PREFACE: Les Egarés – Le Wahhabisme est-il un contre Islam? (The Misled – Is Wahhabism an anti-Islam?) by Jean-Michel Vernochet
A violent but secret war is raging before the eyes of a West struck by blindness. A new ideology, a rival to traditional Islam, is sweeping over the Middle and Far East: Wahhabism.
This ideology is attempting to expel and replace traditional Islam, the religion as it is commonly understood and traditionlly practised. Though the battle is fierce and deadly, Islamic experts, having dropped theology in favour of sociology, hardly pay any attention to what is happening or they confine their interpretation of events to simplistic theoretical frameworks which will ultimately lead them to make fatal errors.
In the “Arab Spring” countries (Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan and tomorrow, perhaps, Morocco and Algeria *) the struggle for democracy and a secular society now conceals a much fiercer conflict that goes beyond the simple distinctions which oppose the past to modernity.
Accordingly, the (false) civil war that has led to the current bloodbath in Syria, the murder of the Tunisian intellectual Chokri Beläid in February 2013, the destruction of the mausolea of saints in Mali, all constitute episodes in a conflict which transcends the usual categories of political sociology and geopolitics. It is perhaps now more urgent than ever that the West realises this.
We must recognise that the bigotry and the violence of Wahhabism are becoming the new orthodoxy in the Dar al-Islam, supplanting an Islam which until recently unified the Ummah, the Islamic community. Wahhabi groups tend to take root on the ruins of recently collapsed regimes. They are gaining ground in practically the whole of the Islamic world by means of the omnipotent petrodollar and US military support.
Wahhabism is a form of puritanism. The paradox is that it is eerily compatible with the world-wide unification of markets; an economic globalisation underpinned by an anarcho-liberal ideology (born in Frankfurt and developed to Nobel-Prize standards in Chicago) which is based on an extreme form of permissiveness, leading to the disintegration of nations and the reduction of populations to a collection of anonymous individuals. Of course, this liberal ideology is the antithesis of the virulent Wahhabi sectarianism. But perhaps this paradox is merely superficial.
* See “Could Algeria be the Next Target?” https://geostrategieblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/08/could-algeria-be-the-next-target/
Preface Translated from French
JEAN-MICHEL VERNOCHET – Interview with Thierry Meyssan (Réseau Voltaire)
Jean-Michel Vernochet’s book shows how Wahhabism came to impose itself as being the only true version of Islam, condemning traditional Islam, such as it had been understood and practised for eleven centuries, to be regarded as a heresy. His historical and theological analysis refutes the idea – an idea almost universally accepted following the Wahhabi expansion financed by Saudi Arabia – that Wahhabism is simply an extreme version of traditional Islam. His book comes at a time when a similar opinion is becoming more widespread in the Arab world following atrocities committed by the Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Qaida and ISIL.
Réseau Voltaire : Wahhabism is spreading mainly in the Sunni Muslim community in Europe. But, according to you, not only is it not in the Sunni tradition, it is not even Muslim in the traditional sense of the term. Can you explain this paradox?
Jean-Michel Vernochet: If one takes the time to consult the numerous Islamic scholars on the internet, one sees that Wahabbism, the ideology of the Islamic State (ISIL) murderers, marked a radical departure not only from classical Islam but also from what is commonly termed popular Islam. The militant scholar Sheikh Imran Hossein totally agreed with this definition of the Wahhabist doctrine when I discussed this with him. We agreed that is in fact a schismatic heresy that Islamic scholars and secular Arab intellectuals alike term ‘dajjâl’, the closest translation of which would be antichrist!
By discussing with Ulamas (Islamic scholars), whose knowledge of Islam is unimpeachable, my aim was to provide definite proof that Wahhabism radically diverged from traditional Islam. This point of view escapes Westerners, who know practically nothing about Islam save for the sketchy outline made by (alas, often dogmatic) Christian theologians, even though they themselves believe they know everything there is to know simply on the basis of what they have read in the press and seen on the television. The Western media is managed by people whose priority is to keep us as ignorant as possible in order to bring us closer, whether we like it or not, to a civil war.
