Wahhabism and the new appeasement

By Prof. Madhav Das Nalapat



Prof. M.D. Nalapat is Director of the School of Geopolitics at the Manipal Academy of Higher Education in New Delhi. Sometimes called “India’s Kissinger”, he has been credited by many as being the author of the American-Indian nuclear co-operation agreement.



In the late 1920s and early 1930s, few took Adolf Hitler’s words seriously. Today, few of the several thousand sermons, speeches and writings of the Wahhabite extremists--a worldwide network of religious schools and places of worship funded by the House of Saud--who fuel the international terrorist movement are even known to most people. Even among those who do read or understand Arabic, most prefer to look away, to call the sermons the rantings of a fringe element and to hope that, mirage like, they will disappear if ignored. But they will not. And unless action is taken, the world at large may have to repeat the experience of the last century when an evil that could, and should, have been stifled early, was not, and death and destruction was the result.


Many proponents of Wahhabism--the extremist creed that demands blind obedience and which has replaced genuine Islam as the faith among many Muslims--were and remain open admirers of Hitler and the Nazis. During World War II, preachers at many Saudi-influenced places of worship in the Middle East spoke out in support of the Hitlerite armies. Today, some websites and print publications controlled by Wahhabists describe the Holocaust as a myth and praise the “discipline and faith” of the Nazis.


This Wahhabite admiration for the Nazis is hardly an accident as the two beliefs share much in common. This includes the notion of superiority of oneself and the worthless or nonhuman status of all others; an exaltation of violence, and a belief in Judaism as their primary target, followed by Christianity and, ultimately those Moslems who disagree with the Wahhabite vision of Islam and the world. Just as Hitler’s followers saw themselves as the Elect, chosen to cleanse society of “impurity,” so too do those who follow the teachings of Abd el-Wahhab (1703-1792), the previously unknown preacher whose teachings were adopted by the House of Saud to legitimize their rule over what is now Saudi Arabia.


Fueled by Saudi Arabian money, government as well as private, those teachings are now spread by missionary teachers to schools and mosques throughout the Middle East and South Asia. Ever since the 1980s, a chain of institutions and places of worships has also spread such teachings across the Western world, including in the United States, European Union, Canada and Australia.


Sadly, just as few Germans would state openly that Nazism was a perversion of German (and European) values, today few Moslems are prepared to say that Wahhabism is in fact a perversion of the words and vision of the Prophet. That instead it is designed to insure the authority and particular vision of a clique of hard-fisted fanatics who have a psychopathic hatred of all who do not share that vision or contest their authority.


It is remarkable that as yet there has not arisen within the Moslem world a movement that would wrest control of Islam’s three holiest sites from the Wahhabites. That would keep it separate and immune from fanaticism by placing it in the hands of a body of the Good, chosen from among all the Faithful. Just as the Vatican is distinct from Italy, it is time for the epicenter of one of the world great faiths to be taken from those who are prepared to see little girls perish in fire, rather than have them rescued by unrelated men, and placed in the care of those who in fact love God and God’s creation. Control of the holy sites, Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia, and al-Aqsa in Jerusalem, gives the Wahhabites a prestige they do not deserve, and one which they use to spread hatred and, ultimately, murder.


Between 1929 and 1933, Germans for the most part watched passively as Hitler rose to power. So today, most Moslems do little more than turn their heads as Wahhabite hatred hijacks their faith. And today too, Moslems worldwide are beginning to suffer the effects of the steady Wahhabist takeover of their institutions. For the violence that is preached is directed not only at foreigners, and Christians, and Jews, but against

Moslems as well.


Just as the Nazis saw the function of women as child-bearers and little more, so Wahhabis refuse to allow women to work and, as we saw in Afghanistan, deny them access to education. True followers of the Word would lead the rest of the world in educating and empowering women. As a recent United Nations report, written by Moslem scholars has pointed out, this denial of education to women, denial of their employment outside the home, is one of the reasons why the Arab world lags so far behind in economic development.


Unfortunately, as during the 1930s in Europe, so today in the world of Islam there exists a plentiful crop of appeasers who seem to believe that feeding the Devil will ward off harm. The House of Saud believes it can avert the fate that overtook the Shah of Iran by paying off--funding--the fanatics. But the fallacy of this belief is already becoming clear. Those who created the monster of Wahhabism solely in order to protect their throne now find that the core followers of this creed have become their worst enemies. Despite arrests and lavish use of money, in several religious schools set up under Wahhabite influence, the House of Saud is now denounced as the betrayer of the faith. In other words, Frankenstein is in the process of devouring his creators

In Western Europe, the British, French, German and Spanish governments not only turn a blind eye but seem bent on appeasement, by tolerating--and sometimes even actively participating in--the activities of religious institutions who spew venom against western values and culture. This policy of appeasement is reminiscent of that of former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain who fed Czechoslovakia to Hitler in the Munich Agreement of 1938, and returned to London proclaiming “peace in our time.”


What the new appeasers fail to grasp is that the fanatics, newly energized by Saudi money, aim for worldwide expansion and control. So any policy that seeks immunity for a particular country (whether that country is France or any other Western nation) by hoping to deflect attention away from itself and toward others (Israel, or India, or America) ultimately will have to face the same beast, because this is a beast whose hunger grows the more it is fed.

The primary responsibility for extinguishing the scourge of Wahhabism remains with the Moslem community in whose name these false prophets speak. But the rest of the world needs to understand the danger, needs to ensure that extremism does not pay, that no concessions are given to the Wahhabis and those who protect and fund them. The danger they represent to civilization needs to be recognized. And dealt with. As Winston Churchill said after Munich; “The Prime Minister had a choice between war and peace with dishonor. He chose dishonor. He shall have war.”


The Germans and the rest of the world paid an enormous price for their failure to choke the Nazis off early, when it could be done without so serious a loss. Today Moslems, and the world at large, need to understand the menace and ensure against a second descent into the maelstrom. Moslems need to challenge the grip of the Wahhabites and liberate their institutions and holy sites from their control.