Islamic Centre: KSA’s Strategic Move on the Afghan Chessboard

Afghanistan is an ideal springboard and battleground for the spread of Saudi Sunni Wahhabism and Iranian Shiite fundamentalism throughout Central Asia; especially out towards the former Soviet breakaway nations that are hungry for any teaching necessary to fill the failed Bolshevik indoctrination vacuum; especially any form of Islam. Their knowledge of Islam was undeniably negated and atrophied after they were absorbed by the Soviet Union. Indeed, it is a race against time for both Iran and Saudi Arabia to dominate the region with their unique versions of the Moslem religion.

Ever since the Soviet’s pulled out of Afghanistan in 1989, this war-ravaged country has turned into the battleground for a proxy war among Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Now, however, this competition has taken a more robust form. Saudi Arabia has shifted its strategy by spending $100 million towards building an Islamic Centre in Kabul; to lure its Taliban protégés into efforts to reconcile with Kabul; and to neutralize Iran’s revolutionary message in Afghanistan and the region.

The influential Sunni monarchy “House of Saud” is embarking on a public display of diplomacy to position itself for a bigger and more prominent regional role by building a hefty priced Islamic complex in Afghanistan. A strategy solicited and cheered on by the naïve and incompetent Kabul elites who assume a peaceful solution is on the horizon, but the full consequence of all this has yet to be seen as the oil-rich Gulf States are on a direct collision course with their Shiite rival Iran. This is where Iran’s regional escalation of Islamic radicalization will play out as their foreign policy tool.

Pakistan too, will have the lion’s share of spreading Islamic radicalism by strengthening its “strategic depth” against its archrival India on the Afghan chessboard.

As a result, killing three birds with one stone is savoir-faire and a well calculated effort by Saudis and Pakistan by spreading Wahhabism, which Ayatollah Khomeini once called “America’s Islam.”

The proposed sprawling 75 acre (on Kabul’s hilltop known as “Tap-e-Maranjan”) mosque, Islamic Centre and education center will teach thousands of students. It will immediately be equated to the enormous Iranian-built “Khatem al-Nabyeen” Shiite Islamic University and religious school in Western Kabul; which was built at a cost of some $17 million by one of Afghanistan’s most Iranian-inclined clerics in 2006.  The campus has a mosque, classrooms, and dormitories for its 1,000 students.

This religious rivalry raises a score of unanswered questions, such as:  whether it’s curing Afghanistan’s decades of old problems or just spreading new hatred, disunity and terrorism in the country and region?
Is it crucial to build mainstream universities, hospitals, polytechnic institutions, arts and humanities Institutions to create a more bright future for the young Afghans or is it just to meet Saudi interests?
Is it vital to provide essential needs for the poor and deprived Afghan majority or are Saudis just showing off by building a pricey mosque?

The Saudis justify their position by stating; “This Islamic Centre has several aims, one is to ensure good relations between Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia and it is not a political centre but an independent centre.

Indeed, such talk is despicable, as words are plentiful and deeds are precious. In fact, the Saudis’ “outside show” is a poor substitute for their inner worth.

That said, the Saudi deeds were bold and transparent after the 1989 Soviet pullout, when Washington and Moscow pledged not to interfere in Afghanistan. That decision turned the war-ravaged country into a battleground for a proxy war among Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

Are we envisioning another repeat of post Soviet withdrawal but this time doomed to radicalize the region by eliminating Sufi Islam in Afghanistan and firmly establishing Wahhabi Islam, which is the root cause of terrorism in the world?

Khalil Nouri is a member of NWSC (New World Strategies Coalition) a think tank founded by native Afghans that creates nonmilitary solutions for Afghanistan.

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  1. manny george

    This writer must write for Imam Khomeini. He fits bill for an Iranian propagandist.

  2. Rahmatullo Aripjanov

    ‘Saudi Sunni Wahhabism’ and ‘Iranian Shiite fundamentalism’ can not be dealt and approached similarly. Shias do not cherish any expansionist plans for Central Asia. They tend to guide and defend their own ‘inner circle’ only.
    On the contrary, the Wahhabis are promoting aggresive political (backed by Islamic rhytoric) agenda elsewhere they can reach. In Afghanistan their main mission is to terrorize the local Shia minority (as they do against Shia majority in Iraq). The blasts at the Shia shrines in Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif on Ashura last December is a clear evidence of it (
    The Wahhabi penetration in Central Asia is indeed a real danger but being Uzbek I would say that the religious life in my country was not that ‘atrophied’ as the author tries to persuade us. Despite offically USSR was an atheist state, its region least subject to atheist propaganda was Central Asia. The Soviet authorities were aware of the fact that the tolerant attitude towards Islam would guarantee them the loyality of local elites and population. Even the high-ranked figures in Communist hierarchy e.g. in Uzbekistan performed Islamic rituals (like circumcision of male children, Islamic weddings and burials) and often did it openly. A number of mosques and prayer rooms were opened and those wishing to attend could do it. Central Asian socialism has notably mutated in Islamic environment so no ‘ideological vacuum’ was a case there after the decay of Soviet Union.

  3. Afghanistan has always been a Sunni-Islam majority country. The followers of Shia-Islam make less than 10% of Afghan population. India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran were bonded by common history, culture and language for centuries.

    Saudi Arabia, a Wahabbi monarchy, is an artificial state created by the British colonial power to control the revival of Islamic power, both political and economic.

    Afghanistan, since December 2001 – has worked as a springboard for the dominance of SE Muslim countries and the former five Muslim rebulics of USSR and build American bases to keep an eye on Russia and China while exploiting the Caspian Sea oil/gas reserves.

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