The most popular preconceived idea is that Islam is monolithic. But Islam has many faces, depending mainly on how Koranic Law is interpreted. We must stress that this depressing ignorance of true Islam is not just confined to non-Muslims. In Europe, most young Muslims from immigrant families have an extremely rudimentary understanding of their religion. Consequently, they can be easily manipulated if one preaches to them a version of Islam that is said to be genuine, pure and untainted, much in the same way that the free-market must be ‘pure and perfect’ in the earthly paradise of hyper-capitalism.
Here we can see the possible danger of confusing the different interpretations of Islam, and there is a particular danger in reducing it to a Takfiri caricature. If Islam were confined to different versions of Wahhabism, we would be close to an all-out war between civilisations, a war between a billion Westerners with a Christian culture and a billion and a half Muslims.
The insanity and absurdity of such an idea is immediately obvious. And yet, there are some – following the example of the French intellectual agitators, Jacques Attali and Bernard-Henri Lévy, and many others, particularly those from the Washington neo-conservative think-tanks – who present this clash of civilisations as being likely if not inevitable. And we know that the influence of these thinkers can even go so far as to lead to atrocities and permanent chaos, as demonstrated by events in Libya. In order to answer the question more precisely, we’ll bear in mind that Wahhabism is an extreme form of literalism.
This fact alone means that it is an absurd exaggeration of the Islamic faith as defined by the Koran. To illustrate this point, we must remember that Abdul Wahhab (1703-1792), a jurist, developed his sermons by interpreting, in the most rigid literal sense, the meaning of each word and each sentence of the Koran. That is to say, an interpretation of the Koran that is so literal that it leads one to believe the most outrageous absurdities, such as that God is literally perched on a throne and has one leg in Hell. Every Muslim understands that portraying Allah as a physical being is very much misplaced, since everybody is aware that this type of description is purely metaphorical. It is a question of imagery and not an anthropomorphic description of God. But this wouldn’t matter if this literalism, this primitive and reactionary interpretation of the Koran, did not lead Wahhabist followers to deny the very principles of Islam, under the pretext that they are returning to the fundamentals of the religion by adopting the lifestyle of a Salaf (an emulation of the Prophet and his earliest followers).
This would have no negative consequences, if the Wahhabis did not make an excessively narrow judicial interpretation of the Koran and then manipulate this in order to gain and consolidate control of entire nations. Examples of this are the Saudi royal family or the various manifestations of the Muslim Brotherhood, such as Erdogan’s Islamo-Kemalist regime. Worse still, the Wahhabis have even gone so far as to invent a sixth column of the Islamic faith. That is to say, according to them there is a hidden obligation to convert, by force, all non-believers, non-pious believers and apostates. This applies to all Shia Muslims, disciples of the Sufi orders, as well as the majority of Sunni Muslims whose religious practices are, according to the Wahhabis, corrupt and heretical.
To achieve this aim, the Wahhabis concocted the duty to wage holy war, a distorted interpretation of jihad which in its true and original sense – with all due respect to all those with malicious minds – is merely a struggle for personal improvement.
Originally jihad meant an interior war with oneself, a war against our weaknesses, our passions and the temptation of evil, which hides within ourselves and permanently lies in wait for us. By imposing the duty of jihad, the Wahhabis have committed what the Islamic scholars term bid’ah, an unlawful innovation. Theological innovation is strictly forbidden in Islam, in accordance with the hadith.
Likewise, Hassan el-Banna (1906-1949), founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, decrees that Holy War is a necessary and essential duty, the avoidance of which is a cardinal sin, worthy of Hell and damnation. In a letter addressed to his followers, El-Banna does in fact ‘innovate’ by attaching the title ‘Lord of the Mujahideen’ to the name of the Prophet. In addition, El-Banna defines jihad as being “conquest and the war against heretics” as opposed to a spiritual struggle, as ‘wrongly’ and commonly understood by most Muslims!
Réseau Voltaire : Historically, the British used Wahhabism in their fight against the Ottoman Empire which had fallen into the hands of the Dönmeh revolutionaries, known as the ‘Young Turks’. Today, Turkey, which you describe as being Islamo-Kemalist, supports the Wahhabi Caliphate as embodied by ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant). But ISIL have just declared that Saudi Arabia, a Wahhabi monarchy, is one of their biggest enemies, second only to Shia Islam. How do you explain these contradictions?
