The recent brouhaha surrounding Pope Benedict XVI comments on Islam delivered in Germany should give Muslims a pause. Not one that would conjure the recalcitrant attacks that we have seen recently but rather one that would question why such a prominent religious leader would utter these words.

What the Pope said allows me, as a Muslim, to ponder self-examination and not rush into a reaction of condemnation.

Islam, throughout its history, delivered its share of great minds to humanity during times of peace and prosperity. Scientists like Mohammad al-Khawarizmi who invented Algebra and Avicenna who contributed greatly to medicine lived in an era of “political prestige, financial power, and intellectual pursuit with Baghdad as the epicenter” as Saadia Iqbal described it in a National Geographic article. We Muslims, in another era, built our own great and peaceful civilization that ushered the prosperity wished upon any people of any race in any religion.

But Islam of today differs from the Islam of yesterday. Instead of a thriving era of the Abbasids, we are experiencing a terrorist era of Wahhabism.

Wahabbism is an obscure strand of Islam with fanatical followers who remained “out of sight and out of mind” until Saudi Arabia struck it rich with oil. Hungry economies saw it fit to submit to the Wahabbis and their protectors, the al-Saud clan, rather than confront their danger. But this came with a price.

It was oil that financed 15 Saudis to attack the United States on September 11 and it is Wahhabism today that is militarizing Islam. Unlike the prosperous Abbasid era, the Wahhabi era is confrontational, fanatic, and universal because of undue influence by Saudi Arabia. That influence is justified, in the eyes of Muslims, because Saudi Arabia is the Guardian of the Two Holy Cities of Makkah and Medina.

The radicalism of Wahhabi Islam demands a concerted effort by moderate Muslims and Muslim nations alike if ever Islam is to survive to usher another era of peace and prosperity. To succeed, we must chart a strategy to wrestle control of Makkah and Medina from the hands of the 5 million extremist Najd-bred Wahhabis and trust these two Holy Cities to an International Council of Muslim Nations with the country of Jordan as the host. In other words, we need to vaticanize Islam.

Saudi Arabia’s windfall profits from high demand for oil, at its present production, yield it an additional $500 million a day; excess funds are spent to spread Wahhabismworldwide in what were once moderate Muslim communities. Witness the power of Saudi Arabia, a country of 25 million people, in faraway places like Indonesia and Malaysia, two countries with hundreds of millions of Muslims, and the lack of influence of these moderate Muslim nations in the Arab world.

Every time a street demonstration erupts or an act of violence against other religions is committed, you can bet that the Saudi Wahhabis are behind it. Like Saddam used to gift $25,000 to every Palestinian family that sent its son to die needlessly by killing innocent people, the Wahhabis send money secretly to every Muslim community that erupts in violence.

These communities await a cartoon or simple words of truth to explode because they know well that following their public rant and rave, a Saudi contribution awaits them. What we are witnessing in those irrational acts is a new Muslim order controlled and managed by the Wahhabis with the intent on forcing their interpretation of Islam on Muslims and a Caliphate to crown their achievements. Where else do you think Osama bin Laden, Saudi-raised, got his ideas?

As a moderate Muslim living amongst Muslims, Christians, and Jews, I am asking myself what have we, Muslims, brought forth to today’s civilizations that would appeal to other religions and prompt them to imitate us or praise us? We have but TV beheadings and barbaric killings of innocent people in the name of our great religion. Are we then surprised to hear other religious people with followers all around the world ask us, through factual history, why we are so violent?

The words of Pope Benedict should not be examined with scorn but with scrutiny. The respect that our Islam commands in the world today is diminishing because we have come to accept Wahhabi Jihad as normal behavior; this explains President Bush’s message that abandoning us to ruthless dictatorships is breeding the divide all of us should fear.

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