“Wahhabi” is derived from the name of Muslim scholar Muhammad bin Abd al Wahhab, who lived in the Arabian peninsula during the 18th century.
Today, the term is broadly applied outside of the Arabian peninsula to refer to a movement that seeks to purify Islam of any innovations or practices that deviate from the teachings of Prophet Mohammed and his companions.
It is austere in nature and insists on a literal interpretation of the Quran. Strict Wahhabis believe all those who don’t practice their form of Islam are heathens and enemies.
Wahhabism is an intolerant and aggressive form of Islam, which has been associated with many violent movements and terrorist attacks.
It was associated with violence from the very beginning. Wahhab himself was expelled from his hometown for his attempts at puritanical reforms and for attacking the tombs of early Muslims.
After his death, his followers became more violent, murdering their way across the land and, in 1803, forcing Mecca to surrender.
Critics of this doctrine claim every Wahhabi isn’t a terrorist but every Islamic terrorist is a Wahhabi.
Wahhabism has been blamed for fuelling the zeal of 9/11 hijackers and for influencing terrorist groups like ISIS, Boko Haram and al Shabaab.
The Islamic State has justified many of its deeds with examples from the actions of the Wahhabi army and its leaders.
In 2013, Strasbourg’s European Parliament declared Wahhabism to be the main source of global terrorism, with a report linking it to the Benghazi attacks and the war in Syria, among other atrocities.
According to the some researchers, nearly 15 to 20 per cent of the $10bn set aside by Saudi Arabia to promote its favored form of Islam may have been diverted to al-Qaeda and other violent jihadists.
Wahhabism has contributed in forming the root of Islamic State’s ideology, which is why it has become such a headache for western and Islamic leaders alike.
As the extremism theory prohibits the veneration of shrines, tombs and sacred objects, many sites associated with the early history of Islam, such as the homes and graves of companions of Mohammed, were demolished under Saudi rule.
Preservationists have estimated that as many as 95 per cent of the historic sites around Mecca and Medina have been razed.
Despite widespread objections and the theory’s evident role in fuelling terrorism, Saudi money has strategically silenced all criticism in international media.