Counter-Terrorism: Islamic Moderates Are Not The Solution

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January 1, 2014: One of the many things the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings revealed about the Arab world was that there was less difference between “moderate” and “radical” Islam than many outside the Moslem world had believed. This explains a lot, like why moderate Moslems are generally incapable to restraining Islamic radicals; except when the radicals are using terrorism directly against the moderates.  Such was the case in 2003 when some of the Islamic radicals long resident in Saudi Arabia began using terror attacks against the Saudi government. The Saudis may have been relatively moderate Moslems but they did not manage to win control over most of Arabia and establish their own kingdom there by being wimps. The Saudi Islamic terrorists were crushed and chased out of the country.

How this happened says much about what is possible and what is improbable when it comes to dealing with Islamic terrorism. The Saud clan has been followers of the strict Wahhabi sect of Islam since the 1700's and kingdom founder Abdul Aziz was strict enough in his religious practices to win the approval of the most orthodox Moslems in Arabia. Like many Islamic “moderates” the Sauds believed in Islamic rule and practiced what they preached by turning Saudi Arabia into an Islamic kingdom. While Islamic radicals like to vest (in theory) supreme political in clerics, successful Islamic rulers are more practical and keep the clerics out of the key decision making. At the same time, to found an Islamic state you must be ready to apply force when necessary. Many examples of that can be found with the Sauds.

For example, in Arabia there had long been a warrior brotherhood called the Ikhwan. This group had been prominent in the early history of Wahhabism but had died out by the late 1800's. The original Ikhwan was drawn from settled Arabs. The early 20th century revival was among the nomadic Bedouin. When the new Ikhwan came to Abdul Aziz's attention, he first checked them out to make sure they were the real thing, and then provided money, weapons and other aid. With the support of the powerful and popular Abdul Aziz, the Ikhwan became the Saudi shock troops. The Ikhwan warriors were fierce and disdainful of death. They behaved as if they were reincarnations of the 7th century Arab warriors who spread Islam from the Atlantic to the Pacific.  The Ikhwan provided the glue that kept the Saudi alliance together during the 1920's as the Saudis conquered the remaining independent tribes and clans of Arabia and created Saudi Arabia.

By furnishing land (or, rather, oases and their invaluable water) for the Ikhwan warriors to build their fortified mosques, Abdul Aziz soon had (by 1917) 200 Ikhwan settlements populated by 250,000 people (60,000 of them warriors). But the fervor of the Ikhwan could get out of hand. The orthodoxy of the Ikhwan rejected most modern devices. Everything that was not mentioned in the Koran was suspect, and subject to destruction by the Ikhwan zealots. The rifle and some other modern weapons were a curious exception.

Despite their usefulness, the Ikhwan eventually became a liability in the late 1920s. That’s because the British guaranteed (and guarded) the borders of Jordan, Syria and Iraq after these states were created from the wreckage of the Ottoman Empire after World War I (1914-18). The Ikhwan cared nothing for these infidel restrictions. In response to that disdain (and raids in territory under British protection) Abdul Aziz spent two years fighting the Ikhwan, eventually bringing them to heel in 1930 without leaving lasting tensions in the kingdom.

The Saudis are Islamic conservatives and moderate compared to Islamic radicals mainly because they are rational and willing to compromise to avoid annihilation. The Saudis are much less willing to stick their necks out for infidels (non-Moslems). Islam honors lying for the cause (of Islam) and thus before and after September 11, 2001 you had prominent Saudis denying Saudi Arabia was involved in terrorist plots against the West. Even though 79 percent of the September 11, 2001 attackers were Saudis, it is still popular among Saudis (including government officials) to blame the attacks on the CIA and Israel. In short, Islamic moderates can be as deceptive and dangerous as Islamic terrorists, but are not suicidal about it. Thus years of pressure on the Saudi government to crack down on wealthy Saudis (including members of the Saud clan) providing financial assistance (and many of their sons) to Islamic terrorist groups has reduced the Saudi cash flowing to Islamic terrorists but has not been able to stop it.

The Saudis see Islamic radicals as dangerous only when they are a threat to Saudi Arabia. Otherwise a lot of Saudis will cheer the Islamic terrorists on when they attack the West or Moslem foes (like Iran). For the West, Islamic moderates like this are not the solution.

 

 


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