It may be very tempting and, indeed, flattering when a super rich country like Saudi Arabia requests a country like Bangladesh to participate, almost as equal, in the Islamic coalition against terrorism to fight the menace of the Islamic State (IS). Bangladesh may be painted by the vested quarters as a strong and sufficiently grown up in stature among the Islamic nations to be part of a collective action against the evil outfit of IS (also known as ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant)). But this image of empowerment is illusory, misleading and could be potentially harmful.
Saudi Arabia is the main architect taking the lead role in organising this alliance. On December 14th 2015, Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defence Minister, Mohammed bin Salman declared that 34 Muslim States have come together to participate in this coalition. The Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said a day later, “The anti-terrorism group could not only include the military, security and intelligence tracks but also ideological one as well”. Almost all the Middle East Muslim States (except Iran, Iraq and Syria) as well as Pakistan and Bangladesh have been stated to be the members of this coalition. A joint operations centre is to be established in the Saudi capital, Riyadh.
What made Saudi Arabia to go ahead with such a monumental step against the IS, when it is an open secret that Saudi Arabia and other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) were the main architects in the creation of this IS and its predecessor, the FSA (Free Syrian Army)? The answer lies in the fact that the Saudi government finds the going too hot and unless the IS is sacrificed now, there is an existential threat to Saudi Arabia itself. The Saudi duplicity is bare open to the world now and the criticism is becoming deafening.
But Saudi Arabia is playing even a bigger and dirtier game under the cloak of IS terrorism. The ideological brainchild which Saudi Arabia created and nurtured in the form of IS has now become a monster, a Frankenstein which is now threatening to devour the creator – Saudi Arabia itself. The IS may have taken the Salafism/Wahhabi ideology too literally and implemented the directives of beheading the non-believers, killing of innocent people and destroying the historical relics etc. with enthusiasm. If IS can be replaced by a more amenable and submissive outfit and the Wahhabi ideology can be propagated in the process, nothing could be better!
The IS has spawned out of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which had been covertly supported by Saudi Arabia along with other GCC countries to overthrow the Alawite (a denomination of Shia sect) president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad. Alongside that, America and many Western countries had been led to believe that the FSA is a free democratic force rebelling against the brutal dictator Bashar al-Assad. Thus Saudi ulterior motive of propagating Wahhabism coincided with the American motive of imposing democracy in Syria!
Bashar al-Assad is, however, being supported by the neighbouring Shia States of Iran and Iraq. The militia groups like Lebanese Hezbollah and Iraqi Shiite militias also lent support to Syrian regime. Russia having long military and economic ties with Syria gives political and military support to Syria.
Thus, for all intents and purposes, Syria has become a cauldron of geo-political rivalry between America and Russia on the one hand and a full blown Shia-Sunni conflict on the other. For nearly four and half years, from the beginning of Syrian conflict in 2011, there were most barbaric and vicious conflicts but no camp could score decisive victory. The FSA, despite its all attempts to get military support from the West, failed, as it became progressively clear to the West that there is a hidden jihadi agenda of the FSA. An extremely vicious splinter group was formed which came to be known as the Islamic State (IS) with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as the Caliph.
The viciousness of the IS is simply mind-boggling. In order to eliminate IS, a coalition of 65 states led by America started to bomb the IS targets from the air. But the West soon realised that without ground troops it would be well-nigh impossible to dislodge the IS from their occupied territories.
Under pressure from the West, Saudi Arabia devised the policy to form this Islamic military coalition to fight the IS on the ground and destroy them. But in doing so, Saudi Arabia has covertly put its own agenda to promote Wahhabism. Their proclaimed objective is to fight the terrorist organisations and all Shia organisations like Hezbollah and other Shia militias have been branded as terrorist organisations and no Sunni organisation is considered a terrorist! To the Wahhabi school of ideology Shia is heresy. Thus a perfect cocktail for sectarian fight between Shia and Sunni has been prepared by this Saudi initiative.
Realising this sectarian divide under the cloak of fighting Islamic terrorism, Indonesia has decided to pull out of it. Even Pakistani Senators are saying that no decision to participate in this coalition has been taken. Afghanistan is not a member of this coalition. The West is watching Saudi Arabia’s scheme. The U.S. Defence Secretary, Ash Carter said on Tuesday (15 Dec 2015), “We look forward to learning about what Saudi Arabia has in mind in terms of this coalition”.
If Bangladesh joins this sectarian group led by Wahhabi Saudi Arabia, the country would run the risk of being sucked into sectarian religious war. Pakistan led the war against Afghanistan in 1979 supporting the Mujahedin and eventually became a fundamentalist Muslim country dominated by Taliban. Turkey supporting Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and Wahhabism has already suffered multiple suicide bomb attacks. That country, which was until now, the most advanced Muslim State is torn between religious fundamentalists and secularists.
Bangladesh must shun the temptation of joining the Saudi led Wahhabi group. Saudi Arabia may claim that it is a coalition against terrorism; but it is in effect a proxy religious war between Shia and Sunni. If Shia is defeated, Wahhabism will be the main religious brand for all of these 34 participating states. Even if Shias are not defeated outright, Wahhabism will gradually filter down to all these states. Thus either way Wahhabism will cascade down to the member states. The imposition of Sharia Law is the main plank of Wahhabism.
In view of this Saudi strategy, why should Bangladesh do the bidding for Saudi Wahhabism and suffer the ignominy of submission to the 7th century Sharia Law? Defeating IS is undoubtedly a worthwhile cause, but in the process if one gets into even a bigger evil then it loses its appeal.