The horrific terrorist attacks on the Charlie Hebdo weekly in Paris have led to speculation as to whether the killers — the brothers Chérif and Saïd Kouachi — were lone wolves or tied to masterminds in ISIS or its rival, Al-Qaeda. Although Al-Qaeda in Yemen has taken credit for the attack, it is unclear how closely the affiliate actually directed the operation. No matter which organizational connections (if any) ultimately prove to be real, one thing is clear: the fountainhead of Islamic extremism that promotes and legitimizes such violence lies with the fanatical “Wahhabi” strain of Islam centred in Saudi Arabia. And if the world wants to tamp down and eliminate such violent extremism, it must confront this primary host and facilitator.
Perversely, while the Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awad Asiri took part in a “Je suis Charlie” solidarity rally in Beirut following the Paris attacks, back home the Saudi blogger Raif Badawi received the first 50 of 1,000 lashes he is due each Friday over the next 20 weeks. His crime? Running a liberal website promoting the freedom of speech. (Thankfully, in recent days it seems the Saudi authorities have buckled to international pressure and suspended the sentence.)