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Stop Wahhabi Indoctrination of Syrian Youth
July 2010
The Website ALL4SYRIA reported (in Arabic) on July 17, 2010 that private Islamist elementary schools have been proliferating in Syria. The title of the article: Secrets and Background Behind the Decision to Ban the Wearing of the Niqab in Syria’s Schools and Universities Taken by the Office of National Security.
A Summary of the ALL4SYRIA article
Islamist groups in Syria have succeeded in controlling most private elementary schools (up to sixth grade), estimated to be around 200 schools (presumably in Damascus) with approximately 25% to 30% of all elementary schools enrolment. The article revealed that teachers are all women, don the Niqab (black covering of face and body), and belong to Islamist proselytizing groups, typically led and controlled by women. ALL4SYRIA added that classroom teaching material contravenes Ministry of Education curriculum and textbooks, that young children are instructed to insist that their mothers must wear the Niqab so that they avoid burning in hell’s fire, that large amounts of money have been paid by Islamist organizers to purchase secular private schools from their owners; for example, Dar Al-Faraj, Dar Al-Na’eem, Omar bin Al-Khattab, The Arab Islamic College, Ummat Al-Majd, Al-Yaqzah…).
Significance of the article
Such a development is disconcerting. Syria must be vigilant. At the core of Islamist teaching, just like Wahhabi teaching, is indoctrination and brainwashing in fanaticism. Sunni Islamists, Syria’s included, embrace Wahhabi extremism with all their being. Their speech and actions are akin to being members of a religious cult.
It should be noted that the word "Islamist" refers only to the tiny minority among individual Muslims who are extremists in their religious fervor and beliefs; specifically, the Hanbalite Wahhabis. The word "Islamist" does not apply to the 95% of Sunnis who follow the other three schools of jurisprudence (Hanafites, Maliktes, and Shafiates). This great majority  is  moderate, enlightened, and tolerant. On a macro level, the word "Islamist"  refers to  extremist Islamic states, not to moderate Islamic countries. While Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, Syria, and Turkey, for example, are Islamic countries, Saudi Arabia is an Islamist country.
If allowed to go unchecked, such a development would cause irreparable damage to Syria’s way of life and to its multi-ethnic multi-religion harmony, including discrimination against and persecution of the country’s many religious minorities and sects, particularly the ruling Alawite minority, which orthodox Muslims regard as heretics. 
To appreciate the consequences of Islamist teaching one need not look beyond the Saudi educational curriculum to see its effects on Saudi youth and Muslim youth in Islamist/ Wahhabi sponsored schools elsewhere. While Saudi textbooks might not be seen in Syria’s classrooms, the dogma, dictums, values, attitudes, and beliefs imparted through the words, mannerism, dress, and personal behavior of Islamist teachers would, nonetheless, mold impressionable young children with Arabia’s seventh century culture.  
Content of Islamist education
Students in Wahhabi controlled schools are taught to denigrate other religions and Islamic sects, including other Sunnis. Starting with the First grade, children are taught that Jews, Christians, and others are destined to be consumed in hellfire. As the children grow up, the same message is honed more explicitly. Fourth graders are taught to hate the polytheists and infidels. Fifth graders are taught that someone who opposes God, even if he/she were one’s own brother/sister becomes his/her enemy. In Sixth grade, students are taught that Islam bans the mourning of the dead tradition that Shi’ites venerate (Center for Religious Freedom of Freedom House with the Institute for Gulf Affairs, Saudi Arabia’s Curriculum of Intolerance, with Excerpts from Saudi Ministry of Education Textbooks for Islamic Studies, 2006.
