Ignorance of and leniency towards Salafi ideology are two major problems in Western nations

I contacted Nicolas Pirsoul who is a doctoral candidate in politics and international relations at the University of Auckland recently because his research interests include issues around democracy and Middle Eastern politics. I told him about the story we had broken about Salafist Dr Sahib and asked him if he would consider writing an article for Whaleoil in reaction to the story since it had been picked up by the mainstream media both in New Zealand and in Britain. He politely declined because he said he was currently working on several articles and opinion pieces already.It appears that one of the pieces he was working on was for the New Zealand Herald.

Isis, Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, and other terrorist organisations are all inspired by a particular understanding of Islam: Salafism.

Salafism is an extremist, literalist, and intolerant form of Sunni Islam…

Salafism obtained the important political power it continues to hold today when Muhammad ibn ?Abd al-Wahhab formed an alliance with the al-Saud family during the 18th century to give birth to the Saudi version of Salafism, Wahhabism, the state religion of the current kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

As Saudi Arabia developed as a major political force, due in large part to its oil production and its status as one of the West’s principal allies in the Middle East, Salafism further expanded its political and geographical influence. Saudi Arabia has continued to use its wealth to propagate Wahhabi ideas thorough the Islamic world and Muslim communities in the West.

Given these facts isn’t it strange that all those Sunni Imams from Egypt were sent to New Zealand this year to combat extremism? You know, the extremism that we don’t currently have in New Zealand according to FIANZ. Who exactly were these Imams targeting? Were they concerned about Salafists like Dr Sahib from Saudi Arabia who are propagating Wahhabi ideas?

Ever since the September 11 attacks, the West has become far more aware of the threats posed by Sunni extremist organisations…

In Belgium, my country of birth, the March 22 bombings…revealed two major issues: the strong presence of Salafi ideology in Belgian Sunni mosques on the one hand and the ignorance and leniency of Belgian authorities towards this issue on the other. These two major problems are also evident in many other Western nations.

Indeed, a number of Belgian investigative journalists have exposed the radical discourse of several preachers in Brussels and other cities. These Salafi-minded discourses are heavily at odds with values such as democracy, freedom of speech, or religious tolerance.

The journalists have also exposed the lack of financial transparency (and sometimes illegal practices) of many Islamic institutions, as well as the strong ties existing between some of the main mosques with Salafi tendencies and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

…It is not very difficult to explain why Belgium, and other Western nations, has given so much liberty to the Saudis to propagate their intolerant extremist understanding of Islam within their country. Economic dependence on oil is perhaps the most obvious explanation, but Western authorities’ continued ignorance of Islamic history and its varied schools of thoughts resulting in considering Salafism as representative of Islam is probably another factor.

I believe that a number of lessons can be learned from Belgium. This is particularly true for countries such as New Zealand where the problem of Islamic extremism is much more manageable.

First, it is important to recognise the existence of a problem and not to underestimate it. The recent hate speech controversy, involving a cleric from the at-Taqwa mosque in Manukau, is only the tip of the iceberg and follows a well-established pattern of other events involving Salafi clerics preaching in New Zealand, such as Egyptian cleric Sheikh Abu Abdullah a couple of years ago. It would be na?ve to think that our nation’s Sunni oriented mosques are immune to Salafi ideology and its intolerant and sometimes violent interpretation of Islam.

It is gratifying to have our investigative work acknowledged by an expert like Mr Pirsoul.

It would equally be na?ve to believe that New Zealand is free from economic ties with the Saudi Kingdom, as the controversial Saudi farm deal recently underlined.

…It is important that New Zealand does not imitate the leniency of other Western nations towards these issues.

Which is, even more, reason why we need our next PM to be strong on law and order.

Second, it is important to understand and adopt the right attitude towards the problem of Islamic extremism. Extremism thrives on division. Mainstream stereotyping and discrimination against Muslims has helped Salafism, and its Manichean worldview, to grow in Europe. It is therefore critical that New Zealand should remain an inclusive and tolerant nation by embracing its diverse Muslim community.

The majority of Muslims, conservatives or not, reject violence and intolerance. They are allies in the fight against terrorism…

-NZ Herald