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The Cult of Islamic Terrorism

Sanjoy Bagchi

By Charles Allen
Little Brown, 2006, pp. 349, £20.00


Charles Allen is not a stranger to India. His ancestors have been associated with India for generations. Charles came into prominence as the author of The Plain Tales of the Raj and he followed it up with several very readable accounts of little-known events in British Indian history like the exploration of the sources of the five rivers around Mount Kailash, the subjugation of the wild tribes of the Afghan border, the British invasion of Tibet or the discovery of Buddhist remains in the country. Now he has studied the history of the murderous cult that originated in Saudi Arabia in the 18th century and its tenuous connections with India, which has become its modern target. Abd al Wahhab was an 18th-century religious fanatic living in Nezd in Arabia. He declared that jihad against non-believers is the noblest function of Islam for the sake of mankind. He concentrated on the Verse of the Sword in the Quran, which incited its followers to ‘kill the idolaters wherever you find them, lie in wait for them at every point of observation’. His Islam effectively sidelined the Quran’s central message of charity, forgiveness and mercy. On the contrary, he advocated an aggressive intolerance bordering on fanaticism.   The tenets of Wahhabism were ‘first to swear absolute loyalty to their religious leader; secondly, to follow his teaching in every respect; and thirdly, to join him in armed jihad against all apostates, blasphemers and unbelievers’. In return they were promised immediate ascent to heaven should they die as martyrs. ‘There was no other path to salvation’. Wahhabism and the House of Saud were literally married to each other and have remained an indissoluble union since then. Mohammed Ibn Saud, a local chief of the Aneiza tribe, married his eldest son to the daughter of al Wahhab in 1744 and became the founder of the Saud-Wahhab dynasty. Saud at the time of the marriage took upon himself the title of Emir and when al Wahhab resigned the office of Imam in 1773 on account of old age, Saud proclaimed himself as the Imam, thus combining temporal and spiritual authority in the same person. This combination has continued to rule since then in Saudi Arabia, the homeland of Wahhabism.   The Indian connection began with Syed Ahmad of Rae Bareli who had studied the scriptures with al Wahhab at Medina. On return to India, he carried this ideology of violent ...

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