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IS- a serious threat not only to Europe and the United States but also to the Saudi Arabia

IS's campaign against Saudi interests has increased as the kingdom has become more involved in the U.S.-led coalition fighting IS in Syria and Iraq. Saudi Arabia is a major hub for intelligence-gathering against IS

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FILE- Religious flags, photographs and tributes to 21 victims of a suicide bombing, claimed by the Islamic State group, of a Shi'ite mosque are seen attached to their graves at a cemetery in Qudeeh, Saudi Arabia, May 30, 2015. -VOA
  • Saudi Security forces say they detained 17 people this week who belonged to three cells that had ties with IS
  • Hundreds of people with alleged ties ti IS have been arrested since IS declared war on the Kingdom in 2014
  • Besides undermining the Kingdom through violence, IS also wants to undercut the belief system of the monarch known as Wahhabism

27 Sept, 2016: Saudi Arabia is fighting a growing threat from the Islamic State that is both breeding homegrown terrorists and using the kingdom’s conservative religious teachings to undermine the monarchy.

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Saudi security forces say they detained 17 people this week who belonged to three cells that had ties with IS. The government said the suspects were reportedly planning four major attacks on security and economic targets in the country, according to the state-run Saudi Press Agency.

Hundreds of people with alleged ties to IS have been arrested since IS declared war on the kingdom in 2014. Saudi officials said IS-affiliated terror cells carried out several deadly shootings and bombings, many of them targeting security forces and Shi’ite mosques.

IS “presents a very serious threat, not just to Europe and the United States … but inside of Saudi Arabia,” John Brennan, the director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, said recently.

For Saudi Arabia, battling IS presents a double challenge. Besides undermining the kingdom through violence, IS also wants to undercut the belief system of the monarch known as Wahhabism.

Doctrine’s birthplace

Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Wahhabism, an austere Sunni doctrine credited with inspiring the radical ideology of IS. The Islamic State group accuses the Saudi monarchy of using Wahhabism to legitimize its rule, particularly with its custodianship of Mecca and Medina, Islam’s holiest sites. Saudi groups linked to the conservative theology have been accused of sending funds to help IS expand abroad.

FILE - In this image taken from video provided by Saudi TV, burned-out cars are seen as investigators collect evidence in the aftermath of a suicide bomb outside the Imam Hussein mosque in the port city of Dammam, Saudi Arabia, May 29, 2015. The Islamic State group said one of its soldiers had carried out the attack. -VOA
FILE – In this image taken from video provided by Saudi TV, burned-out cars are seen as investigators collect evidence in the aftermath of a suicide bomb outside the Imam Hussein mosque in the port city of Dammam, Saudi Arabia, May 29, 2015. The Islamic State group said one of its soldiers had carried out the attack. -VOA

“IS has two primary objectives in Saudi Arabia,” said Abdullah Ghawdi, a journalist at the Saudi Okaz newspaper in Riyadh. “One is to undermine the Saudi security forces and the other one is to target religious scholars.”

In July, before the start of the pilgrimage season, IS-linked militants staged a suicide attack in Mecca and Medina, killing several security officers. IS has also been behind attacks on mosques belonging to the Shi’ite minority in the eastern part of the country.

“Salafi jihadism was originated in Saudi Arabia,” said F. Gregory Gause III, a professor of international affairs at Texas A&M University who monitors developments in the kingdom. “But the Saudi government says that the ideology [IS] has embraced is deviant.”

IS’s campaign against Saudi interests has increased as the kingdom has become more involved in the U.S.-led coalition fighting IS in Syria and Iraq. Saudi Arabia is a major hub for intelligence-gathering against IS.

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And IS also has become active in neighboring Yemen, claiming responsibility for killing dozens in August in a suicide bombing. Saudi Arabia and its allies have intervened with airstrikes and military power in the Yemen conflict in support of the exiled Yemeni government.

Directed from top command

Unlike the majority of lone wolf attacks carried out by IS followers in the West, IS attacks in Saudi Arabia have been engineered from the top IS command in Syria and Iraq, analysts say.

