July 11, 2003 — Adherents of the violently uncompromising Wahhabi sect, the state religion of Saudi Arabia, are killing other Muslims overseas, and attacking coalition troops in Iraq. On our side of the globe, bloodshed is blessedly limited, but a battle continues, for the education and mobilization of the public.
On July 4, three Wahhabi terrorists killed 48 people and injured 50 more at a Shia mosque in Quetta, Pakistan. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and other high officials cautiously admitted they detected a foreign hand in the atrocity.
Pakistani Muslims living in America filled in the blanks. Agha Shaukat Jafri, spokesman for the Universal Muslim Association of America (the top U.S. Shia community organization), said: “Every Pakistani Muslim knows the blame for these dreadful crimes belongs in one place — the doorstep of the Saudi princes and the Wahhabi bigots in Riyadh.”
Top U.S. officials know it, too. Treasury Department General Counsel David Aufhauser recently described Saudi Arabia as “in many ways, the epicenter” for funding of al Qaeda and other terrorists. And he pointed to the Wahhabi sect as “a very important factor to be taken into account when discussing terrorist financing.”
Saudi spending to impose Wahhabism on global Islam, he noted, “is a combustible compound when mixed with religious teachings in thousands of madrasahs [Islamic schools] that condemn pluralism and mark nonbelievers as enemies . . . It needs to be dealt with.”
Pakistan’s rulers are timid about directly confronting the Wahhabism menace, but some of our own leaders are worse.
Aufhauser’s comments came late last month, at Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Terrorism hearings on Wahhabi influence in American Islam. I was among three others who testified.
Some senators clearly perceive the threat: Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) called the hearings, and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) delivered a stirring challenge to indifference about Wahhabi infiltration of our prisons, military and other institutions.
But two others, Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), found our concern misplaced. Senate rules prevent me from discussing their remarks until they appear in the official record, but these senators plainly see criticism of the Wahhabi lobby — even by other Muslims — as prejudice. That’s precisely the line pitched by the lobby’s so-called civil-rights groups, like the egregious Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
Ironically, the day after the hearings, 11 local Muslims were indicted in Virginia for conspiring with a Pakistan-based Wahhabi group, Lashkar-i-Taiba (“Army of the Right-eous”), to carry out a terrorist “jihad” in Kashmir. Three of the 11 had already fled to Saudi Arabia.
A leading member of this nest was Randall Todd Royer, 30, an American who became Muslim and adopted the name Ismail. Long a prominent member of the Wahhabi lobby, he was formerly employed as communications specialist for CAIR, where, by their account, he “worked in research and civil rights since 1997.” He also served as communications director of the Muslim American Society, another part of the Wahhabi lobby.
But I know Royer for his assiduous harassment of me, my foundation, the Saudi dissident Ali al-Ahmed of the Washington-based Saudi Institute and others in the nation’s capital. He attacked us all as Zionist agents, misrepresenting himself as a “journalist” and accusing us of spying on Muslims.
We breathed a sigh of relief when we heard Royer was arrested — and another when we learned he had been driving around our area with an AK-47 and more than 200 rounds of ammo in his car.
Then a federal magistrate, Rawles T. Jones, ordered several of the suspects freed. A clearer-minded U.S. district judge, Leonie M. Brinkema, opposed the action. After a judicial tug of war, three of the suspects were released (but not Royer).
While judges argue legal doctrines, Agha Jafri and other American Shia Muslims point out a bitter truth: “The men arrested in the Virginia jihad network are activist supporters of the terrorist movement that killed 48 Shias in Quetta,” Jafri comments. “The Wahhabi octopus uses many names — Lashkar-i-Taiba is but one of them. This is an ideology of mass murder. Its adherents must not be treated as if they were merely pious Islamic believers — whether in Pakistan or in Virginia.”
President Musharraf and President Bush — and the magistrates in northern Virginia — should take note.
Stephen Schwartz is director of the Islam and Democracy Program at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington, D.C.