Question Set Key for Ch 6 of Hot, Flat and Crowded: Filler ‘er up with Dictators. P 111-126
1. What is the significance of the madrasah in Peshawar?
That madrasah is one of a growing number of Islamic schools in the Islamic world, but especially in the Arab and South Asia, that provides education, housing, meals for hundreds of thousands of children and young men who would not have access to education in their countries’ public schools. Hence, the madrasah is providing services that governments do not. The education is severely limited, mostly memorization of the Koran and, in some schools, a drastically biased view of global politics. Many of these madrasahs are funded by oil-rich Islamic countries, especially Saudi Arabia. Many of these madrasahs are in countries whose governments are friendly with the US and which have cooperated in the global war on terror.
2. The information about the increase in oil export earnings in OPEC countries should not be new for you. However, note that the price of exported oil increased by more than 400% since 1998.
3. The tragedy of September 11, 2001 illuminated that “our oil addiction” is changing the “international system” in what four “fundamental” ways?
a. Some of the money we pay for Arab oil is used to promote an “antimodern, anti-Western, anti-women’s rights and antipluralistic” version of Islam that comes from Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately, here in the US, we hear little about moderate pluralist Islamic societies like that of Indonesia, the largest Muslim country.
b. Some of the money we pay for oil supports the “reversal of democratic trends in Russia, Latin America and elsewhere”.
c. Our addiction to oil forces our government, and other governments, to “look the other way” as we seek energy resources from countries who practice repressive policies that violate US notions of human rights.
d. We support “conservative, Islamic governments” with our oil purchases, some of which support “anti-American terrorist groups” (Al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad). Our tax dollars go to our military, which tries to protect us from these groups.
4. What is “Desert Islam”? How did the take over of Mecca’s Grand Mosque influence its spread? How has it spread during the past 30 years?
Desert Islam is also known as Wahhabism or the Salafi version of Islam. It is known as a fundamentalism version of the religion because it seeks to emulate the practice of Islam that prevailed in the 7th century. It is not the only version of Islam. It is, however, one that has grown most rapidly, particularly among Shiites, during the past 30 years. Its growth was greatly advanced when Muslim fundamentalists took over Mecca’s Grand Mosque in 1979. Mecca is in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia’s ruling family reacted by promoting the Salafism as means to prevent revolution. Friedman point out that Saudi Arabia represents just 1% of world Muslims yet provide 90% of the financial support for the faith.
5. Note Friedman’s claim that “the most important geopolitical trend” of the Energy-Climate Era is the shift in power in the Islamic world from moderate urban versions of the faith to the “Salafi Saudi/desert centered Islam”. Some of this shift was made possible by our oil purchases from Saudi Arabia.
6. How do Middle East’s population characteristics make the conservative version of Islam especially popular?
Almost 2/3rds of population is younger than 25 and more than 25% are unemployed. This represents a large population that is ripe to be attracted by zealous fundamentalist Muslim missionaries peddling a conservative brand of Islam.
7. With respect to democracy, societal tolerance and popular culture, what has been the trend during the past 60 years in the Middle East? Why?
During the past 60 years democracy, societal tolerance and popular culture in the Middle East have been greatly influenced by the rapid growth of oil wealth. Ruling families have stopped progress to more democratic leadership. Once tolerant societies where alcohol, open flirting, and shared male-female education have retreated to the strictly segregated and “no-nonsense” Desert Islam. Former film stars have lost work because their previous work conflicts with strict interpretation of the Koran. This closing of society has been brought about oil-rich fundamentalist Saudis. Egypt is an Islamic country, and also the home of belly-dancing, that was particularly affected by the rise of Salafi influence and money.
8. Note how schizophrenic Saudi Arabia is. Their rulers are the “friends” of the US. Yet they share and support a version of Islam held by Al-Qaeda’s, an enemy of the US.
9. Greg Mortenson’s book “Three Cups of Tea” was CSU-Chico’s Book in Common a few years ago. Some of you may have read it. His account of his poorly funded school building organization’s activities in Pakistan demonstrates how overwhelming Wahhabi/Salafi/Saudi Islam’s reach is, and how they have planned for the long-term. It’s also interesting to note the split between urban/Mediterranean/moderate Islam and its rivalry with rural/desert/fundamentalist Islam.
10. What is the “good and bad news” from Saudi Arabia?
The bad news is that Salafism is deeply engrained in Saudi society. The good news is that Saudi Arabia’s ruling family has recently devoted resources to re-training citizens who were “brainwashed”. The ruling family has funded the education of thousands of Saudis in universities in the US and other countries abroad. CSU-Chico has been part of this effort. My wife teaches at the American Language and Culture Institute here on campus. For the past 4 years the number of Saudi students has skyrocketed. They are here to learn English so that they can earn degrees at US universities.
11. How has Saudi oil wealth hampered US activities in Iraq and Afghanistan?
70-80% of Saudi state revenues come from oil exports. A significant portion of this money is donated to Saudi charities, some of which do good works. Some of it also goes to “charities” which financed suicide bombers and insurgents that US and Iraqi forces fight in the quest to stabilize the country. Osama bin Laden’s money came from his family’s construction company that became wealthy from contracts for Saudi Arabia’s ruling family. And, the money for those contracts? It came from oil purchases. Bin Laden’s money was devoted to supporting Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Our soldiers in Afghanistan are still fighting warriors financed indirectly by our oil purchases from Saudi Arabia.
12. How was the war in Lebanon in 2006 evidence that Saudi Arabia is not the only OPEC country whose oil wealth funds terrorism?
The war was Hezbollah, a Shiite terrorist based in Lebanon, against Israel. Lebanon is not a major oil producing country. Hezbollah received its funding from Iran, OPEC’s second largest oil producer. Iran became a Shiite republic in 1979, the same year that fundamentalists took over Mecca’s Grand Mosque. Shiite Iran vies with Sunni Saudi Arabia for supremacy in the Islamic world. Interestingly, Iran is not Arabic. The country is Persian.
I agree with Freidman’s point that US made a mistake by not devoting major government resources to wean us from oil from the Middle East in the aftermath of 9/11.