When protestors scaled the walls of the US embassay on Sept. 11, tearing down the Stars and Stripes, a Salafi black flag could be seen above the
The same black flag has spread like wildfire across the Arab world, with the rise of Salafism being bank rolled by Saudi Arabia.
While its fair to say that not all Salafis are terrorists, it is also fair to say that almost all Muslim terrorists are Salafi/Wahhabi.
A puritanical branch of Islam, Salafism advocates a strict, literalist interpretation of the Koran and a return to the practices of the
“Salaf” (the predecessors), as the Prophet Mohammed and his disciples are known.
While Salafist groups can differ widely, from the peaceful, quietist kind to the more violent clusters, it is the latter who have attracted most
attention in recent months.
In Libya and Mali, radical Salafists have been busy destroying ancient shrines built by more moderate groups, such as Sufi Muslims. Fellow extremists
in Tunisia have tried to silence secular media and destroy “heretical” artwork. And the presence of Salafist fighting units in Syria has been
The hardline and often violent Salafi groups we hear of are financed by Saudi Petrodollars. Salafism is an export version of Wahhabism, a branch of
Sunni Islam practiced by the Saudi ruling family who control the birth place of Islam.
“There is plenty of evidence pointing to the fact that Saudi money is financing the various Salafist groups,” said Samir Amghar, author of
“Le salafisme d’aujourd’hui. Mouvements sectaires en Occident” (Contemporary Salafism: Sectarian movements in the West).
According to Antoine Basbous, who heads the Paris-based Observatory of Arab Countries, “the Salafism we hear about in Mali and North Africa is in
fact the export version of Wahhabism,” a conservative branch of Sunni Islam actively promoted and practised by Saudi Arabia’s ruling family.
Since the 1970s oil crises provided the ruling House of Saud with a seemingly endless supply of cash, “the Saudis have been financing [Wahhabism]
around the world to the tune of several million euros,” Basbous told FRANCE 24.
Being defenders of the true faith, Saudi's have two main objectives in financing Salafi groups: to export Salafism &; build a network of groups in the
Middle East that defend Saudi's strategic and economic interests.
Nonetheless, it is thought that the Saudi royal family was surprised by the Arab Spring revolts.
Exporting its own brand of Islam is not the only item on Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy agenda.
“While they see themselves as the guardians of Islamic doctrine and have always generously financed Muslim missionaries, the Saudis’ priority is
not to ‘salafise’ the Muslim world,” explained Amghar. “Their real aim is to consolidate their political and ideological influence by
establishing a network of supporters capable of defending the kingdom’s strategic and economic interests.”
“The Saudis were genuinely surprised by the Arab Spring revolts,” said Mohamed-Ali Adraoui, a political analyst who specialises in the Muslim
world. “Riyadh’s response was to back certain Salafist groups (...) so that it may gain further clout in their respective countries,” Adraoui
told FRANCE 24.
A further reason for Saudi to finance Salafists is to better control them and prevent home-grown jihadists on its own soil.
According to Amghar, Saudi Arabia, a key US ally, has another, more pragmatic reason to support the Salafists.
“Having long turned a blind eye to the generous funding of all sorts of violent jihadist groups by members of the Saudi establishment, the royal
family began exercising closer control in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks,” he says.
By restricting its financing to more controllable groups based outside its borders, such as the Salafists, “Saudi Arabia ensures it will not be
threatened by home-grown jihadists on its soil”.
It could be concluded that the Saudi royal family's strategy in controlling Salafi groups in the Middle East has been successful in that no successful
Arab Spring has occurred in their kingdom.
Nor were there any protestors or black Salafi flags flying outside the US embassy in Saudi this month.
edit on 30-9-2012 by ollncasino because: (no reason given)