reject absolutely any non-Muslim ideas and practices, including political ones. In its
harshest form it preached that Muslims should not only "always oppose" infidels "in every
way," but "hate them for their religion ... for Allah's sake," and that democracy "is
responsible for all the horrible wars of the 20th century.
Wahhabism is the dominant form of Islam in Saudi Arabia, and is also popular in Kuwait,
United Arab Emirates and several other areas and regions of the world. It is often
referred to as a "sect" or "branch" of Islam, though both its supporters and many of its
opponents reject such designations. It has developed considerable influence in the
Muslim world and the West through the funding of mosques, schools and other means
from Persian Gulf oil wealth.
The terms "Wahhabism" and "Salafism" are often used interchangeably. Wahhabism has
been called a "belittling" term for Salafi, while another source defines it as "a particular
orientation within Salafism," an orientation some consider ultra-conservative.
While the origins of Wahhabism and Salafism were quite distinct - Wahhabism was a
pared-down Islam that rejected modern influences, while Salafism was slightly more
flexible on the issue - they both shared a rejection of moderate teachings on Islam in
favour of direct, ‘traditional’ interpretations. But despite their beginnings "as two distinct
movements", the migration of Muslim Brotherhood members from Egypt to Saudi Arabia
and Saudi King Faisal's "embrace of Salafi pan-Islamism resulted in cross-pollination
between ibn Abd al-Wahhab’s teachings on tawhid, shirk and bid‘ah and Salafi
interpretations of ahadith (the sayings of Muhammad)."
Salafism differs from the earlier contemporary Islamic revival movements of the 1970s
and 1980s commonly referred to as Islamism, in that (at least many) Salafis reject not
only Western ideologies such as Socialism and Capitalism, but also common Western
concepts like economics, constitutions, political parties, revolution and social justice.
Muslims should not engage in Western activities like politics, "even by giving them an
Islamic slant." Instead, Muslims should stick to traditional activities, particularly
Dawah(missionary activity). Salafis promote Sharia rather than an Islamic political
program or state.
From the perspective of the Salafis themselves, their history starts with Prophet
Muhammad himself. They consider themselves direct followers of his teachings, and wish
to emulate the piety of the first three generations of Islam (the Salaf). All later scholars
are merely revivers (not 'founders'). Modern scholars may only come to teach (or
remind) us of the instructions of the original followers of Islam. From the perspective of
some others, however, the history of Salafism started a few hundred years ago, the exact
time and place still being a matter of discussion.
Some Salafis believe that violent jihad is permissible against foreign, non-Muslim,
occupation, but not against governments that claim to be Islamic. Those governments are
to be reformed, not violently overthrown. Civil war (fitna) is to be avoided. (Salman al-
Other Salafis believe that it is permissible, even required, for believers to engage in violent
jihad to overthrow oppressive regimes, even if they claim to be Islamic. One of the
strongest proponents for violence was Sayyed Qutb, an Egyptian member of the Muslim
Brotherhood. After the Egyptian Brotherhood assassinated the Egyptian leader, the
Brotherhood was suppressed and Qutb went to jail.
Some Salafis urge believers to support or endure the state under which they live. Believers
are encouraged to spread Salafism non-violently, by missionary activity, social work, and
political organisation. Above all, they should help each other lead lives of true Islamic piety.
In recent years attention has been given to the "jihadi" Salafism of Al-Qaeda, and related
groups calling for the killing of civilians, and opposed by many Muslim groups and
governments, including the Saudi government and Muslim Brotherhood. Debate
continues today over the appropriate method of reform, ranging from violent "Salafism
jihadism" to less politicised evangelism. Despite some similarities, the different
contemporary self-proclaimed Salafist groups often strongly disapprove of each other and
deny the others Salafi character. Typically, the so called Wahhabis and Salafis refer to
themselves as "Muwahiddun (Muwahidoon)" or followers of "Ahle Hadith," or "Ahl at-
It’s a myriad of definitions which can be quite confusing to the average person. The
important thing however is to be aware of how the Islamic apologists try to manipulate
western politicians and media in order to “downplay” the extensiveness that
Salafism/traditional Islam has in the world.
Informal networks and salafi activism
In order to understand the role played by Salafism in the process of radicalisation of
Muslim communities and how this process operates in Europe, one must first examine its
characteristics as a movement in the Arab world. In contrast to other formal
organisations, Salafism lacks hierarchical structures. The Salafi network structure is
decentralised and segmented. The different groups are led by sheikhs or scholars with
varying degrees of knowledge of the science of the hadiths, but not necessarily having
ties with each other. There is also some element of competition between the sheikhs,
each defending his interpretation of the Salaf, or true path, as the correct one. The most
important scholars enjoy considerable support among students, who often recommend
them to others on account of their vast knowledge of religious issues. There exists only
an informal hierarchy based on the reputation of the different sheikhs recognised by the
Salafi community. The proliferation of sheikhs means that there is no elite or clearly-
defined leadership. This decentralised and cellular structure, in which anyone with
religious knowledge can claim leadership of a group, explains how easy it has been in
Europe to create groups or autonomous cells willing to blow themselves up without the
need for direct orders from a higher authority.
Salafi activism operates through informal networks, the very same networks that have
ensured the transmission of Islamic knowledge down the centuries and have proven
extremely effective in creating a common Muslim identity. They mobilise in social
networks created out of personal relationships and shared beliefs. Surveys of Jordanian
Salafis reveal that friends played a crucial role in their conversion to Salafism. The
recruitment process is carried out directly during discussions on Islam. Devout Muslims
socialise in circles of friends for whom Islam plays an important role in their lives.
