Jihad in Saudi Arabia: Violence and Pan-Islamism since 1979
By Thomas Hegghammer
Cambridge University Press
290pp, ISBN 978-0-521-51858-1 Hardback ISBN 978-0-521-73236-9 Paperback
How could Jihadi violence break out in a country seen as the historical heartland of Islam and ruled by a state that boasts about its many Islamic credentials? Thomas Hegghammer unpacks the paradox of Jihadi militancy in an Islamic state.
The book is based on fieldwork in Saudi Arabia, and an impressive collection of biographies and written sources from well-known internet al-Qaida websites. Its ten chapters trace the evolution of militant Islamism and its later containment by the Saudi authorities.
Since 9/11 scholars and security specialists searched for plausible explanations to account for Jihadi militancy at the local and global levels. Wahhabi radical theology, Western foreign policies, socio-economic deprivation, dictatorships in the Muslim world, and more recently the internet, are often cited as causal factors. In a global world, it has become difficult to isolate local conditions from global contexts.
Hegghammer introduces his own hypothesis. Saudi Pan-Islamism, ‘a macro-nationalism, centred on the imagined community of the umma’ is the primary explanation for the brief outburst of violence in Saudi Arabia. As an orientation, pan-Islamism is mainly linked to the oil boom of the 1970s, when sympathy with the suffering of other Muslims became a new source for Saudi legitimacy, activism and engagement with the Muslim world. This engagement came to fruition in 1979, when Saudi Arabia joined Western powers to defeat the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. It was an opportunity to direct Saudi Jihadi effervescence outward. The suffering of the umma on the periphery of the Islamic historical centre proved to be a successful recruitment slogan to draw Saudis, recently tamed by the luxuries of the new oil era, into the Afghan Jihad.
Posted by Main at 03:38 AM.
Book Reviews •
Posted by Main at 05:00 PM.
News And Views •
Religiously Motivated Violence in the Contemporary World
Madawi Al-Rasheed and Marat Shterin (Eds)
From India to Iraq, from London to Lahore, the relationship between religion and violence is one of the most bitterly
contested and casually misrepresented issues of our times. This groundbreaking volume brings together expert
perspectives from a variety of fields to probe it. It seeks to shift analytical focus on to the contexts in which violence is
expressed, enacted and reported. Ranging from Islam to Buddhism to new religious movements in the West, Dying for
Faith offers a comprehensive and highly original account of a complex phenomenon that has so far attracted sensational
media coverage but scant academic attention.
Madawi Al-Rasheed is Professor of Anthropology of Religion at King’s College London.
Marat Shterin is a Lectuer in Theology and Religious Studies at King’s College, London.
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News And Views •
Since the 1970s, Islamic fundamentalism, later on coined political Islam or Islamism, was constructed in the high towers of academia as a field of enquiry if not the field par excellence. Tens of monographs, surveys, in-depth studies and histories of the main Islamist movements appeared in all European languages. From the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood to Pakistan’s Jammati Islami, the diversity and similarities of these movements were captured. The local contexts were analysed and their ideological pamphlets were collected and interpreted. Scholars constructed the biographies of their leaders and activists. Knowledge of local languages in the Muslim world, together with vigorous in depth fieldwork enhanced the analysis and dissemination of knowledge about one of the strongest political, religious, and social trends in the world of Islam in the three last decades of the twentieth century. By the 1980s, the inability of most of these movements to reach power and take the state, with the exception of the Islamic republic of Iran, prompted scholars to announce the ‘failure of political Islam’. Others argued that Islamism has had important long lasting impact on Muslim societies, regardless of its ability to seize power. This impact will continue to shape the moral, political and social contexts of many countries from North Africa to Asia.
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Book Reviews •
Kingdom Without Borders is the first book to explore the driving forces behind Saudi Arabia's new era of expansionism. Having established a far-reaching political and religious influence, as well as an impressive media empire, Saudi Arabia has become a kingdom without borders, holding both local and international actors in a tight embrace. This phenomenon has yet to be seriously-instead of sensationally-studied. In this volume, contributors soberly reassess the changing nature of state and society, considering not only the multiple leaders who have risen within Saudi Arabia in recent years but also, thanks to a second oil boom, the consolidation of outside forces that now threaten to subvert the state.
