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Boba Borojevic | Columns | serbianna.com
Wahhabis endangering Serbia
By Boba Borojevic
April 4, 2007

Four members of an ultraconservative Muslim sect, known as Wahhabis, have been arrested following a raid on a mountain terrorist training camp in the Rashka region of south-western Serbia on March 18. A large supply of weapons, ammunition, hand grenades, facemasks and plastic explosive with detonators was also discovered at a cave at Ninaja Mountain, 30 kilometres from Novi Pazar.

A judge ordered the four to be detained for 30 days to allow police and intelligence officials to investigate their alleged activities at the training site. Dragan Jocic, the Serbian interior affairs minister, said: “We are determined to prevent any form of violence and terrorism. We are continuing to comb the terrain and search for other members of the group.”

Wahhabism, a new threat to the Serbian society at large

Srdja Trifkvic, an expert on this subject is the author of two books on Islam, “ Defeating Jihad” and “The Sword of the Prophet.” He cautions that Wahhabi terrorism is by no means the only form of jihad that threatens the rest of the world:

Jihad is an integral Islamic concept, built into its basic tenets and common to all Islamic activists, regardless of whether they regard themselves as followers of Wahhabism or not. Jihad, the holy war, is inseparable from the mainstream teaching of orthodox Islam from the earliest days of Muhammad’s career until our own time. It is therefore not an exclusive province of Wahhabi teaching and practice.

Let it be noted that people who are “Wahhabists” do not use that term to describe themselves.  The followers of Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahab, the Saudi theologian and Islamic thinker who lived around 1703 to1792, usually describe themselves as “Unitarians,” or else as “Salafis,” meaning followers of pious forefathers – although not all Salafis are necessarily Wahhabists.

Origins and teaching of Wahhabism

It is almost three centuries since Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab was born, but his legacy is alive and well. Wahhab was a zealous Muslim revivalist (b. 1703) who lived in the period of the Ottoman Empire’s early decline. He considered that Islam in general, and Arabia in particular, needed to be spiritually and literally purified and returned to the true tenets of the faith. From the Sufis he took the concept of a fraternal religious order, but rejected initiation rituals and music in any form. He also condemned the decorations of mosques and sinful frivolities such as smoking tobacco. He gave rise to a movement that sees itself as the guardian of “true” Islamic values. His ideas were espoused in the Book of Unity, which gave rise to the name of the movement, al-Muwahhidun, or Unitarians.

Srdja Trifkovic
By the middle of the eighteenth century, Wahhab found a politically powerful backer for his religious cause. In 1744 he struck a partnership with Muhammad ibn-Saud, the leader of a powerful clan in central Arabia, and moved to his “capital,” the settlement of ad-Dir’yah (Riyadh). Since that time the fortunes of the Wahhabis and the Ibn Saud family have been intertwined. Under Ibn-Saud’s successor, Abdul-Aziz, the Wahhabis struck out of their desert base at Najd with fury unseen in a millennium. In what looked for a while like the repetition of Muhammad’s and the early Caliphs’ phenomenal success a thousand years earlier, they temporarily captured Mecca and Medina and marched into Mesopotamia, forcing the Ottoman governor to negotiate humiliating terms, and invaded Syria. This was an unacceptable challenge to the Sultan, the heir to the caliphate and “protector of the holy places.” In 1818 the Turks broke the first Wahhabi state.

Almost century later, in 1902, a daring and bellicose prince of the Ibn-Saud family, named after Abdul-Aziz the warrior, returned with 40 horsemen and took control of Riyadh. That was the beginning of his campaign to recover control over Arabia. In 1912 the Wahhabi revival prompted the founding of a religious settlement at Artawiyah, 300 miles north of Riyadh, under the auspices of the Ikhwan, the Brotherhood. This was an Arabian variety of Puritanism, in which people were dragged from their homes and whipped for failing to attend Friday prayers.

As the First World War engulfed not only Europe but also the Middle East, with Turkey allied with the Central Powers, chaos and lawlessness prevailed in Arabia. The followers of Wahhab proved to be an able and fanatical fighting force, securing victory for Ibn Saud, their leader and the founder of the present royal dynasty. In 1926 they proclaimed Abdul-Aziz the king of Hejaz, and within a decade he had united the rest of Arabia and imposed on them the Wahhabist view of the world and faith.

Kingdom of intolerance

Wahhabism is unmistakably “mainstream” in its demand for the return to the original glory of the early Islamic Ummah. The descendants of Abdul Wahhab are still heading the Saudi religious establishment. They resisted the introduction of “infidel” contraptions such as radio, cars, and television, relenting only when the king promised to use those new media to promote the faith. They stopped the importation of all alcohol, until then sold to foreigners (1952), and banned women driving motor vehicles (1957). A State Department report on human rights in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia offers an accurate glimpse of what is in store for any society in which Wahhabism is triumphant:

“Freedom of religion does not exist. Islam is the official religion, and all citizens must be Muslims. Neither the government nor society in general accepts the concepts of separation of religion and state, and such separation does not exist. Under Shari’a, conversion by a Muslim to another religion is considered apostasy… a crime punishable by death if the accused does not recant. Islamic religious education is mandatory in public schools at all levels. All children receive religious instruction. . . . Citizens do not have the right to change their government. The Council of Senior Islamic Scholars . . . reviews the government’s public policies for compliance with Shari’a. The government [views] Islamic law as the only necessary guide to protect human rights. There is legal and systemic discrimination based on sex and religion.”

