Wahhabism - Order Code RS21695 Updated February 10, 2005...

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1 This report was originally written by Febe Armanios. It has been updated by Christopher Blanchard to include information relevant to the 109 th Congress. 2 For more on the Islamic religion, see CRS Report RS21432, Islam: A Primer . Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress CRS Report for Congress Received through the CRS Web Order Code RS21695 Updated February 10, 2005 The Islamic Traditions of Wahhabism and Salafiyya Christopher M. Blanchard Analyst in Middle Eastern Affairs Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division Summary The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and subsequent investigations of these attacks have called attention to Islamic puritanical movements known as Wahhabism and Salafiyya. The Al Qaeda terrorist network and its leader, Osama bin Laden, have advocated a message of violence that some suggest is an extremist interpretation of this line of puritanical Islam. Other observers have accused Saudi Arabia, the center of Wahhabism, of having disseminated a religion that promotes hatred and violence, targeting the United States and its allies. Saudi officials strenuously deny these allegations. This report 1 provides a background on Wahhabi Islam and its association to militant fundamentalist groups; it also summarizes recent charges against Wahhabism and responses, including the findings of the final report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (“The 9/11 Commission”) and bills relevant to this issue in the 109 th Congress. It will be updated periodically. Related CRS products include CRS Issue Brief IB93113, CRS Report RL32499, CRS Report RS21432, CRS Report RS21529, CRS Report RS21654, and CRS Report RL31718. Background on Wahhabism Definitions. “Wahhabism” generally refers to a movement that seeks to purify the Islamic religion 2 of any innovations or practices that deviate from the seventh-century teachings of the Prophet Muhammad and his companions. In the West, the term has been used mostly to denote the form of Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia and which has spread recently to various parts of the world. In most Muslim nations, however, believers who adhere to this creed prefer to call themselves “Unitarians” ( muwahiddun ) or “Salafiyyun” (sing. Salafi, noun Salafiyya). The latter term derives from the word salaf meaning to
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CRS-2 3 For a comprehensive discussion of Sunni Islam and the schools of Islamic legal thought, see CRS Report RS21745, Islam: Sunnis and Shiites . 4 Contemporary Saudi Wahhabism combines the teachings of its founder Abd al-Wahhab and other religious and cultural traditions. Eleanor Abdella Doumato, “Manning the Barricades: Islam according to Saudi Arabia’s School Texts,” The Middle East Journal 57, no. 2 (2003):230-248 . 5
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Wahhabism - Order Code RS21695 Updated February 10, 2005...

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