Bringing together leading scholars from Europe, the United States, the Middle East, and Asia, Kingdom Without Borders combines both a top-down and grassroots approach to examining the country's growing regional and international influence. Contributors also trace the impact of Saudi Arabia on the religion, economics, and politics of Yemen, Lebanon, and the United States, linking the transformation of local contexts to the external actors of globalization. With a thorough investigation of the history and contemporary manifestations of Saudi expansionism, Kingdom Without Borders presents a unique opportunity to view Saudi Arabia's power project within the interrelated realms of local politics, religion, and media genres.
Posted by Main at 02:34 AM.
News And Views •
Global Jihad is a constructed category, perpetuated in the discourse of academics, think tank consultants, politicians, policy makers, terror experts, and journalists on the one hand, and Jihadi ideologues and sympathisers on the other hand. The first group identify a global menace that requires the mobilisation of governments, military strategists, civil society activists, and media campaigns across the world to justify the global War on Terror. The second group endeavours to mobilise Muslims across cultures, nations and geographies in the pursuit of deterritorialised battles that nevertheless take place in specific localities, ranging from world financial centres, train stations, discos, expatriate residential compounds, tourist resorts, shrines, mosques and markets. Focusing on the contradictions and tensions within the Saudi Jihadi project is the subject of this short exposition(i). I will argue that Saudi Jihadis represent post-national non-state actors who draw on the rhetoric of the global Jihad, yet they remain immersed in the locality of Saudi Arabia.(ii) Rather than selecting famous contemporary Jihadi ideologues, this paper draws on the messages of less known Saudi authors of jihadi texts to demonstrate the centrality of the local in the global project. The first author Faris al-Shuwayl wrote about the priority of local Jihad: the other Lewis Atiyat Allah glorified the global project. Both seem to exhibit the tension between the local and the global.
Contesting the local state
In al-Shuwayl and Lewis Atiyat Allah’s writings, the first Saudi state (1744-1818) is glorified as dawlat al-tawhid
, the state of monotheism, a political entity unbounded by defined territorial boundaries, unrecognised by the international community, and uncontaminated by international treaties and legal obligations. The first state is a local political configuration that defied regional and international contexts and promised to make true Islam hegemonic. They regard this state as a revival of the state of prophecy where the community was subjected to divine law. Membership was determined not by recognised frontiers but by submission to the rightful Imam
, whose authority over distant territory was recognised by paying zakat
, receiving his judges, and performing Jihad under his banner. In the first state, unity was expressed in belief in one God, applying his rule and swearing allegiance to his political authority on earth. oth al-Shuwayl and Lewis Atiyat Allah regard the main agent of this state to be Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab rather than Muhammad ibn Saud; the former was the interpreter of God’s words while the latter was the executive force that enforces these words. This state had no name apart from dawlat al-tawhid
, state of monotheism, a deterritorialised polity pursuing the ultimate message of Islam, subjecting the individual to the sovereignty of God. As such, this state cannot be confined to man made borders, cultural and historical factors, ethnic and linguistic considerations or any other attributes common in defining the modern nation state. As such it was the ideal Muslim state that rebelled against blasphemy, religious innovations, and man-made law. The collapse of this state in 1818 at the hands of Ottoman troops temporarily sealed the fate of dawlat al-tawhid
whose advocates impatiently waited for its revival in the twentieth century.
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Research Interest •
The lecture will take place in the Great Hall, King’s College, London, Strand Campus at 5.30pm on Tuesday 12 February 2008.
Saudi royalty sanctions official Wahhabi discourse for obvious political reasons. This religious discourse is responsible for closing channels of political debate and delaying the emergence of calls for political reform and participation in the country. Together with state repression, this discourse enforces interpretations of religious texts that call upon pious Muslims to consent to political authority and show ultimate obedience to rulers. This discourse also prohibits any public criticism of rulers and criminalises (in a religious and political sense) discussion of their policies. Dominant Saudi religious interpretations create "consenting subjects" rather than free citizens who engage in public affairs. I will demonstrate that official Wahhabi discourse is responsible for mystifying the world under the guise of religion. Official Saudi religious scholars consolidate a specific religious discourse to ensure the emergence of an acquiescent society. This discourse facilitates regime efforts to domesticate and discipline the population without resorting to excessive use of force, a practise that other Arab regimes have mastered under the umbrella of the modern state. The role of religious discourse is often ignored in academic research, in particular political science perspectives, on Saudi Arabia. This research usually privileges the influence of oil revenues within the framework of the rentier state as a mechanism consolidating the tradition of political acquiescence. Yet the sum total of religious interpretations that are propagated by a large religious bureaucracy are equally important as factors contributing to this acquiescence that the population exhibited throughout the twentieth century. There is no doubt that the redistributive state that transforms oil revenues into services and consequently loyalty owes its survival to the intersection of politics and the economy. However, there are subtle ways that veil relations between rulers and ruled and mystify this relationship. Wahhabi religio-political discourse offers a mystifying umbrella.