Religion is a recurring theme in such circles. Through daily interaction, Salafis explain
their theology to their friends until the latter are convinced of the truth of their
perspective. In many cases, entire groups of friends convert to Salafism, given that all of
them are exposed to the same lessons, speeches, and ideas. The blend of friendship and
religious networks creates a high degree of group solidarity, which is still one of the main
features of Salafi groups in Europe, enabling the network to survive close scrutiny by
intelligence and security services in western countries.
Islamic apologists and Wahhabism
According to the apologists the “evil and fundamentalist little sect of Islam” - Wahhabism
is isolated and only found in Saudi Arabia and practiced by al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The
truth however is that various versions of Salafism (Jihadi Salafism being the most
extreme) is an important factor in every single Muslim country.
Wahhabism is the dominant form of Islam in Saudi Arabia, and is also popular in Kuwait
and the United Arab Emirates. Wahhabism is also found in several parts of Somalia,
Algeria and Mauritania.
A strict version of Salafism (Ahle Hadith) is found in several Middle Eastern countries and
South Asia, in particular, Pakistan and India.
Other forms of Salafism are quite dominant in Palestine, Syria and Jordan. It is also
found in most other Muslim-majority countries, including Turkey, Bosnia and Kosovo.
2.46 How many Muslims worldwide support militant Islam or Jihadi Salafism?
This is in fact a very complicated question with many facets. First of all you have to
consider the fact that there is a big difference between active support, sympathising and
empathising with this cause. You also have to realise that an armed Jihad (armed
struggle) always have specific goals. The Jihadists in Dagestan, Chechnya, Southern
Thailand, Southern Philippines, Syria (Palestine) etc. all want to create Islamic states and
implement Sharia. In order to reach this objective they must wage war and defeat the
infidels (non-Muslims). However, al-Qaeda and Jihadists in the West have other
objectives. They acknowledge the fact that Islam is still very weak in Europe, so an
armed Jihad in the streets of European capitals is not advised at this point. Islam and the
number of Muslims need to grow a few more generations. Al-Qaeda therefore seek to
silence the Western media and Western politicians by creating fear in our hearts in order
to force them to capitulate to radical Islam. The so called Moderate Muslims are playing
“good cop” in this context. They will blame poverty, modern colonialism (Israel, Iraq, and
Afghanistan), discrimination, stigmatisation and other root causes as the reasons for the
rise of Jihadi Salafism. They will ask for concessions from European politicians and media
in order to “prevent” radical Islam.
According to Daniel Pipes, approximately 10-15% of Muslims around the world
actively support militant Islamists (usually economic support to Hamas, Hezbollah,
Islamic Jihad, al-Qaeda or other terrorist organisations). Since there are more than 1,2
billion Muslims worldwide that totals 120-180 million. These Muslims are spread all over
the world and are either militants themselves or direct supporters of militant Islamists.
The passive support is much higher. Some polls show that around 60-65% of Muslims
support “Islamic Jihad” and similar Middle Eastern terrorist organisations. 36% of
Pakistanis believe that the Pakistani army should not pursue al-Qaeda in Pakistan.
Sympathy or direct support to Jihadi Salafism is not by any means reserved to Salafi
Muslims (Wahhabists or other Salafi groups). Muslims from all schools of Islam
sympathise and support militant Jihadists.
Nearly all Pakistani Sunni Muslims belong to the Hanafi school of Islam. The Hanafi school
is the oldest one and most liberal and tolerant of the four schools. It is also the largest
movement within Islam with around 30% followers worldwide. So does that mean that
the Hanafi Muslims are peaceful, moderate Muslims? Unfortunately its a lot more
complex than this. All Schools of Law are quite intolerant (Hanbali being the most
intolerant). As an illustration; All schools of Islam preach death to homosexuals and
apostates (converts from Islam) and pledge the ultimate goal of implementing Sharia in
Hanafi being the dominant form of Islam in both Pakistan and Europe would indicate that
they were more moderate and tolerant than other Muslims, yet, Muslims from Pakistan
are well known for their conservativism and intolerance. There are tens of Genocides and
hundreds of mass murders (see pogroms) recorded in history committed by hanafi
Muslims. There are thousands of examples of Jihadi killings committed by hanafi Muslims
throughout history and this trend continues even today. It is the largest one and it is
followed by approximately 30 percent of Muslims worldwide. The Hanafi School is
predominant in Turkey, northern Egypt, Levant, and amongst the Muslim communities of
the Balkans, Central and South Asia, China, Russia and Ukraine. In other words the
Genocide of more than 1,5 million Christian Armenians, the Greek and Assyrian
Genocides were also acts of so called moderate “Hanafi” Islam.
2.47 Europe's Wahhabi Lobby
Extremists get together to worry about intolerance.
by Stephen Schwartz - 10/06/2005, Warsaw
I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN something would be out of kilter. At the end of September, the
Organisation for Security and Cooperation (OSCE), an international body made up of 55
nations--including such dictatorships as nearby Belarus--called for a day-long roundtable
in the lovely and spiritual city of Warsaw. The topic was "Intolerance and Discrimination
Against Muslims." Aside from OSCE diplomats, staff, and two representatives of the U.S.
Commission for International Religious Freedom, the participants consisted of some 25
representatives of Muslim NGOs as well as European and North American human rights
Documents you may be interested
Documents you may be interested