Tehran attack: Saudi Arabia is pushing to assert Wahhabism, promote terror and punish Iran

The Qatar issue has further escalated tension in the region.

 |  5-minute read |   08-06-2017
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Union minister Rajyavardhan Rathore, while addressing BJP party cadres in Jaipur on June 6, disclosed that Wahhabism has now made its way to Jammu and Kashmir. Such a remark coming from a minister, known more for his sports-related statements, surprised many.

But Rathore is not off the mark. Saudi Arabia, the principal patron of Wahhabism, has been in the news in recent days for trying to take on Shia-dominated Iran and other non-Wahhabis, damning them as infidels.

Meanwhile, to reinforce the Wahhabi agenda, Saudi Arabia very recently offered a huge sum of money amounting to billions of dollars to Bangladesh for construction of nearly 540 mosques.

South Asia remains a target for Wahhabis to proliferate their Islamic agenda in the region, perceived to be a "soft target" and easily vulnerable. A pattern is clearly visible due to recent disturbing developments in Indonesia, Bangladesh and the Philippines. 

Coincidentally or otherwise, we see an emboldened Saudi Arabia in its posturing after Donald Trump's much trumpeted visit to Riyadh last month. Two developments merit attention.

One is the fresh crisis in Qatar, where Saudi Arabia is playing a lead role in an attempt to target Iran and to send a signal to the Gulf countries that Saudi Arabia is the "one and only" boss in the region whose writ runs and others are irrelevant. The second development is the shooting in Tehran that claimed 12 lives and injured over 50.

Although the ISIS was quick to take responsibility for the blasts at Iran's parliament and Ayatollah Khomeini's mausoleum in Tehran, some experts on Islamic terror assess that it was an act conceived and executed by Saudi Arabia to teach Iran a lesson, or to pre-empt Iran's plans to flex its muscle based on nuclear capabilities.

To buttress their argument, they assert that it's normally not an ISIS modus operandi to target a mausoleum or a site when it's empty. Incidentally, last Sunday was Ayatollah's anniversary and thousands had congregated. Why didn't the ISIS strike then?

It could have caused huge casualties, bringing massive publicity to the terror group. The attack on the parliament also does not bear the ISIS hallmark.

Going by ISIS terror strikes occurring in the past in Europe and adjoining areas, we see all attacks happening in crowded places, ostensibly for maximum propaganda. Be it Paris, Brussels, Ankara or the Istanbul airport.

By implication, therefore, analysts point their fingers to Saudi Arabia for carrying out the terror blasts in Tehran.

arabia1_060817122805.jpgLightning strikes over the Jeddah skyline, Saudi Arabia. Photo: Reuters

Another argument they put forward in support of their theory are the aggressive and belligerent statements against Iran emanating from Saudi Arabia.

Saudi foreign minister Abdel Al Juber recently remarked "Iran must be punished for its interference, support for terrorism in the region". It was perhaps a kind of veiled warning. The Saudi defence minister too sometime back spoke in the same vein, adding that Iran was unsafe. Judging by their utterances, it's clear the tenor in their remarks is menacing.

Meanwhile, some reports from Tehran indicate that a few terrorists responsible for the mausoleum attack were caught alive before they could detonate themselves. Possibly, their sustained interrogation will shed light in tracing the handlers of the perpetrators.

Assuming that there really is a Saudi hand in the terror acts, Iran is unlikely to sit quietly. It will seize this opportunity to retaliate and come back with ferocity to teach Saudi Arabia a lesson. Its prestige is at stake. It wants to remain a leader of the Shias. It has been watching Shia Houthis being targeted by the Saudis in Yemen. It also nurtures helplessness due to excesses on Shia brethren in Bahrain.

The Qatar issue has further escalated tension in the region. It's now Saudi Arabia versus Iran. Or Shia versus Sunnis. Thus, the next episode seems to be a decisive one, with the Gulf as the likely theatre.

Back home in India, the Shias are disturbed with terror attacks in Tehran. They remain sympathetic to Iran as they are vehemently opposed to any kind of Wahhabism thrust on by Saudi Arabia. They are also against ISIS, their doctrine and any radicalisation in India. 

Like the Shias, who reside in large numbers in Lucknow and Hyderabad, Muslim Students Organisation of India (MSO) is reported to be very active in the deradicalisation programme as well as to contain the rise of Wahhabism in India. Such an outfit and its agenda in national interests deserves patronage by liberals and intellectuals to check growth of Islamic fundamentalism in India.

Encouraged by Wahhabism and the Saudi fillip to inject Islam with fundamentalism, Kashmiri activist Zakir Musa recently called upon the Muslims in India to rise and resort to kill the infidels as part of the assertion of Islam by shedding their "cowardice".

Not many reacted or rebutted what Musa said, except perhaps Shujat Quadri of the MSO who, while criticising Musa's comments, said such pan-Islamic plans in South Asia would never succeed.

Musa was dubbed as a Pakistani agent with his agenda funded by the neighbouring nation. We hear a voice on part of the MSO, on a note of optimism, silencing the voice of anti-nationals and those trying to spread Wahhabism. 

The menace of Wahhabism has to be jointly tackled by the state and liberal outfits by encouraging Sufism, and the academics too have a role to play to ensure that there is a religious order in place which is tolerant, accommodating, non-violent and capable of coexisting with all faiths. 

Also read: Tehran attack: Iran-Saudi Arabia proxy war gets dirtier, and bloodier


Shantanu Mukharji Shantanu Mukharji @shantanu2818

The author is a retired IPS officer who has held key positions in the Government of India handling sensitive security issues within and outside India.

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