Wahhabi and application of Shari’a Law

The Saudi religious police, known as the Committee to Promote Virtue and Prevent Vice, routinely intimidate, abuse, and detain citizens and foreigners. The authorities abuse detainees, using beatings, sleep deprivation, and torture. Punishments include flogging, amputation, and execution by beheading, stoning, or firing squad. Over a thousand people have been executed over the past decade: the men are executed by beheading, and the women by firing squad. There were 27 amputations in 2000, including 7 multiple amputations (right hand, left leg). Persons convicted of less serious offenses, such as alcohol-related offenses, or being alone in the company of an unrelated person of the opposite sex, are flogged with a cane.

The purpose of the Wahhabi religious establishment

The king of the Saudis remains their imam. He and the Wahhabi religious establishment see it as their inviolable and sacred duty and purpose to evangelize the world, and the Saudi oil money has paid for the construction of thousands of mosques and Islamic centers all over the world. All along, needless to say, no churches can be built in Saudi Arabia itself... The acceptance of Saudi generosity is very often accompanied by the demand that a Saudi trained, i.e. Wahhabist, imam is accepted as the cleric in the given location. We have seen that pattern repeated all over the world – in Great Britain, for example, in an important center of Islamic population in the city of Leicester, or in the now defunct North Finsbury mosque, which had been a hotbed of radicalism in London. The Saudis have managed to export Wahhabism fueled by the oil money and facilitated by the liberal - democratic tolerance of the western world, where this strain of Islam, even though it utterly rejects any form of pluralism and long-term coexistence with other cultures and faiths, nevertheless demands acceptance as a legitimate participant in the society’s religious diversity.

Wahhabism and detrimental western policy in the Balkans

Western intervention in the Balkans in the 1990s has enabled Islamic extremism, including Wahhabism, to penetrate into the Balkans. The connection has already been established between similar camps in Bosnia and Islamic terrorist activities all over the world. The Serbian authorities now need to establish beyond reasonable doubt whether the camps uncovered by the security forces are indeed “Wahhabist,” in terms not only of the personal allegiance and commitment of its members but also in terms of the cell’s connection with some external sources of financing and teaching.

As far as the Saudi strategy is concerned, they often find it more advisable to avoid terrorist actions. Terrorism awakens the targeted society to the danger that it faces, and forces it into action event when it is otherwise complacent or not prepared to confront the threat head-on before it becomes acute.

The focus on the mainstream, i.e. non-Wahhabist leadership among the Slavic Muslims and Muslim Albanians in the former Yugoslavia is on the continued demographic expansion of their communities, notably in the region of Raska (“Sandzak”) in southwestern Serbia, where the exodus of the local Serbs is continuing quietly but continuously. If this trend continues, the Muslims may well be able to realize part of their dream of the Green Transverse. It is the geopolitical project that connects Istanbul in the southeast with the northwestern-most point of Islamic penetration in the Balkans in the area of Cazin in northwest Bosnia.

On balance, the Wahhabists affiliation of the suspects arrested in Novi Pazar does not necessarily reflect the long-term strategy of their paymasters or instructors based in Saudi Arabia, because the Saudis prefer to avoid terrorism: they believe that they can achieve their objectives by ostensibly legitimate means. It is of course possible that a homebred group of self-starters inspired by Wahhabist teaching had decided to start this activity on their own, or with the support of a foreign like-minded group that is not necessarily a part of the Saudi-controlled Wahhabi mainstream.
Western governments have facilitated Islamic objectives

It is unfortunate that Serbia is facing obstacles in its struggle against Islamic terrorism from those same governments that claim to be fighting it themselves. By supporting the Ahtisaari’s plan for Kosovo’s independence, many Western governments are effectively working to support the establishment of a black hole of criminal lawlessness and jihad terrorism in the heart of Europe. Some of the E.U. governments are aware of the problem, but they are not particularly influential. Romania, Slovakia, and less openly Greece, Cyprus, Spain and Italy, are far from enthusiastic about Ahtisaari’s proposal.

The manner in which western policies have facilitated Islamic objectives in the Balkans over the past fifteen years is something of a taboo in the West. Washington and Brussels have preferred to be in a state of permanent denial about the existence of the Islamist threat in the former Yugoslavia, even though Western law-enforcement officials and anti-terrorism experts are perfectly well aware that there is hardly a terrorist action around the world that does not have a Balkan connection. They have sowed the seeds of terrorist infiltration through their policy, and what they have reaped so far was unfortunately to be expected. Innocent people who were not privy to those decisions, and who were misinformed about those decisions by the mainstream media, are paying the price.

Boba Borojevic
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