About 2.4% of Germany's 80,000,000 strong population is Turkish, which is nearly 2,000,000 people. Naturally, the leaders of this minority were keen to have religious instruction provided in state schools. The Turkish government offered to send educational materials for use by German schools in providing this education, but German law dictates that materials like these must come from the local community, so as not to be dictated by a foreign government. As naive Western leaders often do, they overlooked one thing: the duplicity of Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi government and private individuals within the government, which is very prone to financial leaks, funnel huge amounts of money into spreading the word of the state religion, Wahhabism, throughout the ummah. With oil money, Wahhabi missionaries traverse the globe spreading their version of the faith with them, building mosques and providing imams. I've described their actions elsewhere on this site, covering events in Mali. A similar pattern was emerging in Kosovo during the 1998 conflict, and in Bosnia earlier in the decade.
Closer to home, Saudi Arabia is playing with fire. A recent study of Arab jihadis in Iraq who have died since the Battle of Fallujah in late 2004 surveyed 154 dead, finding that 94 were of Saudi origin - the next largest group were Syrians, who comprised 16 members in the group.1 Of 33 suicide bombers in the list, 23 had been Saudi. "Particularly striking is the absence of Egyptians among foreign Arab volunteers for the insurgency in Iraq, even though Egypt is the largest Arab country, with millions of sympathizers of Islamist groups." Egypt has been relatively successful in suppressing the Muslim Brotherhood2, but Saudi Arabia positively encourages jihadis to head north. And this despite the obvious danger the Iraqi brigade will pose to them in the future, as the Afghan brigade still does.
Given their lack of reservation about such activity when it poses a danger to them in the Middle East, it should come as less of a surprise that they have even fewer scruples operating in the West. Stephen Schwartz, our most vigilant watcher and zealous critic of the Saudi elite, has documented their activities in America and to an extent in Europe in a recently updated book.3 Germany especially has become a centre of jihadi activity, although there hasn't been an attack in the country since the La Belle discotheque bombing in 1986, which was co-ordinated by Libya and targeted against US soldiers.
The most obvious link between Germany and international Islamist terrorism in recent years has been the Hamburg cell, whose activities and motives are documented in the 9/11 Commission Report.4 The four men became radicalized while in Germany, and were convinced to travel to Afghanistan to engage in jihad at the urging of Mohammad Haydar Zammar, a 'flamboyant Islamist' who had fought in Afghanistan. The group coalesced around a mosque in Berlin called Quds, which had supposedly been established to promote Muslim-Christian unity. From there they travelled to Afghanistan, perhaps to go to Chechnya, but most likely motivated by their vitriolic anti-Americanism: just what Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and OBL were looking for in a potential hijacker. They proved especially useful due to their knowledge of Western culture.
This brings us back to German schools. Having rejected the textbooks from Turkey, the German government looked to local private Muslim institutions. And, unsurprisingly, says Bernard Lewis, it was "the Wahhabis who had the necessary combination of passion, money, and a complete lack of scruples."5 The result: the Islam taught in Turkish schools is pluralist, tolerant and secularized, whereas that taught in German schools is Wahhabi in colour. Turkey teaches the Islam which predominates throughout most of the world, a religion of peace and coexistence with other faiths, whereas many Western mosques have been colonized by a violent and rejectionist strain of the faith. And this surely explains the remarkable fact that of the 12 Turks who have been arrested for links to al-Qaeda, all 12 were born and educated in Germany, not Turkey.
"Behind every Muslim terrorist is a radical imam," explains the former head of the French counterterrorism unit, Louis Caprioli. He should know. One suburb of Lyon, Vénissieux, was home to a particularly radical cleric, Chelali Benchellali; this suburb was home to three of the seven French prisoners at Guantanamo (most likely picked up in Afghanistan), and two men who were connected on charges of terrorism and blood relations of the mastermind of the Djerba synagogue bombing in Tunisia in April 2002. Radical imams have proliferated throughout Europe and America in the last several decades, and only now are we starting to wake up to Saudi religious colonialism.
Nor is this just an issue for the West; it is an issue for Muslims too. Non-radical Muslim parents despair of their children being taken over by the fanaticism of jihad, and Muslim states fear they will be attacked by fundamentalists. Zarqawi's plan for a gigantic chemical attack in Amman, which could have killed 80,000 people, is a prime example.6 Kuwait has recently been forced to crack down on fundamentalist teachers in its country following fears for its internal security and its relations with the United States.7 Former Kuwaiti oil minister Ali al-Baghli wrote in the Kuwait daily Al Qabas on February 2: "What is needed is to cut off the snake's head, namely the masters of terror and all those who propagate terror in mosques and the media." These words are no less true in Europe.
