Saudi Extremism A Main Factor behind Spread of Islamophobia: US Analyst

Saudi Extremism A Main Factor behind Spread of Islamophobia: US Analyst

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – An American political commentator highlighted Saudi Arabia's major role in spreading extremist ideas that have led to Islamophobia in the world and said Saudis "export the most virulent nihilistic kind of extremism one can find" which is used by the West.

"Well, sure, one important factor (behind the spread of Islamophobia) is the role of Saudi Arabia overall," John Steppling, who is based in Norway, told Tasnim in an interview.

"And they (Saudis) export terror. They export the most virulent nihilistic kind of extremism one can find. But it is an extremism that the US and Western capital has made use of when it suits them."

Steppling is a well-known author, playwright and an original founding member of the Padua Hills Playwrights Festival, a two-time NEA recipient, Rockefeller Fellow in theater, and PEN-West winner for playwriting. He is also a regular political commentator for a number of media outlets around the world.

Following is the full text of the interview:

Tasnim: Turkey hosted an emergency meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) about "increasing violence based on Islamophobia" in Istanbul a week after the New Zealand mosque attack killed at least 50 Muslims, including children. What do you think about the importance of the emergency meeting and the concerns of the participants?

Steppling: Before I answer about the relevance of the meeting in Turkey, I think it is worth emphasizing the degree of Islamaphobia in the West today. And this relates to the shooting in New Zealand. The shooter was an Australian. And it is important to know that slavery of Aboriginal people was still common throughout the 1950s. And reflecting what happened to Native Americans in the US, the children of Aboriginal families were taken away from the parents and put into "schools". And throughout, nobody paid Aboriginal workers the same as their white counterparts. This also reflected what was going on in the US with black workers. The overt racism of Australian leaders, in particular the odious John Howard, shaped the sensibility of white Australia. In the United States, the fight for civil rights was long and arduous. Martin Luther King was killed, and so was Malcolm X. Two generations of Black Panthers were jailed or murdered by the state. Today, mass incarceration still is overwhelmingly targeting blacks and Latinos. And nearby New Zealand is the island of Tasmania, an island state of Australia, and the site of the most efficient and ruthless genocide of an indigenous population perhaps in history. Not a single descendent of Tasmanian Aboriginals remains. Now this meeting held in Turkey is certainly important if only because it officially responds in some way to the massacre. But remember, the OIC is headquartered in Saudi Arabia. Like all such institutions it is fraught with contradictions.

Tasnim: Brenton Tarrant, the Australian terrorist who carried out the pre-planned attack on two mosques in New Zealand’s Christchurch, penned a 74-page manifesto that he published around the time of the shootings. Revealing his admiration for Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people in Norway back in 2011, Tarrant also praised US President Donald Trump as "a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose." Breivik’s attacks in Norway were described as "lone wolf" domestic terrorist attacks. Some claim that the terror attack in Christchurch was also the same. Can we describe the attack “lone wolf” or you think that an anti-Islam current is behind it?

Steppling: It is always convenient to call a mass shooter a "lone wolf". In some sense, it is often true but in a more important sense, it is never really true. Men like Breivik or Tarrant are shaped by global fascist propaganda. They are the product of that climate I described in Australia. And today across the UK, Australia and the US, you can find national level politicians who are shockingly ignorant about Muslim history and society, just shockingly ignorant, mind-numbingly ignorant. The US president is shockingly ignorant. So are most of the Tory leadership in the UK. One is looking at a rise in global fascism. And the US is leading the way in a propaganda that aims to rehabilitate fascism. And of course, Israel now has major political voices who openly praise fascism.

Tasnim: In your opinion, how can Muslims prevent the spread of Islamophobia? Wahhabism is Saudi Arabia's dominant faith and blamed for the rise of Islamophobia in the world. The ideology is closely linked to extremist ideas that have nothing to do with true Islam. Do you not think that one way to prevent the spread of Islamophobia is to prevent the spread of Wahhabism?

Steppling: Well, sure, one important factor is the role of Saudi Arabia overall. They are the biggest arms buyers in the Muslim world. They are the darlings of US defense industries. And they export terror. They export the most virulent nihilistic kind of extremism one can find. But it is an extremism that the US and Western capital has made use of when it suits them. The divide today between the advanced white west...the so called "advanced", and the global south, the non-white world, the non-Christian world, grows starker every day. The US has occupied Afghanistan for 18 years. It intends to remain there and in Iraq indefinitely. The US continues to occupy huge chunks of Syria. And on the very day that the shooter attacked the mosques in Christchurch, Israel was bombing Gaza. The Saudis must be stopped. For like Israel, the House of Saud is regional muscle for the Imperialist USA. Regime change is possible anyway as on several levels the royal family there has used up its value to the West. But for the Islamic world, I think it is high time to start challenging Saudi power.

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