A Spirited Conversation At 2014 Richard Somers Event Ended Up Teaching Us How Wahhabi Extremism Came To Afghanistan 289 Years Ago.

The Darul Uloom Seminary was built in Deoband, India in 1866.  In 1730, Shah Waliullah traveled from his native India to make Hajj Pilgrimage to Mecca. He then studied in Medina with Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab and embraced his violent, intolerant doctrines.  Waliullah brought those doctrines back to British India which then included today’s India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.  Wahhab’s teachings soon inspired uprisings, assassinations, and attacks on Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists, Christian missionaries and anyone connected to the British government in India.  After one failed rebellion, believers in Wahhab’s approach to Islam set up this Darul Uloom Seminary in Deoband.  The word “taliban” means “students”.  The Taliban in Afghanistan today were taught by teachers from Deoband.   Source:  God’s Terrorists: The Wahhabi Cult and the Hidden Roots of Modern Jihad – Charles Allen – Google Books

On September 4, 1804, Richard Somers, born in Somers Point, New Jersey, was killed in Tripoli during the “Barbary Wars”.  Every year, various groups hold events in Somers Point to remember and teach the events that led to his death.  Every year I learn a new and important part of that story.

In 1801, Thomas Jefferson sent our new American navy to the shores of North Africa to fight four kingdoms there.  They are now the countries of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya (then Tripoli).  Together, they were known as the four Barbary Kingdoms. They were affiliated with the large Turkish (Ottoman) Empire, whose Emperor or Sultan ruled from Istanbul.  The Sultan of the Turkish Empire was also the Kalif (Caliph) or leader of the entire Islamic world.

We went to war with the Barbary Kingdoms. because their warships were attacking our cargo and whaling ships wherever they could find them on the high seas.  These Barbary “pirates” then seized the ships and the cargoes.  They captured the passengers and crew and took them back to their home ports.  There the captives were either held for ransom or sold as slaves.  The Barbary “pirates” were not pirates under international law and were not tried and executed as criminals when captured.  They were instead “corsairs” or “privateers”.   They served a government that had formally declared war on America.  That government received a share of all goods captured by their “corsairs” or “privateers” and of the ransom or proceeds from the sale of passengers or crew members that had been captured.

The Barbary “pirates” attacked and captured our ships several months after our independence was recognized by the Treaty of Paris in 1783.

Why did the Barbary Kingdoms attack us?  Future Presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both asked that question back in 1785 when they were our ambassadors in Europe.

They did this when meeting the Ambassador from Tripoli in London England in 1785.   The Tripoli Ambassador gave a simple and alarming answer.  He said that the four Barbary Kingdoms were ruled by followers of the Prophet Muhammad.  The Tripoli Ambassador explained that according to their Holy Book, the Koran, anyone who did not accept Muhammad and his teachings was a sinner.  Therefore it was the duty of followers of the Prophet Muhammad to attack and enslave them whenever they could.  The Ambassador from Tripoli said that the only way Americans could avoid these attacks was to pay bribes, tribute or ransom to the four Barbary Kingdoms.

Americans did that for the next 15 years.  For the first few years, Americans had no choice.   We had no Constitution, no Commander-in-Chief, and no navy to protect our people.  During those years, roughly 10% of our federal budget was paid to the Barbary kingdoms as bribes, tribute or ransom.

All that changed in 1801.  At that time, we had a Constitution, and a navy, and Thomas Jefferson was our President.  Jefferson sent our navy to fight the Barbary Kingdoms until they stopped attacking Americans.  They fought and defeated the Barbary warships for the next four years.  Richard Somers and the entire crew of the Intrepid were killed in the Harbor of Tripoli during one of those battles on September 4, 1804.

Above:  the Nautilus in Battle of Gunboats near Tripoli.  Richard Somers was put in command of the Nautilus and its 108 member crew in 1803 when he was 23 years old. 

However, in 1805, the Americans landed marines near the “Shores of Tripoli” and hired a mercenary army of Greek Christians to fight with them.  Soon afterwards, the four Barbary Kingdoms made peace with us and we stopped paying them tribute and ransom.

Chipp Reid, a professional reporter, author, and navy historian heard me speak about Richard Somers at several of the ceremonies held in Somers Point every September.

Professor Reid said the “Barbary Pirates” did not attack Americans because of Jihad, or Holy War against non-believers.  He said they were simply men from poor countries who robbed and extorted the ships from weak nations that could not defend their ships.

I disputed that.  For several years, Chipp Reid, the professional and I, the amateur, had spirited discussions in Somers Point every September.

That prompted me and other members of Liberty and Prosperity to read everything we could about the “Barbary Wars” of 1801-1805.  What we read explained why Al Qaida attacked and killed 3,000 Americans on September 11, 2001.  It explains why the “Taliban” (students) with help from large sections of the Islamic world defeated and humiliated America in Afghanistan during the past few weeks.  It explains why American military “experts” were so clueless when they shared our most sensitive secrets and strategies with our “moderate” Muslim “friends” in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

It seems that the Chipp Reid was right to conclude that by 1700, most Barbary Kingdoms and the Turkish Empire attacked and captured Europeans and Americans mostly for money, not Holy War.  The Turks had been decisively defeated in Vienna, Austria, in 1683.  The Turks and their Barbary allies were also defeated at sea many times.  As a result, The Turks gave up most “Jihad” or Holy War against Christian Europe.  They were perfectly willing to tolerate “kaffirs” or non-believers, as long as those kaffirs paid them  tribute on a regular basis to keep their ships safe.  The Sultan of the Ottoman Turkish Empire, including the top rulers of the Barbary Kingdoms used this money to live in luxury.

