Inside the Global Saudi Religious Project
The Call chronicles the House of Saud’s vast project to transform the Muslim world by spreading Wahhabism, its brand of ultraconservative Islam. Using billions of dollars, thousands of personnel, and institutions both governmental and unofficial, the Saudi proselytization network is both more complex and more influential than is commonly believed.
Journalist Krithika Varagur travels to three continents to tell the story of the Saudi religious campaign from Indonesia, Nigeria, and Kosovo. She finds Saudi money in all kinds of places, from universities to political parties to extremist and jihadist groups. She meets people who were swept up in the campaign’s Cold-War-era peak and those who are still holding up its tarnished international brand today, as well as the victims of the intolerance and fundamentalism that were spread through the Saudi dawa, or “call,” to Islam. The Call lays out the consequences, intended and unintended, of a Saudi initiative that has taken on a life of its own, and illuminates the global sweep of the Kingdom’s ambitions over the last century.
“An award-winning journalist follows the money to track the pervasive spread of Saudi Arabia’s particular brand of ultraconservative Islam….In her three riveting, thoroughly researched case studies, Varagur investigates why the Saudi brand of Islam is so appealing: It is radical in its simplicity, clearly instructs behavior, provides direct access to important texts, and offers a sense of community to its believers worldwide….Varagur wisely allows many voices to be heard—and shows how Saudi influence is now more transparent but still insidious.”
—Kirkus ★ starred review
“The Call provides a first-hand deep dive into the facts of how Saudi Arabia spawned Salafi movements abroad that now are largely self-sustaining, as the kingdom yields to global pressure (and the reality of diminished oil revenues) by curbing its external spending to spread fundamentalist Islam. These days, when so few journalists bother to dig for facts, preferring to pontificate, Krithika Varagur’s work stands out.”
—Karen Elliott House, author of On Saudi Arabia: Its People, Past, Religion, Fault Lines—and Future and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting
"A comprehensive analysis of Saudi Arabia’s decades of proselytizing its ultra conservative Islamic views throughout the world. Based on meticulous research and field work, this is the best account in print of how our ally has spread its intolerance and extremism but also how that has evolved over time. A must-read for Islam watchers."
—Bruce Riedel, director of the Brookings Intelligence Project and the CIA's former Saudi Arabia station chief
"An incisive, salient, and comprehensive exploration of the sort of philanthropy that comes with a heaping side of religious proselytizing. Varagur brilliantly captures the complexities and contradictions of Saudi Arabia’s export (intentional or incidental) of Salafism and portrays soft power for what it really is — messy, highly unpredictable, and a far cry from the puppet-master-like characterization it has recently received."
—Antoaneta Tileva, Washington Independent Review of Books