Saudi Arabia does not support Islamic State terrorists – or any others
Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud: ‘Some people use the word Wahhabism to describe the message of Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab in order to isolate Saudi Muslims from the rest of the Muslim world.’ Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
Sunday 17 August 2014 10.40 EDT
Last modified on Wednesday 3 September 2014 09.30 EDT
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Richard Norton-Taylor suggests that Saudi Arabia has been “funding the most intolerant brand of Islam” in his blog (UK weapons trump human rights in Israel and Saudi Arabia, 11 August)
He suggests this is “Wahhabi absolutism”. Hearsay and a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. He supports his argument with information gleaned from the column of a fellow journalist from another newspaper.
Wahhabism is not a sect of Islam. What is being referred to is the interpretation of Muhammad Abd al-Wahhab, who saw his fellow Muslims being diverted from the path of Islam as it had been delivered by the prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Saudis do not accept to be labelled “Wahhabis”. We are Muslims. In 2011, HRH Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz (now the crown prince) said: “Some people use the word Wahhabism to describe the message of Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab in order to isolate Saudi Muslims from the rest of the Muslim world.”
This word is a convenient label that has been dreamed up by some governments, political analysts and the media to describe the major “Islamic threat” facing western civilisation. It is described as extremist and radical, accused of inspiring movements ranging from the Taliban in Afghanistan to the al-Qaida network and now the Islamic State (Isis) in Iraq.
But this view does not even faintly correspond with the teachings of Muhammad Ibn Abd al Wahhab, who was a well-travelled, learned, scholarly jurist of the 18th century. He insisted on adherence to Qur’anic values and the teachings of the prophet Muhammad (PBUH) which includes the maximum preservation of human life, even in the midst of jihad. He taught tolerance and supported the rights of both men and women.
Let me make it perfectly clear. The government of Saudi Arabia does not support or fund the murderers who have collected under the banner of the Islamic State. Their ideology is not one that we recognise, or that would be recognised by the vast majority of Muslims around the world – whether they were Sunni or Shia.
Under the leadership of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah, we launched an initiative for dialogue between all religions and cultures in 2008 with the establishment of the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue in Vienna.
Following an international counterterrorism conference held in Riyadh in 2005, the UN counterterrorism centre was established with financial support of $200m from our government.
We have been and are fighting extremism within our own borders daily, indeed hourly.
Firm action is taken against any imam who is found to hold extremist views and who tries to incite their followers to violence. We have passed laws and warned our citizens that they will be arrested and prosecuted if they attempt to join Isis or any other international terrorist group, or to take part in any of the conflicts raging in any region. We have done and will do everything we can to stop the spread of this corrosive poison in our country and region and encourage all other governments to do the same.
Mohammed bin Nawaf Al Saud
Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the United Kingdom