Force and Fanaticism: Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia and Beyond
by Simon Ross Valentine
London: Hurst, 2015. 256 pp. $34.95.
Reviewed by Raymond Ibrahim
Middle East Forum
Middle East Quarterly
Valentine, a British Methodist pastor and teacher who taught in Saudi Arabia, has written a useful book about the desert kingdom. Most interesting is its exploration of how the monarchy is "the single greatest force in spreading Islamic fundamentalism";
it "has spent as much as $100 billion to spread Wahhabism in the West," yet "America and Britain have been, and are continuing to be, implicit supporters of Wahhabism."
Valentine discusses the background of how this "unholy alliance" came about. He warns: "If the West simply ignores it, Saudi Arabia's role in international terrorism seems likely to worsen rather than conveniently disappear." This is troubling considering that "ISIS is Saudi Arabia's latest monstrous contribution to world history."
The author explores important topics, including the mutawwa, or religious police, and provides useful historical context, discussing the origins of Wahhabism, its alliance with the House of Saud, and the oil discoveries that changed everything.
Unfortunately, a large chunk of the book is devoted to separating Islam from Wahhabism, meaning the author never gets to root matters. Anything positive is attributed to Islam and anything negative—misogyny, draconian punishments, execution of apostates, persecution of non-Muslims—to Wahhabism.
This position stems from the author's own cultural presuppositions. He "felt confused and puzzled" by Wahhabi intolerance and the "attempt to propagate their beliefs by force." In all his conversations with "ulema, imams, Mutawa and Saudis generally, there was never a mention of 'love.'" In fact, Islam's prophet, Muhammad, followed by countless caliphs, did sanction the use of force; and while Islam attributes ninety-nine characteristics to God, love is not one of them.
Valentine's readers would benefit much more had he simply laid out his useful information concerning the inner workings of the Saudi regime and its unholy alliance with the West, without trying to tackle the deep question of what Islam really is.
Related Topics: Saudi Arabia | Raymond Ibrahim | Fall 2016 MEQ
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