Academic journal article Middle East Review of International Affairs (Online)

The Diffusion of Intra-Islamic Violence and Terrorism: The Impact of the Proliferation of Salafi/wahhabi Ideologies

Academic journal article Middle East Review of International Affairs (Online)

The Diffusion of Intra-Islamic Violence and Terrorism: The Impact of the Proliferation of Salafi/wahhabi Ideologies

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates have done what Pakistan has done to itself: shoot themselves in the proverbial foot by creating militant jihadist "Frankenstein's monsters" who are now running amok Pakistan's intelligence agency, the ISI, was responsible for creating the Afghan Taliban. Now, the Taliban have metamorphosed into the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which is carrying out terrorist attacks in Pakistan and challenging the government with gusto.

Some describe it as the Saudi Salafi/Wahhabi progeny "coming home to roost." The Salafi/Wahhabi ideology has long enjoyed support in many forms from Saudi Arabia, especially in the case of the mujahidin fighting against the Soviets in Afghanistan. Today, we see other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, like Qatar, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), also joining the game. However, unlike in previous incarnations, the primary targets of today's Salafi jihadists have become fellow Muslims, especially Shi'a, but even fellow Sunnis are not spared. Anyone can be a victim at the hands of Salafi jihadists. This study examines the links between the rise of intra-Islamic violence and terrorism based on the new wave of support for Salafi/Wahhabi ideologies embodied in jihadist militias especially arising from the 2011 Arab Awakening and the Syrian civil war.

This study claims that the diffusion of intra-Islamic violence and terrorism is increasing because of the empowerment of extremist ideologies based on the proliferation of Salafi/Wahhabi beliefs. Furthermore, this analysis distinguishes between material support and ideological inspiration that Salafi/Wahhabi organizations and institutions are provided globally. This material support, mainly in the form of funding charities and religious institutions that include Islamic seminaries, or madrassas, as well as money exchanges in the form of pseudo-businesses, banking, and informal transport of cash through the hawala system, often lands in the hands of sophisticated networks of jihadist groups.

Ideological support and programming are commonly interconnected with material support processes, as in the case of some madrassas. For example, radical clerics and charismatic individuals preach online through various websites and via YouTube sermons, Facebook and Twitter messaging, and also by means of satellite TV channels with full blessings from local governments. These hightech tactics are in addition to street-corner clerics preaching Salafism, as well as from mosques known for their ultra-orthodox leanings. The good news is that moderate voices are using the same means to counter Salafism, but it has been an uphill battle.

IDEOLOGIES AND CONCEPTS PROMOTING INTRA-ISLAMIC VIOLENCE

Salafism is an ideology and reform movement calling for a return to traditional Islam as it was practiced and observed in the days of the Prophet Muhammad and his circle of Companions. In Arabic "salaf" means "predecessors; forebears, ancestors, forefathers."1 According to Kamran Bokhari, "From the Salafist persp`ective, non-Islamic thought has contaminated the message of 'true' Islam for centuries, and this excess must be jettisoned from the Islamic way of life."2 The Egyptian scholar and Islamist Muhammad 'Abduh (1849-1905) spearheaded the Salafist reform movement, which continues to inspire present-day Salafist movements. Salafists constitute both violent and nonviolent minorities (in terms of ideology) within Muslim populations worldwide. As Bokhari explains,

Unlike members of the Muslim Brotherhood, Salafists do not belong to a single, unified organization. Instead, the movement comprises a diffuse agglomeration of neighborhood preachers, societal groups and--only very recently--political parties, none of which are necessarily united in ideology.

In many ways, Salafism can be seen as a rejection of the political ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood. For most of the movement's existence, it shunned politics--and thus Islamism--in favor of a focus on personal morality and individual piety, arguing that an Islamic state could not exist unless Muslims first return to the tenets of "true" Islam. …

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