Awakening Islam, by Stéphane Lacroix

Mention of Saudi Arabia conjures images of a fundamentalist kingdom where the government prohibits women from driving and forbids non-Muslims from holding religious services. The roots of the country's puritanical code go back several centuries. In 1744, an unwritten compact was made between a religious reformer and the Saudi chief of a small oasis settlement near the present-day Saudi capital of Riyadh. The reformer's name was Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab. His Muslim adversaries dubbed his teachings Wahhabi, and the term stuck even though their adherents rejected it. For more than two centuries, Saudi rulers have backed Wahhabi doctrine, and Wahhabi clerics have blessed Saudi power.


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