Saudi Hypocrisy in Wahhabi “Disneyland”

In an interesting new development, the New York Times reports that the Saudis are making a shrine for a violent, intolerant and bigoted sheikh, Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, in Dir`iyyah, near the capital of Saudi Arabia.

Dir`iyyah, which is essentially a suburb of Riadh, was ruled in the middle of the 18th century by a tribal sheikh named Muhammad ibn Saud. It was also the home base of the founder of Wahhabi Islam. As the Times notes, the two Muhammads made a deal that would eventually take over most of the Arabian Peninsula. Muhammad ibn Saud would supply the warriors and Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab would supply the ideology to justify the conquest. The combination was a one-two punch that succeeded over a number of generations to subdue the diverse communities in the region and force them to comply with an austere and unusual form of Islam.

Abdullah b. Abd al-Wahhab is the source of an attitude that, through the power of Saudi oil money, has become globalized among Muslim communities in much of the Muslim majority world and among many Muslims living also in the West. This attitude is bigoted, rigid, often hateful and vicious, and not normative to Islamic history and thought. But with the power of Saudi money, its supporters have bought their way into the hearts and minds of many unwitting Muslims, and threatened and persecuted many others who counter their version of Islam.

(When a colleague of mine was raising money to build a mosque in Los Angeles, a Saudi representative approached him and offered to fund it. The whole thing. My colleague was intrigued until the representative informed him that it was a package deal and included an imam whom the Saudis would import to run the operation. He declined.)

The irony of this new project is that Wahhabis have bulldozed dozens of shrines to more important, truly spiritual and inspirational leaders of Islam in the name of blotting out physical iconic sites that they accused of having become sites of idolatry.

But the Saudis are investing about a half-billion dollars in a Disney-like tourist attraction that essentially amounts to a shrine of their own in Dir`iyya, in homage to one of the least spiritual religious figures that Islam has ever produced.

They have demolished homes, blotted out burial sites and even flattened mosques. Among the sites demolished are the Jannat al-mu`alla, the ancient cemetery in Mecca and the graves of Prophet Muhammad’s mother Amina and of his grandfather Abd al-Muttalib; the house of Khadija, Muhammad’s first wife, which they replaced with a line of toilets; the house of his daughter Fatima in Medina, and the house of her husband Ali, Muhammad’s closest male relative; and they’ve even torn down countless mosques, such the mosque in honor of Muhammad’s foster-brother Hamza b. Abd al-Muttalib, the mosque of Muhammad’s youngest daughter Fatima (who was also an important transmitter of prophetic tradition), and at least a dozen others that commemorate various occasions or people in Islamic history.

And now, in an act of ultimate hypocrisy, we see the Saudis constructing their own idolatrous edifice in order to glorify the ideological source of their political power.

  • DKeane123

    Unfortunate that all these historic monuments are being torn down. Although, I did find it kind of amusing that there was a mosque dedicated to a foster brother.

    “Abdullah b. Abd al-Wahhab is the source of an attitude that, through the power of Saudi oil money, has become globalized among Muslim communities in much of the Muslim majority world and among many Muslims living also in the West.” – Hold on. We’ve been told over and over here at RD that this form of Islam is not global and limited in geography and followers. It seems that there may have a difference of opinion?

  • Sam


  • Sam

    If I may be so inquisitive, are differences of opinion surprising?

  • DKeane123

    On this site, it would appear so.

  • Sam

    I suppose my experience differs. I have noticed a diversity of opinions which is one of the reasons I like this site.

    Thank you for sharing though. 🙂

  • GregAbdul

    The Saudis big hypocrisy is their monarchy. They go around the world talking about bid’ah and created things, but our Prophet was no King and Fatima was no princess. They destroy historical Islamic sites and preserve their “monarchy” at all costs. This article is not wrong. The opinions expressed here are true and important, but they are an internal debate in the Muslim world. Just as in the West, where you get not the best people with too much money and influence, so too, we Muslims have some who are a little too loaded and they are creating mischief. But we all know, the Saudis are depending on bad US foreign policy. They have always been surrogates for the US and Britain. The brother you mention, who refused their money, may Allah grant him a high reward, but we know there are many who go on sale. I know a brother who was struggling to get through medical school. A few years pass and the next thing I know, he’s holding a halaqa to teach us Wahabi Islam. Allah knows, but it depresses me because this is a smart good brother, but we know in the modern world, the rich use their money to push their morality on others and whether we are talking about the racist GOP and the Saudi Wahabi movement, the greater long term evil belongs to the group that has the largest economy and the largest military in the world.

  • cmbennett01

    The importance of preservation of historic and cultural landmarks is a very secular, liberal idea. Saudi Arabia is neither secular nor liberal; there is no hypocrisy in their actions. They are promoting their religious ideology and suppressing others. It should not come as a surprise to anyone.

  • Jerome

    Reuven Firestone a great scholar in the field of islamic studies should have indicated that if the Saudi regime exist since 50 years and still exist today it is par la grâce of the government of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, who has installed it and is protecting it NOW. USA, country where the only government is in fact the COMPANIES who PAY for campaign of deputies, senators and president and therefore wait the $ in return even if it deals with killing its own people by junk food, polluting the soil by hydraulic fracturation, sending the youth in randomly wars and last but not least, spreading radical islam all over the world. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA is not a democracy anymore, it’s an oligo ploutocracy under the mask of “we are the good guys” which deceives nobody in Europe ; now the people in Europe is revolting (except the Germans who are dying) against USA and the European elite who have submitted to it. USA is the 11th plague of Egypt : this country need to be dismantled. France is at the origin of it, she will lead the démantèlement of USA with China and Russia, and then the end of the Saudi.