“Most of the terror attacks in the kingdoms and the foiled ones have had direct ties [with militants] in Syria and Iraq,” said Abdulaziz Sager, who heads the Gulf Research Center, a Saudi think tank.

IS is finding fertile recruiting ground among jihadists who fought for radical Islamist causes abroad, analysts say.

FILE- In this photo released by the Saudi Press Agency SPA, Saudi security forces check the damaged mosque inside a police compound after a suicide bombing attack in the city of Abha, provincial capital of Asir, Saudi Arabia, Aug. 6, 2015. An ISIS affiliate claimed responsibility for the attack. -VOA
FILE- In this photo released by the Saudi Press Agency SPA, Saudi security forces check the damaged mosque inside a police compound after a suicide bombing attack in the city of Abha, provincial capital of Asir, Saudi Arabia, Aug. 6, 2015. An ISIS affiliate claimed responsibility for the attack. -VOA

“Many Saudi radicals had joined terrorist organizations in Iraq and Afghanistan,” journalist Ghawdi told VOA. “Some of them have returned to Saudi Arabia.”

The government has sponsored a rehabilitation program to help reform jihadists. Many of them have been able to return to society. But the rise of IS led some to radicalize again, Ghawadi said.

“Many have joined IS because it was easy to travel to Turkey and cross the border to Syria,” he said. “They have maintained contacts with other radicals back home.”

Saudi officials have taken steps to limit IS’s influence by initiating reforms in the ultrareligious Saudi education system to remove materials from textbooks that could be used by recruiters to radicalize students.

“Our curriculum is currently clear of any texts that might be misunderstood and misused by citizens,” said Sadaqa Fadel, a member of the Saudi parliament, known as the Shura Council.

Anti-terror laws

The government also has passed several anti-terror laws “that are more effective in detecting terror cells and suspects,” Fadel said.

The 2016 U.S. State Department report on religious freedom credited Saudi Arabia with “making revisions to remove intolerant passages from textbooks and curriculum.” However, the report said the Saudi government still “remains uniquely repressive in the extent to which it restricts the public expression of any religion other than Islam.”

Saudi Arabia prohibits any non-Muslim public places of worship, and the report said “a 2014 law classifying blasphemy and advocating atheism as terrorism has been used to prosecute human rights defenders and others.”

Still, analysts say Saudi Arabia is likely to be targeted by more IS attacks, though IS’s impact is ultimately limited.

IS “poses a threat to Saudi Arabia’s stability,” Saudi watcher Gause said. “But it can’t threaten to overthrow the monarchy.” -VOA

-by Aakash Mandyal of NewsGram. Twitter: @Aakashsen6

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Rise of Wahhabism in Kashmir: Literature and Madrasas Radicalizing the Youth

The religious schools in the Kashmir valley have successfully radicalized the youth of the region and indoctrinated them with the Wahhabism school of thought in Islam

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Wahhabism in Kashmir
Youth has been active in the separatist movements against in the Indian Army. Twitter
  • Islamic religious schools, known as Madrasahs, is where the study of Islam takes place
  • The Sufi Islam, once cultural to the local Kashmir population, has gradually been replaced
  • The rise of Wahhabism is a significant reason as to the growing violence and reactions in the region

July 10, 2017: It can be seen how in the past decade there has been a shift from one school of thought in Islam to another. The traditional and moderate school, known as Hanafi/ Barelvi Islam, has been fading away while the radical and Saudi-induced Salafism/ Wahabism better known as Ahl-e-Hadith has become increasingly popular.

Last month, the clips of Mufti Shabir Ahmad Qasmi’s loud shouts of religious influence went viral on social media. It was the first time that a religious cleric had openly used his responsible position to support, and influence others to support, Zakir Musa, the former Hizbul commander. It is believed that the video instantly turned many to followers of Musa, mentioned TOI report.

The mosques in Kashmir have always been used to benefit religiously and politically, and especially the increase in their demands for a separate state since 1989 when militancy broke out.