Posted by Main at 07:46 PM.
News And Views •
The establishment of an Allegiance Committee, a closed circle of senior Saudi princes last year and the nomination of its members in December 2007 are desperate attempts to save the House of Saud, not from Jihadi violence, reformers’ pressure or external threats, but from the hazards of demography and natural aging.
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News And Views •
A shorter version of this chapter will appear in Eugene Rogan and Avi Shlaim (eds.) The War for Palestine: rewriting the history of 1948 War . 2nd edition Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2007
Non-Saudis initially wrote the modern history of Saudi Arabia. Although chronicles, private papers, and primary sources existed inside and outside the country, until very recently Western and Arab historians produced modern Saudi historiography. Saudi Arabia was one of the latest countries to establish modern history departments and research centres. It was only in the 1960s that the ‘modern’ Saudi historian emerged after the profession was dominated by ulama who played the double role of religious scholar and chronicler. Up to the 1960s, the past was theological rather than historical, a reflection of the predominance of historical narratives propagated by religious scholars.
It was only after the first oil boom of the 1970s that the Saudi government turned its attention to systematically producing the great historical narrative that most Arab regimes had already produced and propagated to consolidate the nascent nation states that emerged in the post World War II era. Unlike in other Arab countries, and with the exception of one or two Saudi historians, modern Saudi historical research centres relied on Arab scholars, who were either seconded from their own academic institutions or had settled in the country. Even then, and because of serious human resource shortage, Saudi school and university history text books, and even the religious curriculum, were often written by Arabs, mainly Levantine and Egyptians who were entrusted with the task of narrating Saudi Arabia.
The narration was meant to establish and enforce two important state legitimacy narratives, one reflected the need to legitimate the state internally, the other reflected the need to legitimate the state externally in the Arab and Islamic contexts.
The establishment of King Abdulaziz Foundation for Research and Archives in Riyadh (known as al-Dara) in1972 marked the beginning of institutionalised official historiography, after a long period of laisser-faire approach to narrating the past. The role of this research centre in shaping historical imagination became paramount. In the 1980s an ambitious government scheme materialised in sending at least thirty Saudi students to various American universities to write PhD dissertations on Al-Saud and Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, thus establishing modern Saudi historiography. The role of such students and that of al-Dara reached a climax with the 1999 centennial celebrations that coincided with the publication of hundreds of history books, foreign memoirs, translation of foreign testimonies, and official letters and sermons by King Abdulaziz ibn Saud (1876-1953) hereafter Ibn Saud, all marking ‘one hundred year of development, prosperity and political wisdom’.i The publication of selected documents and letters from various archival sources marked the beginning of documenting Saudi history from an official point of view.ii
Posted by Main at 08:58 PM.
Research Interest •
Kingdom without Borders: Saudi Expansion in the World
6-8 September 2007
Attendance by invitation only
Kingdom without Borders intends to explore a number of issues related to Saudi political, economic, social, religious, media and cultural expansion in the World.
This expansion has recently become the subject of debate and controversy. The conference aims to highlight the parameter of this expansion and its consequences on the receiving societies, world politics, the intellectual and religious public spheres, local social and cultural developments, and international relations.
The conference brings together scholars and policy makers from Europe, the USA, Asia and the Middle East. In two days of open discussions among commentators from a variety of perspectives, contemporary trends of Saudi expansion will be examined, exploring their roots as well as likely future development and consequences.
The multiplicity of perspectives and areas of expertise brought to bear on these questions should allow a balanced understanding of the phenomenon. The conference will no doubt re-evaluate and challenge many of the current literature on Saudi expansion and connections with the world.
This first conference will focus on the general aspects of Saudi expansion with the hope that later more focused workshops will follow to map Saudi connections in specific local contexts in the Arab-Muslim worlds and the West.
PART I: SAUDI CONNECTIONS: GENERAL OVERVIEW
This sections aims to provide a general forum that situates Saudi expansion in its historical context. Relevant questions include
To what extent is Saudi expansion a product of local Saudi concerns for legitimacy?
To what extend is Saudi expansion a product of the weakening of other regional Arab powers that had in the past more acumen and intellectual heritage to play a leading role in initiating political, social and religious connections?
To what extent is this expansion a product of the weakening of Arab society and civil institutions in general and economic underdevelopment?
