Johann Hari: We all fund this torrent of Saudi bigotry

Junkies don't talk back to their dealers. We are addicted to the Saudi oil supply
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The Independent Online

Which glossy brand name has been the biggest winner on the planetary roulette wheel of globalisation? Most of us could reel off a dozen eligible mega-corporations: Apple, Coca-Cola, McDonald's, the Nike swoosh. They are all wrong. The check-in-your-chips champion of globalisation is in fact a puritanical desert-nomad from the sands of Arabia who died in 1792, and the evidence was there in this week's Islamic panic front pages.

In his 18th-century oasis, Mohamed ibn Abd al-Wahhab Wahhab had a dream. He dreamed of an Islam stripped down to a cold list of mechanical rules, strictly enforced, severely upheld. He ordered whippings and beheadings of Muslims to "purify" the faith. He smashed up and burned down the worship places of the softer, more mystical Muslims all around him. And - his smartest move - he cut a deal. He met the chief of the desert bandits who lived in the nearby long stretch of sand called Najd - a man named Mohamed Saud - and offered him his allegiance, in return for enforcing his severe, new brand of Islam. The Saud ruling family and the Wahhabi doctrine have been locked in a stiff waltz ever since.

More than two centuries later, oil was discovered under the territory of these bandits, and billions of dollars began to soak into the Kingdom. True to their ancestor's deal, the House of Saud used this black gold to promote the ideas of Wahhab, no longer merely on their own sands, but across the world.

By paying for thousands of schools, mosques and trained imams, they dispersed the ideas of one reactionary little preacher to every continent. It has been a corporate strategy that leaves Ronald McDonald looking like a puffing, obese slouch. Slowly, steadily, they are succeeding in eroding other, gentler forms of Islam. They are globalising Wahhabism - and your petrol purchases are paying for it.

Which brings us to the swish, swanky classrooms of the King Fahd Academy in west London, in the year 2007. A Muslim teacher called Colin Cook has revealed that children there are taught, via Saudi textbooks, that Jews are "repugnant" and Christians are "pigs". Exercises for five-year olds include the charming exercise, "Mention some repugnant characteristics of Jews". Cook repeatedly heard children in the playground idolising Bin Laden. Challenged on Newsnight about whether she will stop using these racist books, the headteacher, Sumaya Alyusuf, said, "No... I cannot withdraw them. There are good chapters in the books."

Why are we surprised? The King Fahd Academy is not a freak. It is part of a deliberate globalised project, led by the House of Saud, that has been documented a hundred times. Azzedine Gaci, the head of the regional Muslim council, in Lyon, France, explains: "When Saudi Arabia gives you €1m with one hand, with the other they give you a list of what you must say or not say." Here's some of the things you can say, taken from standard-issue Saudi textbooks. For 10-year-olds: "The whole world should convert to Islam and leave its false religions lest their fate will be hell." For 12-year-olds: "There is a Jew behind me - come and kill him!"

And what can't you say? Anything about freedom for women, which is, the textbooks explain, "a continuation of the Crusades". A woman can only be taught to "enable her to be a successful housewife, an exemplary wife and a good mother". No need for maths or technology, shabibi, there's the kitchen. They are banned from any form of physical education, because it would be "obscene" for them to change their clothes outside the home. Besides, "they might become attracted to each other if they saw each other in leotards", in which case they would have to be killed.

These textbooks are not only being used in Riyadh and a few scattered outposts; let's look at two very different countries. In Sweden, almost every Islamic school is either funded by the Saudis or seeking out their cash, according to the investigative programme Kaliber. In Pakistan, there were 246 madrassas at the time of independence, in 1945. Today, there are 6,607 - the majority using these Saudi textbooks provided for nada. Every time you fill up with a fresh tank of petrol, you are helping to buy some more.

Moderate Muslims have been warning for decades that allowing children to be indoctrinated with this poison in their formative years kneecaps any attempt to stimulate less literalist readings of the Koran later in life. But where is the counter-offensive, siding with these decent Muslims against this wall of bigotry? There are 120 Muslim faith schools in Britain, many of which would not be financially viable without Saudi support. The Government proposes to build more. And in the mosques? Nobody seems to know how many of Britain's imams are trained by the Saudis.

In the US, the figure is 80 per cent, and in France it is 70 per cent. There was a taster of the Saudi mullah-training in a recent Dispatches documentary, in which the visiting Riyadh-trained cleric, Abu Usamah, raved in a Birmingham mosque that Jews and Christians are his "enemies", and called gay people "perverted, filthy dogs who should be murdered". The Government talked for a while about setting up programmes to train British imams, but the energy seems to have leached away.

Indeed, the Government paints persistently the House of Saud as "moderate", and Tony Blair is so close to the Saudi princes he just cancelled a corruption investigation into their relationship with BAE Systems. (Don't ask about the love-in between the House of Saud and the House of Bush, where, according to the expert Craig Unger, the Sauds have given more than $1bn to Bush's business ventures). As we allow this Wahabbi rollout, other forms of Islam are being ironed away. Wahhab is being posthumously granted his wish: for millions of Muslims, his is becoming the One True Faith.

Our governments are not stopping this Wahabbi-Saudi hate machine for a simple reason: as The New York Times writer Thomas Friedman puts it, junkies don't talk back to their dealers. We are addicted to the Saudi oil supply: it lubricates our cars, our planes, our food supply routes. In the face of this hunger, talk of national security or democratic ideals soon sinks into an oily gloop. Until we have built up clean, green alternatives to Middle Eastern oil (and isn't global warming reason enough?), you and I will keep paying at the petrol pump for this propaganda.

It's another ironic victory for globalisation: democrats in London are paying for fanatics in Arabia to indoctrinate children in Pakistan, and a thousand other places, and - yes - right back at us, at the end of the District line.

j.hari@independent.co.uk

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