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Thursday, August 25, 2005

USA Today: 'The other jihad'

Ralph Peters, Posted 8/23/2005 9:42 PM

The mosque stood empty beside the road in a Christian town in Kenya. Funded by Saudis, it wasn't meant for worshippers. It was meant to stake a claim.

The mosque annoyed the locals. Windows were broken. A goat grazed in the garbage-speckled yard. Yet that shabby mosque was part of an extremist campaign that threatens widespread strife in the years ahead.

On a trip to Kenya and Tanzania last month, I saw recently built mosques wherever I went. Even along the predominantly Muslim coast, there were far more mosques and madrassahs than the worshippers needed. I counted seven mosques along one street in a Mombasa slum — most of them new but neglected.

The construction boom is part of what my personal observation convinces me is "the other jihad," the slow-roll attempt by fundamentalists from the Arabian Peninsula to reclaim East Africa for the faith of the Prophet. We dismiss Osama bin Laden's dream of re-establishing the caliphate, Islam's bygone empire, as madness. But Saudis, Yemenis, Omanis and oil-rich Gulf Arabs are every bit as determined as bin Laden to reassert Muslim domination of the lands Islam once ruled.

No region is as vulnerable as Africa. The differences between the Saudi ruling family and bin Laden aren't so much about goals as about methods. The Saudis were furious over the 1998 embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam not because of the viciousness of the acts, but because the attacks threatened to call the West's attention to quiet subversion by fundamentalist Wahhabis in the region....