Jean-Michel Vernochet : That raises many questions, none of which are easy. In the 19th century, the British were not aiming to take over the Ottoman Empire, which was already fading and wrestling with uncontrollable forces. The forces that led to its destruction were embodied mainly by the Young Turk movement which claimed to draw its inspiration from the French Revolution and whose origins can be traced to Paris, Rome, Genoa and London. This revolutionary movement was the main reason for the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.
The Young Turks’ rise to power and the subsequent collapse of the Ottoman Empire led to the Armenian genocide and the Kemalist dictatorship, an atheist regime built on the corpses of its opponents. This regime would never have seen the light without the support of English, French and Italian Masonic lodges. Also crucial was the support of Lenin and the Bolshevik bureaucracy, a little known historical fact.
Coming back to the British Empire, its policy vis-à-vis Constantinople was dominated by one concern: secure its transport links with India. This demanded total control of the Arabian Gulf region. We have to briefly go back in history to really understand the events behind the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the sudden appearance of a Wahhabi kingdom in Hejaz and Najd.
During the Crimean War (1853-1856), Britain, allied with France, helped Turkey in its war against Russia. The choice at the time was whether to dismantle the empire (but the problem was how to agree on its distribution) or maintain it in a sort of advanced coma in order to stabilise the region, bearing in mind London’s persistent problem of securing the main routes into India and the East.
The fate of the Ottoman Empire, the so-called ‘sick-man of Europe’, was in fact held in abeyance since the 19th century. There was a dead-lock between the Christian powers (Britain, France, Russia, Greece and Italy), neither nation wishing to precipitate the Empire’s collapse which, though inevitable, would have disturbed the delicate balance of power in the region.
This explains the leniency of the 1929 Treaty of Adrianople, which concluded the Russo-Turkish war. The Tsar considered that a decaying Ottoman empire, crippled by debt contracted with the vultures of international finance, was preferable to chaos. A form of geopolitical wisdom rarely seen today…
This lengthy reminder is necessary to demonstrate the extent to which pragmatism prevailed over all other considerations, especially those of a religious nature. Later, during the First World War, the British aimed to destroy the Ottoman Empire by using the dissident Wahhabi tribes from Nadj against the Ottoman Empire (ally to the German Reich) at a moment when it was virtually finished. Here religious motivations were of minor importance.
At the height of the First World War, the ‘Three Pasha Triumvirate’, which came to power in Turkey in 1913, decided to ally itself with Germany, whose economic power in the region was immense. Turkey took advantage of the turmoil to pursue ethnic cleansing on a large scale, targeting all Christian communities in the Empire. There is no doubt that a messianic vision lay behind these atrocities together with an eschatological hatred that even today very few dare touch upon.
Kemal Atatürk’s genocide continued well after the defeat of the Young Turks with the Allied victory of 1918. In 1924, notably, the entire Christian population of Anatolia was deported, as envisaged in the Treaty of Lausanne, signed on 23 July 1923. It was this treaty that brought a definitive end to the First World War on the Eastern Front.
Let’s note that Atatürk, by continuing the genocide started by his predecessors, was but a precursor to the ethnic and religious atrocities, albeit on a smaller scale, currently committed by the Salafi-Wahhabi jihadist groups in northern Iraq against the Chaldo-Assyrian Catholics and the Yazadis..
But let’s go back to the key years of the First World War. For the Allies, it was a matter of dismantling an Empire which had had its day and whose new rulers, the Dönmehs, had made a strategic error in choosing the German Reich as allies. While armed rebellion was spreading across the world – Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Palestine and Egypt – Paris and London decided in advance to share the spoils of the Empire, as detailed by the secret Sykes-Picot agreement. This was done in contempt of the promises of national independence made to their Arab allies who had fought by their side.
