Saudi Arabia and the United States are the Odd Couple of the twenty-first century. One a monarchy, the other a democracy. One founded on a restrictive faith, the other a beacon of religious freedom. One blessed by vast petroleum resources, the other cursed by a gargantuan appetite for oil. Their governments bound to each other by ties of money and armament, yet their populations distrustful of each other's political designs, angry about violent deeds attributed to the other, and disdainful of their respective faiths.

 

Originally inspired by the periodic waves of revival that began with George Whitefield and the Great Awakening, tens of thousands of young Americans — usually educated in the best colleges — journeyed abroad to spread their faith or demonstrate to others the quality of American Protestant life. The Ottoman Empire and the Persian Gulf were especial areas of American missionary enterprise.

A similar Wahhabi zeal for reviving Islam expressed itself in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries — less in missionary activities than in militant action to suppress what Wahhabi preachers deemed idolatrous practices, particularly those connected with Sufism, ShiĹism, and the veneration of saintly tombs. But in the twentieth century, Wahhabi missionary activities expanded enormously. Indeed, Saudi Arabia and the United States are today the world's two principal exporters of religious missionaries.

 Read the full article at MiddleEastOnline.com 

 

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