November 12, 2003


I'm not entirely sure that this story is true:

RIYADH (Reuters) - Muslim militants planning attacks in Saudi Arabia's holiest city, Mecca, booby-trapped copies of Islam's holy book, the Koran, to kill and maim pilgrims, a leading Saudi-owned newspaper has reported.

The London-based daily Asharq al-Awsat on Wednesday quoted Saudi security sources as saying that this novel weapon was discovered in the arms caches police found after raiding militant hideouts in Mecca and the capital Riyadh in recent weeks.

If the Saudi security sources -- or for that matter, the editors of Asharq al-Awsat, wanted to put out a story intended to inflame popular opinion amongst Muslims against al Qaeda, I imagine they'd be hard-pressed to come up with one better than this. (It's worth noting that, according to the last line in this story, Asharq al-Awsat is a "sister paper" of Arab News, which is not exactly the most trusted news source on the Internet).

I'm not particularly adept at reading tea leaves, and after all, it's also possible the story is true, in which case it reminds me slightly of something Hamid Algar wrote in Wahhabism: A Critical Essay:

Muhammad b. Sa'ud pledged his aid to Muhammad b. 'Abd al-Wahhab in waging jihad against all who deviated from his understanding of tauhid. ...The stage was thus set for a campaign of killing and plunder all across Arabia.

In 1159/1746, the Wahhabi-Saudi state made a formal proclamation of jihad against all who did not share their understanding of tauhid, for they counted as non-believers, guilty of shirk and apostasy.

Tauhid, incidentally, is the affirmation of the unity of God. As I flipped through the book, looking for that passage, I came across something else, another incident from the period that is vaguely reminiscent of another recent event, the attack on the shrine of Husayn at Karbala:

The conquest of the Hijaz and the atrocities that accompanied it were preceded in 1217/1802 by a Saudi raid on the city of Karbala in southern Iraq, the place of martyrdom and burial of Imam Husayn. According to some accounts, the raid took place precisely on Muharram 10, the day on which Shi'is gaterh to commemorate his martyrdom. If such was the timing of the assault, it must have been deliberately chosen to inflict maximum insult and pain on the Shi'is.

Algar quotes a Saudi chronicler, who notes that the raiders killed the majority of Karbala's people, destroyed the dome over the tomb of Husayn, and stole anything that wasn't nailed down. "All in a day's work, it would seem," Algar drily comments.

Posted by Ideofact at November 12, 2003 11:59 PM

Wahhabism is a reactionary shackle that prevents Arabs and Muslims from advancement. Wahhabism created the Saudi monarchy which is one of the most corrupt, brutal, undemocratic, and feudal ruling classes in the world.

Posted by: Dr. Abdullah Mohammad Sindi at November 17, 2003 03:04 PM