However, this offended many of their subjects.  One was Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab.  He was an Islamic scholar and fiery preacher who lived in what is now Saudi Arabia during the 1700s. Wahhab was in many ways a Martin Luther of Islam.

He taught that too many Muslims were not complying with the teachings of Mohammed because they were not reading the instructions of Allah in the Koran or the teachings of Mohammed in the Hadith.  Because of this, they did not know that good Muslims could not live comfortable lives with non-believers.  Wahhab taught that Muslims must live according to the strict laws and instructions found in the Koran and Hadith, and be at war with non-believers.  Wahhab taught that every Muslim must memorize the Koran and study the Hadith to know what Sharia Law required.

There is a big difference between the Bible Study of Martin Luther and the Koran/Hadith study of Wahhab.  Luther’s Bible study led to open discussions, freedom of speech, tolerance for those who reach different opinions.

However, as Wahhab taught his students, anyone who said or did anything that was different from what Mohammed taught was an apostate who had to be killed.

Wahhab soon won the loyalty and support of a local chief in Arabia called Muhammad ibn Saud. Later, the Saudi family, together with followers of Wahhab, took control of almost the entire Arabian peninsula.  We now call their kingdom Saudi Arabia.  When the British and Germans discovered oil there in the years before World War I, the Saudi family because what of the richest families in the world, and the strict and violent followers of Wahhab’s doctrine because the most powerful force in the Islamic world.

However, Wahhab’s teachings had even greater influence in British India, which then included what is now India Pakistan, and Afghanistan.  This helps  explain how the Taliban defeated and humiliated America in Afghanistan.

In 1730, Shah Waliullah, a 27 year old Muslim student from Delhi India made a pilgrimage to Mecca in Arabia.  There, he studied with Wahhab. After a year of study in Arabia, Shah Waliullah brought Wahhab’s violent, intolerant teachings back to his home in India.

Wahhab’s teachings almost immediately inspired his followers to violently attack and kill Sikhs, Buddhists, Hindus, Christian missionaries and anyone connected to the British government in India.  Followers of Wahhab were strongest Afghanistan, then called the North-West Frontier of India.

During the mid 1860’s, after several of their wars and rebellions against the British failed, followers of Wahhab’s teachings in British India set up two large organizations.  One was Jamaat Ahl-i-Hadith, the Party of Tradition.  The other was a group that set up the Darul Uloom seminary college in Deoband, India.  Students from that schools are called Deobandis.  God’s Terrorists: The Wahhabi Cult and the Hidden Roots of Modern Jihad – Charles Allen – Google Books

After World War II, India was divided into separate Muslim and non-Muslim countries.  Hindu and Buddhist majority areas remained in India.  Muslim majority areas became what is now Pakistan and Bangladesh.

This new mosque at the Wahhab seminary at Deoband is just one of many new buildings funded  with Saudi oil money during the past thirty years alone.

The Saudi Wahhab regime of Saudi Arabia used its oil wealth to lavishly fund thousands of Wahhab schools run by Jamaat Ahl-i-Hadith and the Deobandis.  Graduates of these schools also brought the Wahhab doctrines to Malaya, Indonesia, and other parts of Asia.

During the 1980s Wahhab followers from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh led the armed fight against the Russian army’s occupation of Afghanistan.  There, they created an organization called the “Taliban” which means “students”.  When the Russians left in 1989, their these “students” took over the country.  Taliban is the plural Pashto translation of the Arabic word “Talib”, which means “student”.

Osama Bin Ladin Al Qaida group killed 3,000 Americans on September 11, 2001.  With George Bush as President, America invaded Afghanistan.  At first we were welcomed as liberators.  In every city, men lined up outside of barber shops to shave off their beards.  Al Jazeera’s news team left the country in disgust.

But then it became clear that Bush and his top officials were working closely with Wahhab loyalists in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.  Even though they had worked with, trained, and funded the Taliban for years, Bush and his top officials called them “moderate” Muslims and “friends” of America.

Within weeks, Osama Bin Ladin and most top Al Qaida and Taliban leaders escaped with the help of our “friends” in Saudi-Arabia and Pakistan.  During the next 20 years, Afghan trust and confidence in the United States declined.

When our soldiers left Afghanistan last month, the Taliban seemed to know exactly which Afghans had helped us, and where they could be found to be arrested and killed.  The Taliban “surprised” President Biden and our top military and intelligence leaders by taking over the entire country in less than two weeks.

Some 300 years ago, Benjamin Franklin observed that Americans had a habit of having frequent open discussions with others having different views on the issues that matter most to them.  He said this made ordinary Americans better informed than the elites of Europe who were afraid to share their true opinions that way.

It seems the elites running America today are like the elites who ran most countries in Europe during the days of Benjamin Franklin.  They are often misinformed because they seem unable to have open conversation.  They seem afraid to express their honest opinions and to tolerate those who openly disagree with them.

Click here for related posts:

August 15, 2021:  President Bush And His Generals Lost Afghanistan As Soon We Got There. They Didn’t Learn From Richard Somers And The Barbary Wars. – Liberty and Prosperity

August 15, 2021:  “Talib” Is Arabic For “Student”. Taliban Are Students Of Koran & Hadith And Are Doing Exactly What Those Books Instruct Them To Do. – Liberty and Prosperity

2011:  Why our Generals Were More Successful in World War II – YouTube   (Thomas E. Ricks at Nimitz Lecture Series, University of California, Berkeley “Why Our Generals Were More Successful In World War II Than in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan”).

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  • Seth Grossman

    Seth Grossman is executive director of Liberty And Prosperity, which he co-founded in 2003. It promotes American liberty and limited constitutional government through weekly radio and in-person discussions, its website, email newsletters and various events. Seth Grossman is also a general practice lawyer.

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