Commentary Magazine


Topic: Nayef bin Abdul Aziz

WEB EXCLUSIVE: Wahhabism and the First Amendment

You would be excused for thinking that the Wahabbi religious establishment of Saudi Arabia and the religion guarantees of our First Amendment have no more in common than fire and water. But I think this oddest of odd couples helps to explain two recent events involving American Muslims and the rest of us — instances of so-called “home-grown” Islamist terrorism, such as the Fort Hood murders, and the resentment being reported among American Muslims at FBI and other law-enforcement-agency activities at U.S. mosques.

To be sure, the religious values the First Amendment protects — freedom of worship, the nonestablishment of a state church — are diametrically opposed to the religious dispensation in the Saudi state. There, the free exercise of religion is not only not guaranteed; it is scorned, banned, and prosecuted. Christianity is a crime, and don’t even ask about Judaism. There, by all accounts, Wahabbi Islam is not merely the established state religion but also an institution whose control of Saudi life more nearly resembles a totalitarian government than the Anglican establishment, whose like the First Amendment forbade. The Saudi minister of the interior, His Royal Highness Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz, who runs their religious establishment, recently ordered a 75-year-old woman flogged with 40 lashes for “prohibited mingling.”

To read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

You would be excused for thinking that the Wahabbi religious establishment of Saudi Arabia and the religion guarantees of our First Amendment have no more in common than fire and water. But I think this oddest of odd couples helps to explain two recent events involving American Muslims and the rest of us — instances of so-called “home-grown” Islamist terrorism, such as the Fort Hood murders, and the resentment being reported among American Muslims at FBI and other law-enforcement-agency activities at U.S. mosques.

To be sure, the religious values the First Amendment protects — freedom of worship, the nonestablishment of a state church — are diametrically opposed to the religious dispensation in the Saudi state. There, the free exercise of religion is not only not guaranteed; it is scorned, banned, and prosecuted. Christianity is a crime, and don’t even ask about Judaism. There, by all accounts, Wahabbi Islam is not merely the established state religion but also an institution whose control of Saudi life more nearly resembles a totalitarian government than the Anglican establishment, whose like the First Amendment forbade. The Saudi minister of the interior, His Royal Highness Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz, who runs their religious establishment, recently ordered a 75-year-old woman flogged with 40 lashes for “prohibited mingling.”

To read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

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