K2 Portfolio

The idea that, for more than half a century, Saudi Arabia’s petrodollar-fueled export of the austere and rigid breed of Islam known as Wahhabism has had profound and far-reaching effects around the globe is by now something of an article of faith among observers of the contemporary Muslim world. For some, the kingdom’s vast portfolio of global religious-propagation activities serves first and foremost to disseminate ultra-conservative interpretations of Islam in ways that generate cultural intolerance and also affect social attitudes toward (as well as the status and precarity of) women and nonconforming religious groups in receiving countries. Others, however, go much further, drawing direct links between Saudi support for religious causes and various forms of violent conflict, militancy, extremism, and terrorism. Some even see in Saudi Wahhabism the wellspring of the Salafi-jihadi worldview associated with groups such as AlQaeda and Islamic State (ISIS).