From 1916, the British came to use Wahhabism as a sort of military force, a fanatical ideology of conquest, in order to solidify their control of the Arabian Peninsula. As to the current situation, we must see this as being characterised by rivalries between competing powers. Looking at the history of the region, particularly over the last 50 years, we can see a perpetual struggle to obtain leadership of the Muslim world. This was the case of Gamal Abdel Nasser, Hafez el-Assad, Muammar Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein, not to mention Israel whose role in the destruction of its neighbours and potential enemies is beyond doubt.
Today, Tehran, Ankara and Riyadh are in the running for the leadership of the Muslim world. Consequently, I interpret the conflicts between the different Salafi-Wahhabi groups in terms of a competition. Among them there are various armed groups, the most important of which is ISIL.
Likewise, the sectarianism that divides Wahhabi Saudi Arabia, Islamist Trukey and ISIL is of minor importance when compared to the hegemonic ambitions that lead to mutual confrontation, especially as they all share the same Wahhabi ideological base, as does the Muslim Brotherhood, even though they will not openly admit this.
Réseau Voltaire : You say that the Muslim Brotherhood and Wahhabism have much in common, could you explain this?
Jean-Michel Vernochet : Although the Muslim Brotherhood is not a secret Wahhabi group, it is nonetheless one of the subsidiaries of the chief sect, the headquarters of which are in Riyadh. It would be worth making a detailed study in order to compare the doctrines and the programmes. But we must stress a point that I have already made: Wahhabism and the Muslim Brotherhood are essentially ideological institutions that hide behind a puritanical appearance. They are mere ideological institutions aimed at conquest and prove that the Wahhabism is not a pure expression of Islam but an extreme caricature.
Muslims who condemn Wahhabism are not mistaken. The Islamic scholars have been saying this all along. But their voice is no longer heard in the West because it is easier to make a second-rate sociological study of the densely populated urban areas in European cities than to analyse the theological dimensions of the jihadi phenomenon together with its puritanical counterpart, Anglo-American Calvinism, which actively lends support to the jihadi movement whenever it can be used as a tool for ruthless imperialism.
Soon after its creation in 1928 by Hassan el-Banna, the Muslim Brotherhood welcomed members of the Ikhwan, who fled Najd to escape Ibn Saoud. These men came to form the core of the Egyptian fraternity. When in 1954 Nasser bans the Brotherhood, its members leave Egypt for Riyadh. Ultimately, the Muslim Brotherhood leads to the creation of the Egyptian jihad movement, precursor to ISIL, whose aim was the restoration of the caliphate in Egypt. This is exactly what the Islamic State has just achieved with the blessing of its ‘enemies’ Ankara, London, Paris, Riyadh, Doha, Washington, Amman and Tel Aviv.
Réseau Voltaire : Britain, followed by the US, supported the development of Wahhabism. Today, the Muslim Brotherhood even has a seat on Washington’s National Security Council. Can we say that the Brotherhood, like Wahhabism, is a means to destroy Islam from within?
Jean-Michel Vernochet : The uninterrupted expansion of Wahhabism during the previous century is closely linked to the Anglo-American economic and social model. Since 1945, the fate of the Arabian Peninsula has been inextricably linked to America and its influence in the world, and this is still the case today. This ‘American World’ can be thought of as a sort of hydra, whose heads are Manhattan, Chicago (Chicago Mercantile Exchange), Washington (Federal Reserve), the City of London, Brussels (NATO), Frankfurt (European Central Bank) and Basel, the home of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), the bank of all the central banks, a gigantic enterprise, which, legally speaking, is anonymous.
In this sense, it would be simplistic to view Wahhabism as being simply a means of regional domination. The Muslim world represents over a billion and a half people. Gaining control of this world is a major challenge. In this sense, Wahhabism is no doubt a clear attempt to undermine and replace traditional Islam. In other words, we can say that Wahhabism is an Islamic version of the new global religion which is taking root in all nations, be they Christian or Muslim. It is a religion that has deep social implications, a religion that has the power to transform civilisations, and paves the way for the progression of destructive globalism.
