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How the New York Attacker Sayfullo Saipov was Radicalized

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07-November-2017

Sayfullo Saipov first became radicalized in the U.S by Wahhabism which happens to be the ideology which his Saudi friends spread throughout the world.

Sayfullo Saipov first became radicalized in the U.S by Wahhabism which happens to be the ideology which his Saudi friends spread throughout the world.

By Alamdar Khadr

On October 31st, Uzbek immigrant and permanent resident Sayfullo Saipov killed at least eight people by driving his truck through a crowded bike lane. Right-wing pundits, alt-right extremists and U.S President Donald Trump immediately put the blame on immigration, vetting, and above all, Islam. Like previous attacks, a whole religion was blamed for the action of one individual.

But this is not what I really want to get talk about. What I’m interested in is the person of Sayfullo Saipov and how he became radicalized. At first glance, people were quick to assume that he was a radical jihadi Muslim who made his way into the U.S through a faulty immigration system. Uzbek-Americans who new Saipov paint a completely different picture than one which Fox News or even Mr. Trump would care to admit.

Sayfullo Saipov won his permanent residency through a lottery program to foreign nationals. When he arrived in the U.S in 2010, Saipov was not a devout or religious man. In an interview with the BBC, Uzbek religious activist Mirrakhmat Muminov stated that Saipov was uneducated and “had no knowledge of the Koran.” He was just a typical immigrant with no strong religious affiliation.  As Muminov states, he saw “no signs” of radicalization in Saipov.

Sayfullo’s interest was only in getting a livable wage and settling down with a typical driving job. He got married in 2013 and had children. However, as Saipov was not able to find stable work, he increasingly grew resentful, angry and ultimately depressed at which point he separated from his otherwise moderate U.S based community.

Due to his depression and isolation, Saipov became vulnerable to the teachings of radical preachers online (and likely on the grounds) who share ISIS’ ideology. Little needs to be said about the widespread availability of hate preachers online who explicitly support ISIS. What is more worrisome, however, is how Saipov may have listened to radical Wahhabi or Wahhabi-inclined preachers in the United States who although purport to condemn violence from extremists nevertheless share ISIS’s exclusivist theology that condemns, excommunicates and ultimately dehumanizes people who do not share the Wahhabi faith.

The Wahhabi version of Islam is the de-facto state ideology of Saudi Arabia. It is a puritanical and intolerant version of Islam that fuels Islamic extremism and is the primary ideological and spiritual drive of groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda. So even if a hate-filled preacher stops short of advocating violence, the mere adoption of Wahhabism (or its South Asian offshoot known as Deobandism) and intolerant view of the world will most likely lead a person to commit some form of violence sooner or later. Once you think of people as deviant heretics, the next step is dehumanization, and what do you do to non-human pests? You exterminate them, and that’s exactly the logical conclusion that Wahhabism and Deobandism lead their followers towards.

What is ironic is that although President Trump is quick to condemn radical Islamic terror, he praises and supports the Saudi royal sponsors of this kind of radical extremism which we saw in Saifullo Saipov. The buck, however, does not stop there. His administration, like the previous one, actively supports ISIS-like groups in Syria to overthrow a secular Syrian government so as to replaced it with a radical Islamic emirate that would encourage further attacks on U.S citizens.

The kind of Saudi and Wahhabi influence currently present in the United States is even more terrifying. Radical Wahhabi preachers who preach intolerance and dehumanize people of other faiths or sects of Islam are allowed free reign to preach in Islamic centers across the U.S. Take, for example, Javed Ghamidi who is a preacher who on many grounds shares the same intolerant theology of ISIS. Ghamidi today is freely preaching across the country and is set to speak in Redmond, at Washington at the Muslims Association of Puget Sound and Los Angeles, California at the Corona Masjid (Mosque). How many people need to die before people like Ghamidi are banned from speaking in centers in the U.S?

Until the ideology of Wahhabism is tackled at its roots and the U.S administration puts an end to the Saudi sponsors of this radical extremism, depressed and hopeless people will continue to fall prey to the message of ISIS.

Alamdar Khadr is a blogger at the World Shia Forum. He lives in the United States with his family.

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