The Siege of Mecca

The Grand Mosque in Mecca
The Grand Mosque in Mecca

Fourteen years following the events of 9-11 and the invasion of two Muslim countries the world is not safer. The threat of terrorism is as high as ever and ISIS is now a household name. Today’s parents have to check their kid’s youtube history to make sure they are not watching ISIS propaganda videos. Oh the things you didn’t have to worry when al-Qaeda was #1 on the most evil chart. I often wonder how did it get to bad?  In the Western world history starts on 9-11. That’s the event where the story starts. Yet, what is largely under reported are the events that lead to 9-11 and the current war on terror.  I remember 9-11 like it was yesterday and all I could ask was “why”. The government’s answer and the one the media paraded was overly simplistic: “they are evil people and they hate us for our freedom.” Really? That’s the answer to justify why a bunch of men would hijack a plane and crash it in a tower, killing themselves along the way (there’s something about a bunch of virgins in Muslim heaven but that’s for another post). Yaroslav Trofimov’s book, The Siege of Mecca, delve into a widely ignored but major event that is largely responsible for the state of today Islamic terror. Where did it really all begin?

The seeds to 9-11 were planted on November 20, 1979, when a group of Islamic radicals lead by Juhayman al Uteybi invaded the Grand Mosque in Mecca. In the West the event was barely noticed and was considered an isolated incident. Plus western media had their plate full with the Iranian hostage crisis. A closer examination of the Grand Mosque seizure is in large part responsible for the modern day Islamic terrorists we live in. The seizure was basically an uprising against the Saudi regime which at the time was slowly deviating away from old school Wahhabism, a branch of Sunni Islam that demanded a return to a pure and harsh faith of the kind once practiced by Prophet Mohammed and his early companions. King Faisal was trying to slowly modernize Saudi Arabia. He removed some of the more anachronistic Wahhabi structures such as outlawing slavery in 1962, he had plan to introduce education for women, and he created Saudi television, a move that cost his life. Plus Saudi Arabia discovered they had a lot of oil and with it came unimagined wealth. Americans are addicted to oil and the Saudis royal family got addicted to American money.

Juhayman and his group didn’t like the direction Saudi Arabia was heading towards and wanted the country to go back to its old Wahhabi ways.  So they took over the Grand Mosque in an uprising to get their message across. We know today that his plan didn’t go down as planned. The Saudi government’s tackling of Juhayman on its holiest shrine showed cruel incompetence and arrogance. The royal family’s image was sullied and many Muslims around the world were repulsed by the carnage in Mecca. Among those disgusted is the young Osama Bin Laden which over the years has drifted toward open opposition to the House of Saud and its American backers. Juhayman might be history but his ideology lived on and mutated with time into al-Qaeda’s death cult. After the attack on the mosque, fearing that more attacks could hit the kingdom which would lead to the collapse of the House of Saud, Saudia Arabia reverted back to its old ways.

The book also explains many geopolitical events that resulted from the Grand Mosque seizure, such as American embassy burning and Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan. After Russia’s invasion the gates of jihad were open. The royal family was funding mosques around the world to recruit jihadist to fight the Russian. Saudi Arabia was afraid of a possible Russian invasion and they hated communism. One of the person to join the jihad is Osama Bin Laden. He was a protégé of Prince Turki, the head of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence agency (he resigned on September 1, 2001…bizarre timing). Prince Turki working with the CIA closely supervised Osama’s effort. The Saudis were showering Afghan warlords who agreed to abide by Wahhibi strictures, which we now know became the Taliban.

I know I haven’t made the full link between the Grand Mosque seizure and 9-11, that’s why there 255 pages to read. If you like to understand things you won’t be disappointed. This is an excellent book and I would say it’s a must read if you want to understand ISIS.


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