A new article by Patrick Cockburn at The Independent, a UK online newspaper, argues that the recent terrorist attack in Manchester and similar attacks across the globe can be attributed to the Islamic Wahhabism belief system which has its roots in Saudi Arabia. He asserts that Western governments – particularly the U.S. and U.K. – are reluctant to place the blame on Wahhabism, because they do not wish to anger the Saudis, and therefore instead place blame more generically on “radical Islam.”
Cockburn’s point is that until Wahhabism is called out as the problem, a solution to Islamic terrorism will be elusive. Simply pinning “radical Islam” as the culprit is not specific enough to lead to solutions.
Indeed, the U.S. and U.K. have been reliant on Saudi Arabia for decades, both for oil as well as for geo-political support in the Middle East. Particularly with the downfall of a strong Iraq, the resultant rise of Iran, and the slide of Turkey into the Islamic abyss and the Russian embrace, Saudi Arabia is the strongest counter to Iran in the region. For these reasons, calling out Saudi Arabia for actively supporting and spreading Wahhabism is problematic.
What is Wahhabism? It is a reactionary branch of Sunni Islam which, as mentioned, arose in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis actively promote and seek to spread Wahhabism abroad, although not necessarily promoting the terrorist groups which hold to Wahhabist belief. Wahhabism pushes a strict, literal interpretation of the Koran and views any who do not hold the same beliefs as kafir (a derogatory term for unbelievers). Those who are kafir may be deceived, held as slaves, tortured, and killed.
This is exactly what the groups who trace their lineage to Wahhabism do. What do al-Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram, and al-Shabaab have in common? They are all Wahhabist groups. They have spread throughout the Middle East and Africa, like a cancer, enslaving and killing those they encounter who disagree with their beliefs.
Now, Wahhabism has struck in Manchester, England, killing a crowd of young women and girls exiting that most Western of events, a music concert.