Community Politics

Author Terence Ward brings a unique perspective to his soon to be published book, “The Wahhabi Code: How the Saudis Spread Extremism Globally.” Ward was born in Colorado but spent his childhood living in Saudi Arabia and Iran. He’s in Louisville for a World Affairs Council of Kentucky and southern Indiana event Thursday night.

I spoke to him about his book and about Wahhabism. You can listen to our conversation in the audio player above.

Ward on the history of Wahhabism:

“It is the primary doctrine, the sect, of Saudi Arabia that was founded or created 200 years ago by Abdul Wahhab, which is where it gets its name ‘Wahhabism.’ And the Saudis would prefer not to hear this word but that is what the outside world had referred to this doctrine.

“And what is essentially different about this doctrine from all others that one finds in Islam is that it has a very distinct condemnation of every other believer within Islam who do not follow their puritanical views. Which means that the vast constellation of Muslims that make up the entire family of 1.5 billion people find themselves condemned by the Wahhabis. Those people who have been condemned can also be killed. Which has been at the heart of not simply of ISIS, it’s been at the heart of Al Qaeda, it’s been at the heart of Boko Haram. All of them profess to be Wahhabi and follow the lines of this puritanical, austere Wahhabi tradition.”

On the Saudi monarchy’s connection to Wahhabism:

“At the outset of Abdul Wahhab’s declaration of his views in 1740, he of course needed to have a political ally. And his first strong ally happened to be the head of the Saud family. So the great drama is that the Saud family has been tied to Wahhabism for the last 250 years. The agreement was if Wahhab’s followers joined with the Sauds and rode with Sauds, then the Sauds would be recognized as the political leaders.”

Author Terence Ward will speak at the World Affairs Council of Kentucky and southern Indiana Thursday at 5:30 p.m. More information is available here.

Bill Burton is the Morning Edition host for WFPL News.