My friend Craig, a journalist, world traveller, and scholar, made two interesting points in a recent FB post about Middle East terrorism. The first: While there is “no philosophical connection between Islam and terrorism…there is a very strong connection between Saudi Arabian Wahabist Islam and terrorism.”
Wikipedia offers that Wahhabism is a fundamentalist sect of Sunni Islam. Adherents consider the term Wahhabi derogatory and prefer Salafi. Its 18th century founder, Mohammad bin Abd Al-Wahhab allied himself with Muhammad bin Saud whose name might recall to you the current ruling house of Saudi Arabia. Today Al-Wahhab’s teachings are state-sponsored and the dominant form of Islam in Saudi Arabia.
oil-rigToday Wahhabism is considered an ultra-conservative Saudi brand of Salafism whose adherents brand non-Wahhabi Muslims apostates. One of the main things to note, however is that while Wahhabis are only about 23% of the Saudi population, they control the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.
Craig’s second point: That Wahabist extremism and the rise of western Islamaphobia share a root cause: “the utter cowardice of Western powers when it comes to challenging Saudi’s policy of exporting religious extremism.”
As purchasers of Saudi oil, and sellers of Saudi-bought arms (a trade in which France has a disturbingly long history), we are complicit.
Of course this whole discussion is on Facebook and I’m not necessarily privileged to copy it here in full, but in the comments Craig answers a question put to him on the matter: Does religion trump economics? with a resounding Yes. “The codification of a culture’s most cherished values – whether expressed as a concept of God or as a doctrine  of Human rights – does, and indeed must, trump economics…If we acknowledge economics as being the repository of our culture’s most important guiding principles, then we have already lost.”
Precisely. There are several directions one could go with this discussion including how our society’s wealth of all kinds is distributed, but this clash of religion and economics raises an interesting question: Is the current state of Saudi oil pricing an attempt to destabilise western economies? From my very non-expert point of view, this could be almost as, if not more, effective than our wars that destabilise Middle East regimes.
Mind you, one of the more seriously affected regimes is that of Mr. Putin in Russia. The governing elites derive most of their power from oil revenue and Putin very early on made the case that Russia would not be sharing the benefits and risks of its natural resources when it blocked attempts by to sell industries to the west. In December, The Independent asserted that this change in fortune might mean that Russia “may not be able to afford to wage her little wars.” (Falling oil price benefits consumers in the West but comes at a  high cost to global stability, 20 December 2014) I fear this is not the case – Russia’s resources, ambitions, and economic instability make the country one of many fine starting points for the next big war.