It is a religion which aims to replace all other religions, what we can quite rightly call the ‘monotheism of the market’. It is very clear that Wahhabism coexists perfectly well with anarcho-capitalism. This might seem surprising, but is undeniably true. This barbaric form of Puritanism is destined, or rather pre-destined, to replace traditional Islam, with its attachment to traditional moral values which are inherently compassionate in nature.
For all its apparent purity, Wahhabism authorises the murder of those who do not submit to a cruel and extreme Sharia law, very similar to the universal ‘democratic’ and ‘humanitarian’ values that the US strives to impose on the entire world by military force. America sees its destiny being fulfilled in a total and unlimited right to kill all those who refuse to adhere to the American Judeo-Protestant democratic model. In short, if Wahhabism is a weapon, it is one that is used for the programmed destruction of Islam from within. Much in the same way that messianic Marxism and its successor, Freudian-Marxism, have continued a similar project of social destruction in our post-Christian societies.
Réseau Voltaire : There are currently three states in the world where Wahhabism is the official religion, namely Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the Emirate of Sharjah, member of the United Arab Emirates. And perhaps one day Cyrenaica (the Eastern coastal region of Libya). But these countries are in conflict with one another. How do you explain this and what are the main issues involved?
Jean-Michel Vernochet : A complex question to which I will give a simple answer. In the past, Arab tribes would raid each other, what was known as a ‘razzia’. Today, however, they are no longer gangs of brigands, they have become states. We have moved up the scale. The principal, nonetheless, remains the same. All Western states worship a superficial form of democracy, but this doesn’t stop them from tearing each other apart in an inexpiable economic war. “A war in all but name” but which is nonetheless ruthless, having no friend or ally, “a deadly war”, as Mitterrand once put it.
These wars have social and ideological goals. Everything becomes clear once we understand that the Wahhabi states and the different manifestations of the Muslim Brotherhood – including President Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party – are not in fact working to accomplish the word of God but have purely political objectives. Their ambition is to obtain power.
Consequently, they do not share the same interests, strategies and allies. In actual fact, they often disagree and are very often rivals. This may seem a rather crude analogy, but if we want to understand how the world works, a Hollywood mafia film sums it up. In this sort of film, they ferociously carve each other up to obtain a territory, a market, a dominant position or for a matter of protocol. If there is a difference between these gang wars and those of armed diplomacy (those of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ power), it is a mere difference of degree rather than kind.
Réseau Voltaire : Al-Qaida claims to adhere to Wahhabism. But its current leader, Ayman Mohammed Rabie al-Zawahiri, is a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood. The majority of international terrorist group leaders, who claim to adhere to Wahhabism, are in fact former members of the Muslim Brotherhood. According to you, is the current jihadist ideology Wahhabi or does it come from the Muslim Brotherhood?
Jean-Michel Vernochet : I don’t think this question is really relevant at this stage, in so far as they represent two versions of the same ideology ! Both were developed and gained power in the world with the help of the British Empire; the British provided military support for the Third Wahhabi Kingdom of Nadj and Hejaz and financial support for the Brotherhood. So Wahhabism and the Brotherhood were already interdependent, both being sponsored by London, Washington and ultimately Riyadh.
In Egypt, the new Ikhwan (fraternity) has led to the creation of an armed group, Egyptian Islamic Jihad. This was in accordance with the Wahhabi doctrine that claims there is a sixth pillar in Islam, namely an obligation to wage “holy war”, something which is not recognised by traditional Islam. According to this doctrine, there is an obligation to convert people to Islam, by force if necessary. In this sense, then, Wahhabism is inherently violent, and this can only lead to its total rejection by the West. Indeed, this puts us in a situation of direct confrontation between cultures and civilisations. This could be very bad news for our societies, especially if European Muslims are forced to choose sides. The ten years of terror that Algeria sufferred during the 90s will be nothing compared to what European Muslims may have to endure because, as we see everywhere in the world, the Muslims are the primary targets and the first victims of Wahhabism…
Translated from French
Jean-Michel Vernochet was interviewed by Thierry Meyssan, geopolitical analyst and founder of Réseau Voltaire. Jean-Michel Vernochet worked as a foreign correspondent for Le Figaro Magazine and is professor at École supérieure de journalisme (ESJ-Paris).
Source: Réseau Voltaire