperation with nearby countries whose terrorists fled to Mindanao both for safety and to train and reinstigate the war.

The Arroyo government has done all of these things, and has been held as an example of how to fight terrorism.

However, as long as the Saudi government allows it’s citizens to fund charities for schools teaching the narrow minded religion of the 8th century instead of skills that would actually help the children to find jobs in the 21st century, the ideas of jihadi Islam will continue to spread to fuel hatred of all versions of Islam except their own.

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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket

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