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Wahhabis in Bosnia!

Interesting Article: Fearing the ‘White al-Qaeda’ by VESNA PERIC ZIMONJIC / Belgrade published Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A recent article mentioned that Bosnian security services put the number of Wahhabis in Bosnia around 3,000, most of them living in remote central areas near the towns Tuzla and Zenica. They live according to Sharia law, and send their children to separate schools. The women are covered from head to toe. They are supposedly remnants of thousands of mujahedeen who came during the 1992-95 war to help Bosniak Muslims against Serbs. They were veterans from different war zones such as Algeria, Afghanistan, or the Caucasus. Most left when the war ended, but many stayed, married local women and took Bosnian citizenship. So what is Wahhabism?

Before going into what Wahhabism is, I want to speak a bit more about Bosnia and the Wahhabis there. Serbian police claimed they found and broke up a group of Wahhabi extremists in a deep forest near Novi Pazar in 2007. Fifteen of them were given prison sentences ranging from several months to 13 years. In recent years there have been warnings that some areas in the Balkans serve as training ground for a "white al-Qaeda" whose members are believed to blend in more easily in Western countries. The fact is, Saudi Arabia has a prominent stamp in Bosnia (Wahhabism is the dominant form of Islam in Saudi Arabia.); it has invested more than 600 million dollars in building more than 150 mosques. The focal point of Saudi activity is the King Fahd Mosque in Sarajevo built at a cost of 30 million dollars. More than 100,000 people were killed in the three years of war in Bosnia, most of them Bosniak Muslims. The internationally sponsored Dayton Agreement that brought peace to Bosnia did little for reconciliation among Muslims, Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Croats. They remain deeply divided, living in two separate entities of Bosnia-Herzegovina the Republic of Srpska for the Serbs and the Muslim-Croat Federation. In a nut shell, Wahhabism is a conservative branch of Sunni Islam, rooted in Saudi Arabia and linked to religious militants in parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Wahhabism was developed by an 18th century Muslim theologian (Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab) (1703–1792) from Najd, Saudi Arabia. Ibn Abdul Al-Wahhab advocated purging Islam of what he considered to be impurities and innovations. The terms Wahhabi and Salafi (as well as ahl al-hadith, people of hadith) are often used interchangeably, but Wahhabi has also been called "a particular orientation within Salafism", an orientation some consider ultra-conservative and heretical. Mohammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab studied in Basra (now in southern Iraq) and is reported to have developed his ideas there. He is reported to have studied in Mecca and Medina while there to perform Hajj before returning to his home town of 'Uyayna in 1740. After his return he was expelled from 'Uyayna, and was invited to settle in neighboring Diriyah by its ruler Muhammad ibn Saud in 1740 (1157 AH), two of whose brothers had been students of Ibn Abdal-Wahhab. Upon arriving in Diriyya, a pact was made between Ibn Saud and Ibn Abd-al-Wahhab, by which Ibn Saud pledged to implement and enforce Ibn Abd-al-Wahhab's teachings, while Ibn Saud and his family would remain the temporal "leaders" of the movement. Beginning in the last years of the 18th century Ibn Saud and his heirs would spend the next 140 years mounting various military campaigns to seize control of Arabia and its outlying regions. The Saudi government eventually established the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, a state religious police unit, to enforce Wahhabi rules of behavior. Wahhabi theology treats the Quran and Hadith as the only fundamental and authoritative texts. In 1801 and 1802, the Saudi Wahhabis under Abdul Aziz ibn Muhammad ibn Saud attacked and captured the holy Muslim cities of Karbala and Najaf in Iraq, massacred parts of the Muslim population and destroyed the tombs of Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of Muhammad, and son of Ali (Ali bin Abu Talib), the son-in-law of Muhammad.  In 1803 and 1804 the Saudis captured Makkah and Medina and destroyed historical monuments and various holy Muslim sites and shrines, such as the shrine built over the tomb of Fatimah, the daughter of Muhammad, and even intended to destroy the grave of Muhammad himself as idolatrous. In 1998 the Saudis bulldozed and poured gasoline over the grave of Aminah bint Wahb, the mother of Prophet Muhammad, causing resentment throughout the Muslim world. A study conducted by the NGO Freedom House found Wahhabi publications in mosques in the United States. These publications included statements that Muslims should not only "always oppose" infidels "in every way", but "hate them for their religion ... for Allah's sake", that democracy "is responsible for all the horrible wars of the 20th century", and that Shia and certain Sunni Muslims were infidels. According to observers such as Gilles Kepel, Wahhabism gained considerable influence in the Islamic world following a tripling in the price of oil in the mid-1970s and the progressive takeover of Saudi Aramco in the 1974-1980 periods. The Saudi government began to spend tens of billions of dollars throughout the Islamic world to promote Wahhabism, which was sometimes referred to as "petro-Islam". Its largess funded an estimated "90% of the expenses of the entire faith", throughout the Muslim world, according to journalist Dawood al-Shirian. The funds supported children's madrasas, high-level scholarship, mosque construction ("more than 1500 mosques were built from Saudi public funds over the last 50 years"). It rewarded journalists and academics, who followed it and built satellite campuses around Egypt for Al Azhar, the oldest and most influential Islamic university. This financial power has done much to overwhelm less strict local interpretations of Islam, according to observers like Dawood al-Shirian and Lee Kuan Yew, and has caused the Saudi interpretation to be perceived as the correct interpretation in many Muslims' minds. The Saudis have spent at least $87 billion propagating Wahhabism abroad during the past two decades, and the scale of financing is believed to have increased in the past two years. The bulk of this funding goes towards the construction and operating expenses of mosques, madrasas, and other religious institutions that preach Wahhabism. It also supports imam training; mass media and publishing outlets; distribution of textbooks and other literature; and endowments to universities (in exchange for influence over the appointment of Islamic scholars). Some of the hundreds of thousands of non-Saudis who live in Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf have been influenced by Wahhabism and preach Wahhabism in their home country upon their return. Agencies controlled by the Kingdom's Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Endowments, Da'wah and Guidance are responsible for outreach to non-Muslim residents and are converting hundreds of non-Muslims into Islam every year. Khaled Abou El Fadl (professor of law at the UCLA School of Law) attributed the appeal of Wahhabism to some Muslims as stemming from 1) Arab nationalism, which followed the Wahhabi attack on the Ottoman Empire; 2) Reformism, which followed a return to Salaf; 3) Control of Mecca and Medina, which gave Wahhabis great influence on Muslim culture and thinking; 4) Oil, which after 1975 allowed Wahhabis to promote their interpretations of Islam using billions from oil export revenue. This particular strand of Islam is highly disturbing, but what Bosnia can do about it is still a question for the future.

