The Salafi movement, sometimes referred to as Wahhabis, are fundamentalist Sunni Muslims who, in their beliefs, harken back to the time of Muhammad and who would like to see their lands governed by sharia law. Like many religions, they are divided into worshippers and political activists. Unlike most religions, a small minority of them are violent revolutionaries — jihadists, of course.
In December of last year at Salon, Steven Zhou wrote about the injustice of labeling all Salafist as terrorists.
… of the vast number of Muslims in the world, a sizable chunk identify in some way with salafism. The vast majority of these Muslims live peacefully and aren’t violent. So what gives?
The truth is that though many Muslim extremists show some sort of affiliation with strict and conservative interpretations of scripture, it’s simply a logical fallacy to then conclude that all religiously insular Muslims are either terrorists or terrorists-in-waiting.
There is no solid establishment of a direct link between religious conservatism/insularity and extremist political violence.
However in the Daily Beast, Asra Nomani writes that she understands “the family culture of puritanical hyper-religiosity in which the [San Bernardino shooters] had lived.” And, “It doesn’t necessarily equate to violence.”
However, we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking Salafis are like the Amish.
In the conveyor belt of radicalization, conservative Salafi doctrine is too often a gateway drug to violence.
I know that sounds like something more often found on Breitbart, the Daily Caller, or NewsMax, but Ms. Nomani bears hearing out. First she writes about a school that is
… is popular among middle-class and upper-class women in Pakistan, including many of my aunties. It has branches in the U.S. and Canada, and boasts a strong online teaching network. When I had studied among Al-Huda students in Islamabad in the days after the 9/11 attacks, I described them one way: “the Taliban Ladies Auxiliary.”
Over four decades, I—and dozens of other Muslims with whom I have spoken—have seen the spirit of religious dogmatism overtake the lives of loved ones, as the governments of Saudi Arabia and Qatar have exported their state religion of Salafism to the world.
In other words, however much jihadi violence is a product of death-cult jihad groups and their psychopathic leaders, it owes just as much to states.