Muzafil, a Sufi practitioner, explains to TOI that even though Moulana Abdul Rashid Dawoodi among many other Hanafi clerics are trying to suppress and oppose this rising fascination with Wahhabism, the attendance in major Sufi gatherings is nonetheless decreasing. Dr. Abdul Latif, the general secretary of the Ahl-e-Hadith, estimates one million out of the total six million Muslims in the valley are now followers of their organization, highlighting the swift rise in a number of followers.

ALSO READ: Kashmiri Pandits Demand The Status of “Internally Displaced People”

Wahhabism, funded majorly for by the Arabs, combines the pre-existing schools of thought such as Deobandi and Jamat-e-Islami. Interestingly, Shabir Ahmad Qasmi, the Mufti who made a plea in support of Zakir Musa, is a Deobandi from Jamati background.

The transition from one Islam movement to another is a threat to the stability of Kashmir region. Sarjan Barkati earned himself the title of “Pied Piper of Kashmir” as he glorified the Hizbul commander Burhan Wani who intended to establish an Islamic caliphate. Sarjan, famously called the ‘Freedom Chacha’ in Kashmir, was a self-proclaimed Sufi cleric.

This incident brings to light the transition of ideology which then manifests itself into incidents like the mob lynching of deputy SP Ayub Pandith.

According to the TOI report, the majority of the people believe that Wahhabism had emerged after the killing of Burhan Wani, but it existed before. Maulana Mushtaq Ahmad Veeri was popular in 2015 for praising the ISIS and the caliph Al-Baghdadi. Very soon, ISIS flags were seen in Kashmir as a clear-cut sign of support. Additionally, Burhan Wani and Zakir Musa were declaring “Jihad for the caliphate.” More and more Kashmir youth thus became ISIS supporters.

Wahhabism
Burhan Wani, who became a popular face of the separatist movement in Kashmir. Twitter

Official sources of the TOI have also estimated that “there are over 7,500 mosques and seminaries in Kashmir, of which over 6,000 are Hanafi and around 200 are syncretic Sufi shrines. Ahl-e-Hadith, Deoband, and Jamat put together have just over 1,000 mosques and charity based seminaries, of which Ahl-e-Hadith has the largest number.” The reason for Ahl-e-Hadith’s growing popularity is its modern furnishing and other facilities. The Ahl-e-Hadith organization is widely acknowledged for funding numerous clinics and orphanages.

Ahl-e-Hadith mosques have doubled in the last 27 years. In the last decade alone, the state of Jammu & Kashmir has received somewhere between 10 to 100 crores from International donors. The top foreign nations who have funded the state are UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, all of which are not surprisingly Salafist practicing states.

A Shia Muslim in the TOI report reveals that the Kashmiri diaspora in the Middle East who send the radical literature through Hawala. Hence, a lot of Salafi writings are distributed for free on the streets of Kashmir.

The joint Hurriyat Conference, which split up in 2003, embedded Ahl-e-Hadith in their separatist movement. The Ahl-e-Hadith also has close relations with Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba.

The problem is not just confined to literature and Madrassas, but the internet as well. Radicalization through the internet and social media is dangerous as we have seen in the past. The glorification of separatist movements and leaders such as Wani are instantly shared among the 2.8 million mobile internet users. Thus, it is easy to reach out to the masses.

The data usage on mobile is higher in Kashmir as compared to other Indian states. The reason behind this, as one security official pointed out, was a lack of options for other entertainments. Cinemas and others were shut down in the state in the 1990s when militancy started opposing everything that was “against Islam”

The Hanafi school of Islam, which was once a dominant ideological path, is gradually fading only to be substituted by the reactionary form Wahhabism which was identified by the European Parliament as “the main source of global terrorism.”

Saudi Arabia has very strategically fueled Wahhabism in the Kashmir region. Successfully infiltrating this ideology in Pakistan, it slowly made its way into India. It very effectively indoctrinated the youth and made them distant to their Sufi culture.

