[FOUNTAIN]In the sands, Islam found a weak pointHistory is an endless cycle of challenge and retaliation. The biggest cycle of challenge and retaliation in world history would be the confrontation between Christianity and Islam.
From the Christian perspective, the Islamic religion began as a fundamental challenge to the Church. As a prophet, Mohammed challenged the religion that Jesus organized six centuries before him. Islam downgraded Jesus to one of many prophets despite the Christian belief that Jesus had proved himself to be the Son of God with his resurrection after being crucified to redeem the world from original sin. Instead, Mohammed claimed to be the last prophet and left the Koran as the teaching of Allah. After only a century, the Muslims launched a military campaign around North Africa, arrived in Europe, and occupied Spain in the name of Allah.
The Crusades in the 11th century could be considered a belated retaliation of the Christian Church against the Islamic threat. The Crusades were one of the biggest tragedies in the name of religion, although they had a strong impact on Christian civilization.
More serious retaliation by Christian civilization began in the 18th century, when most of the Arab world became colonies of imperial European countries. The psychological retaliation of the Muslims in response to the physically overwhelming Christianity was self-repentance. As a civilization of pride, the Muslims reckoned that their religious corruption was the reason for the disgrace. In the 18th century, a Sunni clergyman, Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, criticized the corruption and advocated a religiously devoted life. His fundamentalist religious reform emphasized a lifestyle faithful to the teachings of the Koran and did not hide its hostility toward corrupt Muslims as well as non-Muslims.
The center of Wahhabism is Saudi Arabia. Al Qaeda could be categorized as the extreme radical form of Wahhabism.
To the Wahhabis, the military campaigns on Iraq and Afghanistan are challenges by Christian civilization. The recent terror attacks on foreigners in Saudi Arabia are the latest retaliation. The fundamentalists are challenging the corrupt, pro-American royal Saudi family. Al Qaeda seems to have found the most vulnerable, weakest link of the Christian civilization in the oil under the sands of the Saudi kingdom.
by Oh Byung-sang
The writer is the London correspon-dent of the JoongAng Ilbo.