Recently a number of reports have been released by Western organizations and governments addressing the problem of Saudi money and its role in radicalization. The Dutch government has released a report entitled "Saudi influences in the Netherlands: Links between the Salafist mission, radicalisation processes and Islamic terrorism".8 The Center for Religious Freedom in the USA has published an analysis of Saudi educational materials in use in America.9 Just a few quotes picked at random from the latter report of materials distributed by the Saudi government, an example of material distributed from Berlin to San Diego -
"It is basic Islam to believe that everyone who does not embrace Islam is an unbeliever, and must be called an unbeliever, and that they are enemies to Allah, his Prophet and believers."
"Whoever believes that churches are houses of God and that God is worshipped therein, or that what Jews and Christians do constitutes the worship of God and obedience to Him and His Prophet, or that God likes such practices and approves of them; and whoever assists them to keep their churches open and to establish their religion, and does so out of a feeling of kinship or out of a sense of obedience—whoever does all these things is an infidel."
The fact much of this material has been in Arabic up until now has precluded its serious analysis by the Western public, but it is time the West addressed this issue for the sake of peaceful coexistence between Suuni and Shi'i, and between Muslim, Christian and Jew. It is only in the interest of the Wahhabi for this hate ideology and narrow interpretation of Islam to be propagated throughout the world, yet they have had amazing success in doing so; not only in war-torn Chechnya and Iraq, but in the unsuspecting West. Unwitting Western governments need to act quickly before more lives are stolen by intolerant extremists in the name of an innocent religion, as our permissive societies provide a perfect culture in which this mould can grow - especially when watered by Saudi oil money, money we give them so we can drive our cars.
1. Reuven Paz, "Arab volunteers killed in Iraq: an Analysis", PRISM Series of Global Jihad, No. 1/3 - March 2005, http://www.eprism.org/images/PRISM_no_1_vol_3__Arabs_killed_in_Iraq.pdf. The document includes an analysis of the social and geographical origins of the fighters, providing an insight into the demographics of Islamic fundamentalism.
2. The godfather of Islamic fundamentalism, whose images and messages recur frequently in the statements of OBL and Zarqawi, was Sayyid Qutb. Qutb was a member of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood who penned his Ma'alim fi-l-Tariq (Milestones) in 1964, two years before being executed by Egypt. Many consider this work to be the start of modern Islamism. His brother, Muhammad Qutb, became a professor of Islamic studies in Saudi Arabia, where he made a devout follower of Ayman Zawahiri, one-time head of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad organization (which assassinated Anwar Sadat in 1981 before merging with al-Qaeda), and now mentor to OBL and spiritual head of al-Qaeda. The Muslim Brotherhood, for its part, spreads anti-American propaganda but does not advocate an armed jihad in Iraq.
3. Stephen Scwartz, The Two Faces of Islam: Saudi Fundamentalism and its Role in Terrorism (Random House, 2004). See also Daniel Pipes, Militant Islam Reaches America (W.W. Norton & Company, 2003). It is interesting to compare the activities of Saudi Wahhabists with anti-Saudi Wahhabis/Salafists, of which Osama is the prime example. For instance, the UK's foremost radical cleric, Omar Bakri Muhammad, was expelled from Saudi Arabia. He has held meetings of radical clerics, dubbed celebrations, on the anniversary of 9/11 for the past three years, and has advocated the killing of British civilians. His liberty in this country, which should never have been granted, will surely soon expire.
4. The activities of the cell from their first individual entry into Germany until they depart for the United States are detailed on pp. 160 - 69 of the print edition.
5. http://weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/005/300ezrxt.asp. Professor Lewis is much maligned, but a reading of his work shows it to be surprisingly balanced and unlike its caricature.
6. http://www.khaleejtimes.com/DisplayArticle.asp?xfile=data/middleeast/2005/February/middleeast_February702.xml§ion=middleeast&col=. Zarqawi faces the death penalty if he ever returns to Jordan; nine of the conspirators involved in this plot have requested it so God may be their judge.
7. http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/0211/p06s01-wome.html . "These incidents have turned the majority of the religious believers against the militant trend," says Shafeeq Ghabra, president of the American University of Kuwait. "They are asking how it is possible that their 15- or 16-year-old sons can be recruited by militants to murder in the name of God."
9. "SAUDI PUBLICATIONS ON HATE IDEOLOGY INVADE AMERICAN MOSQUES", http://www.freedomhouse.org/religion/news/bn2005/bn-2005-01-28.htm