May 16, 2003 | Broadcast

CBN News – Wahhabism

A woman of Egypt and her husband have been sitting in prison since February.

Their crime? The wife converted to Christianity; the husband was already a Christian.

The Barnabas Fund, which tracks Christian persecution, said the couple was arrested while trying to flee the country and get to Cyprus. Authorities claim the wife had a forged passport and ID card.

All over the Muslim world, conversion to Christianity can mean more than prison-it can be a death sentence.

It’s a much different story for Muslims living in the United States, where Islam is allowed to thrive.

Iraqis are in desperate need of pure water and food and Christian organizations are offering help. But instead of being applauded, their efforts have been attacked as a cover for Christian evangelization, despite the fact that they offer the aid freely and have a long record of doing so.

Headlines have ranged from concern, to alarm, to outright opposition. It’s as if Christian groups might share a dangerous virus in Iraq rather than the Christian message of peace and tolerance.

In the Muslim world, there is little tolerance for Christianity. Millions of Christians have now died from persecution and war in country’s where Islam is dominant.

Although Saudi Arabia is the geographical heart of Islam, less than one fifth of the world’s Muslims are Arabs. Most Muslims live east of Pakistan.

Islam is growing fastest in Africa. By one estimate, the number of Muslims on the continen t grew from 34 million in 1900 to 300 million in 2000.

It especially dominates in countries above the 10th parallel, a line that splits many nations in half.

The rapid growth is fueled in part by Saudi oil money, and in part by Moammar Ghaddafy’s pan-Arab aspirations.

There are large numbers of Christians in Africa and in countries where the two religions meet violence often erupts and people die.

In Nigeria, Africa’s largest country, the rise of Islam in the north has plunged parts of the nation into civil war. Twelve Nigerian states now have had Islamic fundamentalist Sharia law imposed on them in violation of the Nigerian constitution.

“I am a Muslim. Sharia is the law every Muslim is guided on. It is a rule, a regulation, binding every Muslim, wherever he is,” said Islamic activist Abdul-Karim Abdullah

To renowned human rights expert Paul Marshall, the deaths in Nigeria and in New York [on Sept. 11] happened for the same reason.

“We [in the West] don’t really think people do things for ‘religious’ reasons. These [Islamic] people do. They die for religious reasons. They kill for religious reasons. And unless we understand their religion we will not understand them at all,” Marshall said.

He says the violence is not about America’s support for Israel, or alienation or poverty, but about getting rid of the biggest obstacle to an Islamic planet: the United States.

“The expression ‘Al Qaeda’ means, ‘the base,’ or ‘the organization,’ Marshall said. “But Al Qaeda does have an official name: The World Islamic Front for Jihad [‘holy’ war] against Christians and Jews.”

Marshall added, “Osama Bin Laden, in many interviews, has said there are two parties to this conflict. The first is world Christianity, and its allies, the Jews, aided by America, Britain and Israel. The second party is the Islamic world. That’s how they see this.”

Many American Muslim leaders have publicly condemned violence against Christians and Jews and most American Muslims are peace-loving.

But in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Wahhabi religious leaders continue to call for the murder of Christians and Jews in Arabic-language sermons.

And Saudi money has made Saudi Arabia’s violent Wahhabi sect the dominant form of Islam in the world-and here in America.

Christianity may not be welcome in most Islamic states, but Islam has been welcome here, and it has used America’s tradition of religious tolerance to full advantage.

A study by the Council on American Islamic Relations says hundreds of new mosques have been built in the United States in the last 20 years. Estimates on the number of American Muslims vary widely, from 3 million to 8 million.

Stephen Schwartz, author of the Two Faces of Islam, says alarm about the growth of Islam in the United States is over who controls it.

“I would say billions of dollars have been spent in the United States to advance Wahhabism,” he said.

“The Wahhabi sect, backed by Saudi Arabia, controls 70 to 80 percent of the mosques in the United States. That means they control the teaching, the preaching, the literature that’s distributed, and they control the training of the imams.”

Schwartz added, “They control all the Imams in the federal and state prisons, and they control the imams in the U.S. military. That is, they instruct, they indoctrinate and they certify the Islamic chaplains in the federal and state prison systems and in the military.”

In addition, Schwartz said, he wasn’t surprised to learn that Sergeant Hasan Akbar, the U.S. solider alleged to have killed his commanding officer in Kuwait, had a long trail of Wahhabi association.

Schwartz added that Akbar, “Came from a Wahhabi mosque in Los Angeles; that he belonged to a Wahhabi mosque at the University of California Davis; that he had belonged to a Wahhabi-controlled branch of the Muslim Students Association.”

New York Senator Charles Schumer’s office is investigating how Musli m chaplains are recruited into the U.S military, and has also demanded that the Federal Bureau of Prisons investigate its own chaplain-recruiting methods. A suit pending in New York State alleges that all of New York’s more than 40 Muslim prison chaplains are Wahhabi.

There needs to be congressional hearings into Saudi Wahhabi control of Islam in America, Schwartz says.

“We’ve never previously had the experience of a major attempt by a foreign government to control a religion in the United States,” he said.

“Just as the communist party recruited spies and traitors, the Wahhabi imams recruit terrorists.”

Schwartz also pointed out that Jose Padillo was recruited in prison. “[He] came back to the United States looking for a recipe for a dirty bomb. This is a reality.”

The Wahhabis continue to build academies like one in northern Virginia alleged to have used anti-Christian and anti-Semitic curricula, while Saudi Arabia does not even allow Christian worship in private homes..

The inconsistency should be addressed, Marshal says.

“I think it would be perfectly legitimate to say, as long as you do that, we’re not going to allow you to expand your facilities in our country.”

The Council on American Islamic Relations, which bills itself as America’s largest Islamic civil liberties group, did not respond to our request for an interview.

The Islamic Society of North America, perhaps the leading Wahhabi organization in North America, said it opposes the way Christians are persecuted in many Muslim nations, and called for Christians and Muslims to work together. That might be possible in America, but seems unlikely in those nations where Wahhabi Islam rules.

American Muslim leaders point out that money from Saudi Arabia comes from individuals, not the Saudi government. But one spokesman told the Associated Press that the money always comes ‘with strings attached.’