04 February, 2007

Saudi Writer Recasts Kingdom's History

Washington Post:
The pervasive religiosity permeating his childhood here, where Wahhabism is the state ideology, sparked a burning question in young Dakhil's mind: How had these Wahhabi clerics come to wield so much power and authority?

After decades of research and a doctoral thesis on the history of the Wahhabi movement, Dakhil came up with an answer. The clerics had inherited their power from Wahhab. The fiery, puritanical preacher had been instrumental in catapulting the House of Saud ahead of others vying for power at the time and became an influential and trusted partner in the first Saudi state. That alliance between the ruling family and the clergy continued down the generations, with the Wahhabis eliminating all other doctrines, taking charge of education and enforcing their strict brand of Islam in mosques and schools.

The religious connection also gave the Saud family legitimacy to oversee Islam's holiest places.

Dakhil's findings offer a new reading of the Wahhabi movement that contradicts the official narrative and could lead to a reduction of the clergy's power.
UAE connection:
Dakhil was allowed to publish only the first two of a set of three articles, and a rebuttal to attacks in the Saudi press on his work, before his newspaper, al-Ittihad, asked him to stop writing on the subject and then put him on indefinite leave. The paper is based in the United Arab Emirates, a close Saudi ally.
In an article in the Dubai-based Forbes Arabia, Dakhil suggested that members of the appointed consultative Shoura Council, especially if it becomes an elected body, join the royal council to weigh in on who becomes king. Local censors ripped out Dakhil's column in the December issue before allowing it into the kingdom.
("United Arab Emirates, a close Saudi ally"? Some closer than others, I believe.)

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