The Saudi system and its legitimacy are based on an alliance between the royal family and the religious scholars and preachers belonging to the Wahhabite school of Islam.
But new rifts have emerged between those partners over the influence of jihadism, according to the geopolitical intelligence firm Stratfor (July 30). A total of 100 imams, including 17 in the Saudi capital, refused to condemn a recent jihadist attack on the Saudi border with Yemen, which killed four border guards as well as another Saudi citizen.
While the Saudi regime has given strong support to the Wahhabite ideology (and to spreading it across the world), it has always relied on religious scholars to prevent the rise of anti-government opposition, whether secular or religious. Stratfor mentions various occurrences, the latest one having been the defeat of the Saudi branch of Al Qaeda in 2005-2006 with the support of religious preachers.
According to Stratfor, there has been a process of internal fragmentation among religious scholars and preachers, with some groups being opposed to reforms initiated by the government. Moreover, the overlap between the ideas of some Wahhabi scholars and those of transnational jihadists should not be overlooked, especially at a time jihadism is experiencing a new vigor in the Middle East.
The unusual move to make the issue public seems to indicate that the government wants to create a national consensus against the dissident scholars while they are still a small group. It knows that it needs the support of the preachers in order to effectively counteract the jihadist threat, which has been in part nurtured by ideological motives diffused from Saudi Arabia.
(Stratfor, 221 West 6th Street, Suite 400, Austin, TX 78701 – http://www.stratfor.com.)