I came across a tweet from a frustrated and befuddled man. I wish I could remember his name. He wrote that for years Christian Evangelicals had warned him that the Anti-Christ was coming, that he should be ready for that dark day. He then added that: now that (he thought) the Anti-Christ has arrived (at least in the USA), he is shocked that they have joined him, that they voted for the same Anti-Christ they had warned him about and they continue to strongly support him.
(I wondered what he was talking about, clearly a Democrat).
Which reminds me of the Salafists (or Wahhabis), our Muslim equivalents of these Christian Evangelicals he was talking about. They also face a dilemma now. The Sunni Salafist clerics, and others, in the Persian-American Gulf region are mostly educated in Saudi theological colleges, where they have absorbed the teachings of Shaikh Mohammed Bin Abdul-Wahhab, the founder of Sunni Wahhabism, the official faith of Saudi Arabia. He, of course, based his doctrine on earlier extreme fundamentalists.
Over the years those Gulf Salafists became strong advocates and supporters of the Saudi theological school as well as strong advocates for the policies of the Saudi government, good and bad. That was a natural result of the Saudi establishment being an alliance between the ruling Al Saud dynasty and the strict Wahhabi clerics led by the Al Shaikh family who descend from Bin Abdul-Wahhab. The higher echelons of the Saudi establishment are full of Al Al Shaikh men, the current top religious Mufti is among them. A few times in my earlier posts I have often opined here that Gulf Salafists were essentially a Saudi fifth column in their native countries. Most of them anyway, although I know there are a few exceptions.
Saudi Salafist leaders in exile, almost all of them in the West, are furious about this new social and educational reform movement by MBS. They say it is a plot to end Wahhabism as they know it. It is, after all, threatening to deprive them of their only theological anchor: the Wahhabi clerical establishment in Saudi Arabia. The secular opposition, those not in prison in Riyadh or in Western exile are mostly silent for now, regrouping.
Now the Salafists of the Gulf states are facing a dilemma. The new Saudi strongman, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman is trying to move away from strict Wahhabism. He is trying to tap the dormant discontent and excruciating boredom among the huge population of young educated Saudis, male and female, as well as to impress Western policy-makers to his side. He is also doing it out of economic necessity, given this country’s heavy dependence on foreign labor and foreign talent. Given the depleting nature of fossil fuel resources. This position is unusual for a Saudi prince who was not educated in the West, especially in the USA.
Gulf Salafists have for years been cheerleaders, money collectors, as well as volunteers for Al Qaeda and later ISIS (Islamic State), although they have toned it down in recent years because of political pressure by regional governments as well as American efforts. Some of them have even tried to follow the official line and pretend to abandon ISIS, by irrationally claiming that it was a creation of the Iranian mullahs (or was it the Emir of Qatar, as some of their minions seem to claim, although before last year, before-Trump and his Kushner baggage, many of them were claiming that Israel helped create ISIS).
In recent months, as I follow Salafists, and some Gulf Muslim Brotherhood members, on media and social media, I notice the effect of their dilemma. Some of their most outspoken commentators and rabble rousers are silent for now. Uncharacteristically silent. As if shocked by this turn of events in Riyadh, as if they are waiting to see where it leads to. Here they were pushing their own countries, like Kuwait and others, to impose restrictions on social life and on education, along the sectarian model of Saudi Arabia. Yet now Prince MbS seems to have pulled the rug from under their feet.
I wish him well in his attempts to open up Saudi Arabia and diversify it. I don’t wish him well in his attempts to pull America into his plans for a sectarian war in the Persian Gulf region. He does not need my wishes for his genocidal war on Yemen: it is clearly a hopeless quagmire, a failed war, just as I wrote here about three years ago.
It is now in Donald Trump’s hands: will he be foolish enough to rush into taking sides in a disastrous new sectarian war in our region? Will he take the tempting money, the bait being offered by this Saudi prince (and others in the Gulf) and start a war of choice with Iran? A war that will be a folly, just as this Saudi prince’s war on Yemen has turned out to be…….
Other relevant posts to enjoy:
–Norah O’Donnell Interviews Prince MBS, Sans Pom Poms…..
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum