Saudi Wahhabi Imperialism in Pakistan: History, Legacy, Contemporary Representations and Debates

David Waterman


Historically, Pakistan has nurtured an interpretation of Islam based on Sufi philosophy, which has a reputation of being more tolerant and open-minded.  Recent decades have, however, seen a rise in conservative Islam exported from Saudi Arabia; Sunni Wahhabism has become more common in Pakistan largely due to a socio-historical context which includes the 1970s oil crises, the 1979 Iranian revolution as well as the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.  Petrodollars have given the Saudi kingdom the necessary resources to finance Wahhabi imperialism, the Iranian revolution has politicized Shia Muslims (who are seen as a threat by the Sunni), and the Afghan war has resulted in the creation of militarized Islam, supported and funded by the USA and Saudi Arabia.  General Zia ul-Haq would then take power in Pakistan, and capitalize on Saudi support for the hardline Islamization of the country, a policy which has left a trail of sectarian Sunni / Shia violence in its wake. 


Saudi Arabia; Wahhabi; Sunni; Shia; Pakistan; Zia ul-Haq

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