News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: Even in Saudi Arabia, Questions About Wahhabism

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Even in Saudi Arabia, Questions About Wahhabism

By Kate Seelye

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- This country is the birthplace of Islam and a nation where religion and government are deeply entwined and faith and identity are virtually identical. But since the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, religion in Saudi Arabia -- especially the kingdom's rigidly conservative Wahhabism strain of Islam -- has come under increasing criticism both inside and outside of the country with some critics maintaining it contributes to extremism and terrorism. Many clerics still defend Wahhabism as the true path of Islam as preached by the 18th-century religious reformer Mohammed Abdel Wahhab. But a series of deadly al-Qaida attacks orchestrated by Wahhabists like Osama bin Laden have begun to change attitudes. Some, like religious reformer Khaled al Ghannami, a former Wahhabi, openly argue that Wahhabism nurtures extremism.

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