To put overall Saudi school curriculum in perspective it is helpful to describe some of what the older students learn. Eighth graders are taught that building mosques on graves, even by Muslims, is the work of polytheists and unbelievers. In Ninth grade, teenagers are taught in apocalyptic terms that violence against Jews, Christians, and other non-believers is sanctioned by God. Tenth graders are taught that, in law, the life of non-Muslims as well as women is worth a fraction of that of free Muslim men. Eleventh graders are taught that Muslims do not yield to Christians and Jews on a narrow road out of honor and respect (the Prophet reportedly said: “Do not initiate greeting the Jews and Christians, and if you encounter one of them on a road you should force him toward the narrow side” The Six Books, Sahih Muslim, tradition 5661, p. 1064 and Sunan Abi Dawood, Ibid., tradition 5205, p. 1603). Twelfth graders learn that the spread of Islam through jihad is a religious duty, that jihad is the summit of Islam, that through jihad Islam’s banner was raised high, that jihad is one of the most magnificent acts of obedience to God.
xe “Jihad”
Islamists/Wahhabi education emphasizes the belief in predestination—the antithesis of intellectual reasoning—the enemy of the scientific method and common sense. Absurdities like the machinations of djinn, angels, the devil, and the evil eye anesthetize the brain. Such beliefs are behind the many television programs that fill Arabic airwaves with huge followings in search of advice from shysters and tricksters masquerading as pious ulama invoking supplications from the Quran and the Hadith, prescribing to naïve troubled questioners the Holy Scriptures’ voodoo science and medicine to cure what modern science and medicine had failed to cure. Watching such proceedings is heartbreaking. Such mind control is the worst form of slavery.
Outside the classroom, Islamist/Wahhabi propaganda promotes an anti-Western agenda—Westernization results in the loss of Islamic ideals and practices, encourages the introduction of Western political systems, political parties, and parliaments, which interfere with social cohesion and consensus, brings misery and suffering to Muslims, undermines Muslim conduct, leading to mixing of the sexes, opening of nightclubs, discarding of the veil, charging of interest on bank loans, and celebration of non-Islamic holidays such as Christmas, Mother’s Day, and Labor Day. (Madawi Al-Rasheed, A History of Saudi Arabia, Cambridge University Press, 2003, 191).
Islamist/Wahhabi doctrine denounces Arab nationalism and socialism, as atheistic innovation. Abdulaziz Bin Baz, Saudi Arabia’s former grand mufti (1993-1999), called Arab nationalism an atheist jahiliyya (the pre-Islamic age of ignorance and darkness). Ibn Baz described nationalism as “a movement of ignorance whose main purpose is to fight Islam and destroy its teachings and rules” (Ibid. 190). As for the Arab military-ruled republics that since the 1950s have adopted nationalism as a basis for Arab unity and as a political objective, Ibn Baz branded them “the enemies of Islam.” Saudi history textbooks highlight that Arab nationalism is “European in origin, Jewish in motivation . . . [and] represented as a conspiracy promoted by the West and Zionism to undermine the unity of Muslims” (Ibid. 191).
xe “Arab nationalism” xe “atheist” xe “Bin Baz” xe “Zionism”
Islamist/Wahhabi education engenders hostility towards all those who hold different religious beliefs or political or national aspirations. Opponents are viciously attacked as kuffars (atheists), orientalists, or agents of the CIA and Mossad, deserving death. Islamist/Wahhabi education is designed to enslave the faithful through superstitions and irrationalities in order to prolong the dictatorship of the coalitions that typically govern Arab countries; namely political families and the ulama class.
The dangers of Islamist/ Wahhabi teaching
That fifteen of the nineteen hijackers on September 11, 2001 were Saudis along with Osama Bin Laden and many of his lieutenants suggests a connection between Wahhabism, jihadism, and terrorism. This is not to imply, however, that 9/11 was a state-sponsored crime.
xe “September 11, 2001” xe “Bin Laden”
Religious beliefs play a definite role in determining human conduct. Human conduct is a reaction to current events as determined by the stock of religious beliefs, value systems, and past experience an individual possesses. Such elements cannot be compartmentalized in isolated chambers from one another in the human brain. The religious beliefs chamber cannot be neutralized—it is a part and parcel of the thought process.