To what extent is this expansion a product of Western encouragement and promotion of Saudi Arabia as a crucial player in regional, local and world politics?
The session focuses on the historical and structural factors both in Saudi Arabia and the Arab, Muslim and Western worlds that paved the way for this unexpected Saudi expansion. Furthermore, it assesses the receptiveness of constituencies and the open door policies, allowing Saudi expansion unprecedented presence in very distant locations. This sheds light on both old and new mediators (Western, Arab, Saudi) through whom Saudi expansion is enforced in distant lands, for example cultural brokers, economic and political entrepreneurs, intellectuals, and other agencies.
Posted by Main at 11:10 PM.
News And Views •
Rachel Bronson Thicker Than Oil America’s Uneasy Partnership with Saudi Arabia Council of Foreign Relations, Oxford: Oxford University Press, hardback, 353pp, ISBN-13: 978-0-19-516743
Thicker than Oil investigates the U.S-Saudi relationship after this relationship became controversial in the aftermath of 9/11. It scrutinises the decision making process on both sides, by necessity an account of the policies of kings, presidents, senior cabinet officials, royal confidants and chief intelligence officers (pp. 11). Bronson situates her narrative in between two poles: Saudi bashing in America and anti-Americanism in Saudi Arabia. For fifty years, the partnership rested on shared interests, held responsible for sowing current radicalism in the Muslim world. Yet because it was an uneasy partnership, the relation had to be conducted behind closed doors for over half a century.
Posted by Main at 10:14 AM.
Book Reviews •
Ibrahim Abu Rabi’ (ed.) The Blackwell Companion to Contemporary Islamic Thought Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd 2006 (Hardback), 675p.
The Blackwell Companion to Contemporary Islamic Thought is a reference book that introduces the reader to the diversity of Islamic intellectual tradition. The introduction places Islamic intellectuals and their productions in the contemporary context of the Muslim world. Diverse, fragmented, and unevenly developed, the Muslim world shares common historical developments brought about by the experience of being drawn into Western modernity in its various manifestations. Colonialism, capitalism, globalisation, modernization, liberation struggles, the nation state, dictatorships, religious revivalism, and fundamentalism are but few aspects of the arrival of modernity in Muslim lands.
Posted by Main at 10:11 AM.
Book Reviews •
Saudi royalty sanctions official Wahhabi discourse for obvious political reasons. This religious discourse is responsible for closing channels of political debate and delaying the emergence of calls for political reform and participation in the country. Together with state repression, this discourse enforces interpretations of religious texts that call upon pious Muslims to consent to political authority and show ultimate obedience to rulers. This discourse also prohibits any public criticism of rulers and criminalises (in a religious and political sense) discussion of their policies. Dominant Saudi religious interpretations create “consenting subjects” rather than free citizens who engage in public affairs. I will demonstrate that official Wahhabi discourse is responsible for mystifying the world under the guise of religion. Official Saudi religious scholars consolidate a specific religious discourse to ensure the emergence of an acquiescent society. This discourse facilitates regime efforts to domesticate and discipline the population without resorting to excessive use of force, a practise that other Arab regimes have mastered under the umbrella of the modern state. The role of religious discourse is often ignored in academic research, in particular political science perspectives, on Saudi Arabia. This research usually privileges the influence of oil revenues within the framework of the rentier state as a mechanism consolidating the tradition of political acquiescence. Yet the sum total of religious interpretations that are propagated by a large religious bureaucracy are equally important as factors contributing to this acquiescence that the population exhibited throughout the twentieth century. There is no doubt that the redistributive state that transforms oil revenues into services and consequently loyalty owes its survival to the intersection of politics and the economy. However, there are subtle ways that veil relations between rulers and ruled and mystify this relationship. Wahhabi religio-political discourse offers a mystifying umbrella.
Posted by Main at 09:03 AM.
News And Views •
By Madawi Al-Rasheed
Fear may induce acquiescence. But Saudis still surprise many observers. While their participation in Jihadi adventurism at home and abroad has now become notorious, there is a small minority that does not get enough sound bites, simply because it consists of peaceful political activists who dream about a better future. While they live in the most closed political systems in the Arab world, they are not intimidated by real violence exerted on them by state agencies nor fear of imminent terrorist attacks, by which these agents hope to deter activism and silence daring voices. .
Posted by Main at 07:16 PM.
News And Views •
Narrating Saudi Arabia has two dimensions: one targets the local constituency and one targets outsiders. The first aims at generating consent among obedient subjects; the second aims at achieving legitimacy beyond borders.
Posted by Main at 05:07 AM.
News And Views •