The Saudis — the main origin of Islamic State

Just finished reading Hassan Hassan’s extremely informative article on the origin of the Islamic State, which tries to explain its origins. Hassan (who I consider a personal friend) makes it clear at the start that no simple explanation can be made. He cites several different factors as part of a complicated puzzle that eventually led to the organization’s creation.

Despite his caveat against simple solutions, I decided to quote all of the sentences that point to Saudi Arabia, its government, its clerics and some of its citizens as part of the explanation of the creation of the Islamic State. Yes, others factors are implicated, but Saudi Arabia seem to be a defining thread. (Feel free to scroll down to the conclusion, since it’s a long list.)

“The Islamic State largely borrowed from Wahhabism the penal code that is already institutionalized in Saudi Arabia and practiced less systematically in other Muslim countries.”
“Many of the extremist religious concepts that undergird the Islamic State’s ideology are rooted in a battle of ideas best understood in the context of Saudi Arabia’s Sahwa (Islamic Awakening) movement in the 1970s, and a similar movement in Egypt, as well as in other countries.”
“In Saudi Arabia, the Sahwa generation moved away from the Najdi school, the adopted name for the Wahhabi clerical establishment. The practice of takfir, or excommunication after one Muslim declares another an infidel or apostate, became increasingly prominent, first during the 1960s in Egypt and then after the first Gulf War in the 1990s when veterans of the jihad in Afghanistan began to apostatize Saudi Arabia for hosting and supporting Western troops to fight Iraq’s then leader, Saddam Hussein.”
“The Islamic State typically uses their material to justify the takfir of the Saudi state and Muslim rulers across the Middle Eastern region and to support the rejection of all official institutions and forces within those countries.”
“Sources include Saudi clerics Khalid al-Rashed, Nasir al-Fahd, Sulaiman bin Nasser al-Alwan, Omar bin Ahmed al-Hazimi, Ali bin Khidr al-Khudayr, and Hamud bin Uqla al-Shuaibi. Others include al-Qaeda ideologues Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi and Abdul Qadir bin Abdul Aziz.”
“Four of these clerics — al-Fahd, al-Alwan, al-Khudayr, and al-Shuaibi — were part of a network that heavily influenced al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia in the early 2000s as well as the transnational jihadi movement.”
“Al-Maqdisi, who grew up in Kuwait and studied in Iraq and Saudi Arabia in the 1980s, directly influenced the Islamic State’s founder, al-Zarqawi, and the two were jailed together in Jordan between 1993 and 1999.”
“In another book, The Unspoken Scandals on the Apostasy of the Saudi State, al-Maqdisi declares Saudi Arabia an infidel state.”
“Abdul Aziz’s explanation, as quoted by al-Anbari, is directed at former Saudi mufti Abd al-Aziz Ibn Baz, who argued that membership in a parliament depended on the intention of the member.”
“According to an online biography, al-Binali is a disciple of Salman al-Awda, a prominent figure in Saudi Arabia’s Sahwa.”
“Al-Binali has also been influenced by Abdul-Aziz al-Tarifi, a well-known Saudi cleric from the Sahwa generation, who was arrested by Saudi authorities in April 2016 presumably for criticizing Riyadh’s Western-driven religious reforms.”
“In July 2015, he threatened attacks against Shia mosques in Bahrain in the wake of Islamic State suicide bombings of Shia mosques in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.”
“The influence of Sahwa-era scholars does not, of course, absolve Salafism, particularly the Saudi version, of its contribution to legitimizing groups such as the Islamic State.”
“The Islamic State deliberately employs unusual punishments to shock observers and to highlight similar incidents in Islamic history, as followers of Saudi extremist Juhayman al-Utaybi did in the case of rituals in the 1970s.”

Saudi Arabia is a fundamental part of the Islamic State evolution. Others have also pointed to the Saudis.

This carefully constructed New York Times article, for instance, pieces together how Kosovo went from a moderate Muslim country in the early 2000s to the country with the most citizens rushing to fight alongside Islamic State. Here’s a choice quote:

Saudi diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks in 2015 reveal a system of funding for mosques, Islamic centers and Saudi-trained clerics that spans Asia, Africa and Europe. In New Delhi alone, 140 Muslim preachers are listed as on the Saudi Consulate’s payroll.

Other news orgs have found similar ties between Saudis and the Islamic State. Slate stated plainly:

In the past few decades, the Saudi regime has spent an estimated $100 billion exporting its extremist interpretation of Islam worldwide. It infuses its fundamentalist ideology in the ostensible charity work it performs, often targeting poor Muslim communities in countries like Pakistan or places like refugee camps, where uneducated, indigent, oppressed people are more susceptible to it.

Slate also made the case that Saudi’s internal legal policies also support the type of savagery we’ve seen from Islamic State. On January 2 alone, they beheaded 47 people.

Yes, the Islamic State’s origins are complicated. But, we shouldn’t ignore the elephant in the room.