Religious extremism may be likened to gunpowder. The gunpowder explodes at the touch of a spark. The spark might be a personal tragedy a jihadist has, sexual frustration he might suffer, or humiliation by a tyrannical ruler at home, or by U.S. Middle East politics, or by Israel. Frustrations make the promise of paradise to Muslim martyrs in the Quran all the more alluring—“companions with beautiful, big, and lustrous eyes” (44:54), “bracelets of gold, green garments of fine silk and heavy brocade” (18:31), and “rivers of wine delectable to drinkers” (47:15).
However, neither Islamist beliefs alone nor personal and political frustrations alone would lead a jihadist to explode. It is Islamist extremism mixed with personal and political frustrations that cause a jihadist to explode.
Exporting Islamist extremism
The Wahhabi way of life has helped the growth of Islamist extremism not only among Saudis, but also among some of the estimated fifty million Muslim expatriate workers who worked since the mid 1970s in Saudi Arabia and the eight to ten million foreigners who continue to work there. Those millions have been subjected to a constant diet of indoctrination in the Wahhabi way of life. If a tiny proportion were radicalized, hundreds of thousand, possibly few millions, could be spreading orthodoxy in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Lebanon, Pakistan, Syria, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, among others. The number of Syrians in Saudi Arabia is difficult to estimate accurately. At the risk of making a guesstimate, however, the number might be in the range of 400,000 to 500,000; about 50% as expatriate workers with the remainder being Syrians who became naturalized Saudis over the past fifty years or so plus political refugees, mainly members of the banned Muslim Brothers Party who escaped and migrated from Syria following the bloody confrontations between the government and the Party in 1982 in the city of Hama.
Radicalized foreign workers may be regarded as Wahhabi Trojan horses in their home countries.
Supplementing the brigades of radicalized foreign workers are the extensive networks of mosques, religious schools (madrassahs), and charities built, funded, and staffed by Saudi trained preachers and teachers over the past four decades or so. They brainwash young students in poverty-stricken foreign communities into believing that Saudi Islam is the short route to salvation. Little wonder that Wahhabism is alive and well causing havoc today in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq, among other places. Syria must not become the next battleground.
The rapid growth in orthodoxy in Arab countries, Lebanon in particular (by virtue of the Hariri clan) and Egypt (through Saudi financed clerics at Al-Azhar and other institutions) and the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to a lesser extent in Bangladesh, suggests that a Wahhabi arch appears to be forming under Saudi stewardship. The arch is to rival the Shi’ite crescent formed as a consequence of America’s failed project in Iraq that empowered Tehran, which extends from Iran to Iraq to Syria and Southern Lebanon plus the scattered but substantial Shi’ite communities in Kuwait, Bahrain, the oil rich Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, and Northern Yemen.
Wahhabism has been exploited by the Saudi regime to legitimize its rule. However, it backfired. A genie was born, and the genie got out of the bottle, and no one today seems able to get the genie back in the bottle.
xe “Wahhabism” xe “Al-Saud kings” xe “genie”
What should Syria do?
Syria can take four actions.
First, trace and cut off the flow of funds that sustains Islamist groups. The source is most likely to be Syria’s home grown Islamists and Syrians who had worked or are still working in Saudi Arabia and who embraced Saudi Islam plus rich Saudis on a mission to spread the Islamist creed around.
Second, proselytizing groups, like other Islamist organizations, must be declared illegal and their financial backers prosecuted.
Third, teachers who deviate from the Ministry of Education’s curriculum must be punished.
Fourth, the teaching of Islam to Muslims students and Christianity to Christian students should be replaced by the teaching of ethics and/or comparative religious thought--Christianity, Judaism, and Islam--to all students. 
Fifth, promulgate a twenty-first century personal status law befitting a supposedly “secular” country like Syria to replace its current antiquated Shari’a based laws and courts for Muslims and spiritual courts for non-Muslims. A country that claims to be “secular” should become truly secular. Syria’s government appeasement of Islamists is like riding a tiger. The tiger may someday devour the rider.