What did Saudi Arabia Offer to Refugees in Germany? Two Hundred Mosques, But Won’t Take Any Itself

What do refugees need? Shelter, food and medicine tend to be immediate humanitarian requirements. What did Saudi Arabia offer Germany at the start of the refugee crisis that expected to see over one million people seek asylum in the heartland of Europe? Two hundred mosques.

While this is a shameful display of Riyadh’s seemingly heartless foreign policy, especially given the fact that Saudi Arabia has accepted zero Syrian refugees, it does not surprise those inside and outside of government who work on religious extremism and counter-terrorism issues.

Saudi Arabia is a Sunni Muslim country that practices a very conservative form of Islam known as Wahabbism. The country also goes to great lengths and spends vast sums of oil money to promote Wahabbism across the world.

Why should we be concerned? In a recent column in The New York Times journalist Thomas Friedman explained “Nothing has been more corrosive to the stability and modernization of the Arab world, and the Muslim world at large, than the billions and billions of dollars the Saudis have invested since the 1970s into wiping out the pluralism of Islam — the Sufi, moderate Sunni and Shiite versions — and imposing in its place the puritanical, anti-modern, anti-women, anti-Western, anti-pluralistic Wahhabi Salafist brand of Islam promoted by the Saudi religious establishment.”

The recent release of the “Saudi cables” by WikiLeaks has led to an increasing number of worrisome facts about the Saudi Arabian government and their influence on the world stage as an agent of religious extremism. It seems the Saudis have been funding Islamic schools and other organizations that promote Wahhabism around the world in places like India and Canada.

At first glance it may not seem so problematic that a foreign government is helping to create places of worship and to educate youth in another country’s jurisdiction. But an obsession with spreading and promoting a particular strain of Islam that is diametrically opposed to equal rights for other sects and religious groups should be seen as deeply unsettling to all, for obvious reasons.