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After Hezbollah’s last war with Israel, swathes of Lebanon lay in heaped ruins. Proud and distinct, the country quickly set itself the goal of rebuilding – a goal it met with staggering speed. Within months, there were office blocks, shiny new transport hubs and large, well-equipped schools. Where did the money for this come from?
Excepting Western aid, the money came from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and it came with a price-tag. In exchange for the flow of cash, Islamic institutions designed to cater to Lebanon’s small Sunni community were erected, most of them set up to preach the uniquely hateful brand of Islam that is Saudi’s most notorious export.
Similarly when Pakistan hit dire economic times in 2010, having been struck by natural disasters and waves of terrorism, Saudi money poured in like never before. New schools, Mosques and madrassas were built on the banks of the flooded plains, all of them designed to adhere to the Saudi religious tradition.
And in Europe, a large proportion of the new ‘Mega-Mosques’ sprouting up in Berlin, London and Paris are likewise funded by Saudi money, the same kind of theology central to their intended operation.
With the power and influence that naturally comes from limitless financial resources, the Saudi royal establishment has radicalized much of the modern Middle East, and from that base, now seeks to Islamise the world.
The motivation behind this project is obvious. Saudi Arabia, being the birthplace of Sunni Islam and in control of its holiest sites, aspires to be the executive of the Muslim world, with Riyadh as the Islamic capital, Saudi wealth funds as the Islamic bank, and the Saudi military (best-described as the world’s largest arms-dump) as the Islamic armoury.
You would be wrong to think that the rest of the Middle East approves of this arrangement. Far from it in fact. The Saudi elite are generally recognised for what they are; a corrupting influence holding restless millions back in a savage, unworkable past.
If you type the words “We are not Arabs” into google or facebook (and manage to scroll past the Iranian websites and blogs) you will find the same protest from Egyptians, Syrians, Lebanese, Algerians, Moroccans and even Palestinians. The ‘Arab world’ is an empire of language, held together by the influence of the original Arabian nation, now called ‘Saudi Arabia’ but best described as simply ‘Arabia’.
And it’s certainly accurate that little loyalty binds a Moroccan to a Sudanese, a Syrian to a Yemeni, or a Lebanese to an Algerian. Little if anything at all. Understood this way, Saudi Arabia is the head of an ’empire of the imagination’, and this means the West has considerable leeway to fragment a hostile bloc and diminish its collective power.
It is often pointed out by the Islamic world’s apologists that prior to the Iranian revolution in 1979, Muslim countries enjoyed a very long period of docility and reform. Before that unwholesome climacteric, Egypt, Syria, Iran and even Afghanistan were taking steps to democratise, liberalise and secularise. There are photographs of women wearing Western dress in 1920s Iraq, 1940s Afghanistan, 1960s Egypt and 1970s rural Pakistan. Multi-sex schools of Western design used to peacefully operate in places now fully segregated by Islamic custom. Music, even Western music, used to be played openly in Afghan villages. Locally brewed beer used to be a significant Egyptian export. And for most of this period, Socialism not Islamism was the main repository of popular discontent.
Something changed all this. Something served to derail it. It is easy (and conventional) to blame the Iranian revolution itself, which certainly ruined a lot of progress both in and outside the sphere of Iranian influence. But this is not enough to satisfy.
I think it more likely that the Saudi regime, having recently demonstrated its economic power in the 1973 oil boycott, took over at this point as the Islamic world’s political kingpin – and soon after, as the premier source of Islamic theology.
How might we encourage the de-Saudification of the Middle East? How might we wind the clock back to the period of slow but real modernisation that was interrupted by the growth of Saudi economic power?
One answer to this may be fracking, a method of energy extraction that will see America go energy independent in this decade and could provide a similar liberty for Europe.
Only Environmental concerns (often misguided) are preventing the West from unlocking the full benefits of this technology. The protests from Saudi and Russian officials are inevitable and loud but can be safely ignored if we redevelop our confidence.
I believe that by sinking Saudi we will not only liberate ourselves, but also the third world from a demonic monopoly, a regressive authority and the leading cause of violent Islamism.