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John L. Esposito, What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam, p.50
Saudi Wahhabism is the most dangerous religious currents », El Khabar Ousbouî, 30 août 2010
Glasse, Cyril, The New Encyclopedia of Islam Altamira, 2001, p.407
Wiktorowicz, Quintan. "Anatomy of the Salafi Movement" in Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, Vol. 29 (2006): p.235.
John L. Esposito (1999). The Oxford history of Islam. Oxford University Press US. p. 462. ISBN 00195107993.
"Freedom House". International Relations Center. 2007-07-26.
Howden, Daniel (August 6, 2005). "The destruction of Mecca: Saudi hardliners are wiping out their own heritage". The Independent.
Dawood al-Shirian, 'What Is Saudi Arabia Going to Do?' Al-Hayat, May 19, 2003
Wahhabism: A deadly scripture
Abou El Fadl, Khaled, The Great Theft: Wrestling Islam from the Extremists, Harper San Francisco, 2005, p.70-72.
Algar, Hamid, Wahhabism : A Critical Essay, Islamic Publications International, ISBN 1-889999-13-X
Holden, David and Johns, Richard, The House of Saud, Pan, 1982, ISBN 0-330-26834-1
Kepel, Gilles (2002). Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam. trans. Anthony F. Roberts (1st English edition ed.). Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-00877-4. 


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