– prepared by a Staff Writer of NewsGram 

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Saudi Cleric: Selfies with Cats ‘Prohibited’ in Saudi Arabia

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Selfie with a cat. Image source Wikimedia commons

An influential Saudi cleric says taking selfies with cats or other animals is “prohibited” unless completely necessary.

Sheikh Saleh Bin Fawzan Al-Fazwan, a member of the Saudi Council of Senior Scholars, was told about the trend among Saudis who “want to be like Westerners,” during an April 17 televised appearance that was posted by the Middle East Media Research Institute monitoring group.

Al-Fazwan replied: “What?! What do you mean pictures with cats? Taking pictures is prohibited. The cats don’t matter here. Taking pictures is prohibited if not for a necessity. Not with cats, not with dogs, not with wolves, not with anything.”

Taking pictures with pets is not the only Western habit to face scrutiny in the country where an ultraconservative strain of Islam, Wahhabism, is practiced.

Earlier this year, the Saudi grand mufti said the game of chess was forbidden because it encourages gambling. The Pokemon card game was also banned because the cards were said to have crosses and the Jewish Star of David on them,Newsweek reported.

According to The Washington Post, the sheikh’s view on cat selfies reflects a view by some hardliners in Saudi Arabia who want a total ban on photography because it is in conflict with Islam’s prohibition on depicting human or animal images.

However, the Post reports, the grand mufti allows himself to be photographed, so it’s unclear how much influence Al-Fawzan’s prohibition will have.

One lingering question remains: When is it ever completely necessary to take a selfie with a cat?

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Saudi Arabia: another name for ‘Jihadi factories’

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Photo source :http://assets.nydailynews.com/

Following is the summary of the views expressed by India’s well known security expert and geo-strategist Brahma Chellaney in his recent post at TheGlobeandMail.com. The link of the article is given below.

  • In the article Chellaney explains that modern day terrorism is derived from Wahhabism. In his words:”The Brussels bombings, as with the Paris terrorist attacks last year, show that jihadi-minded citizens of European Union states can turn into killers by imbibing the insidious ideology of Wahhabism.”
  • He further elaborates on the crucial role Saudi Arabia has played in the rise of Wahhabism. “Since the oil-price boom of the 1970s, Saudi Arabia has spent more than $200-billion on its global jihad project, including funding Wahhabi madrassas, mosques, clerics and books. Wahhabism legitimizes violent jihad with its call for a war on “infidels.”
  • Chellaney argues that the countries like Saudi Arabia are funding Wahhabism. To quote from his article: “The export of Wahhabism by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and some other oil sheikdoms is the source of modern Islamist terror. From Africa to Asia and now Europe, Arabian petrodollars have played a key role in fomenting militant Islamic fundamentalism that targets the West, Israel and India as its enemies.”
  • Chellaney has further stated that because of the resources, like oil, it has control over and the over the  top donations that the Saudi kings make ,the West has turned a blind eye towards them saying “How the Saudi kingdom buys up world leaders is apparent from the Malaysian attorney-general’s recent disclosure that $681-million (U.S.) deposited in Prime Minister Najib Razak’s personal bank account was a “personal donation” from the Saudi royals and that $620-million of it was returned. Saudi Arabia has also given between $10-million and $25-million to the Clinton Foundation.”
  • However of late, world leaders have started  acknowledging the connection of Jihad and Saudi Arabia. Here are a few noteworthy observations.

German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel  said : “We must make it clear to the Saudis that the time of looking the other way is over.”

“As U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden said in a 2014 speech at Harvard University, Saudi and other “allies’ policies wound up helping to arm and build allies of al-Qaeda and eventually the terrorist [Islamic State].”

“The late Singaporean leader Lee Kuan Yew correctly said in 2003 that winning the war on terror hinges more on controlling the “queen bees” – the “preachers” of the “deviant form of Islam” – than on simply killing the “worker bees” (terrorists).”

Brahma Chellaney is a geostrategist and author, most recently of Water, Peace, and War.

Link :Theglobeandmail.com