The Saudi global export of an ultra-conservative strand of Islam and its impact on Muslim countries and communities around the world has been a hot topic of debate for more than two decades. The rise of jihadist groups such as Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State and their attacks in the United States, Europe, Asia and Africa have fueled the debate, particularly since the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York and Washington. Critics of Saudi Arabia blame Wahhabism and Salafism, the ultra-conservative interpretations of Islam associated with the kingdom, for creating the theological and ideological incubator and breeding ground for jihadism.
Wahhabism and the World constitutes one of the few, if not the first, comprehensive and passionate examination of the impact on the faith of Saudi financial and other support for the global spread of what Mr. Mandaville calls Saudi religious transnationalism and to which it is more colloquially referred to by catch-all phrases such as Saudi funding or support for ultra-conservatism. Mr. Mandaville’s volume with chapters that provide new insights into the Saudi export campaign and a set of case studies illustrates that the reality of the campaign is much more complex and layered.
Interest in Saudi religious influence goes far beyond Middle Eastern and Islamic scholars and policy makers, journalists and analysts, especially given the dramatic social change in Saudi Arabia since King Salam took office. ascended to the throne in 2015 and that his son, Mohammed bin Salman, became the effective ruler of the country. However, social liberalization, including improving professional and personal opportunities for women and creating a Western-influenced entertainment industry, has a lot to do with socio-political factors and little, if anything, to do. with religious reform.
As a result, understanding Saudi Islam and the impact of its export that survives the Salmans’ deep cuts in funding its global spread coupled with their efforts to change its austere and puritanical image to a more moderate, tolerant and outward-looking The makeover remains essential to understanding the geopolitics of the Middle East and the wider Muslim world. Mr. Mandaville’s volume makes a revolutionary contribution to this understanding.
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