A Changing Political Theology

  • David Cowan


In the year 2000, diary documents were found in Afghanistan that either belonged to Osama bin Laden or to someone very close to him (Haykel et al., Saudi Arabia in transition: insights on social, political, economic and religious change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2015, p. 138). Included are a number of questions addressed to bin Laden, which focus on oil and the “Jewish-Crusader invasion of the Muslim countries” seeking to control the oil. The questions were posed in the context of there being enough oil to create greater equality in the Muslim world. The maths was made simple. If the Muslim world produces 30 million barrels a day at $150 a barrel, that would create revenue totaling $4.5 billion per day, which when divided among the 1.2 billion estimated number of Muslims globally would lead to giving $3.75 per day to every Muslim and the average Muslim family, averaging 8 in number, an income of $30 daily. This is how the issue was framed in a simple economic calculus between the oil revenue and the social output, and the resentment has been the feeding ground for Muslims around the world. This social disconnect, and the intrusion of hard economic realities drew supporters who felt alienated and lost in the declining welfare theocracy of Saudi and elsewhere. One reporter recorded an assessment on the 9/11 hijackers offered by a Saudi official:

“The hijackers were a direct product of our social failures—a generation with no sense of what work entails, raised in a system that operated as a welfare state,” a high-ranking government official told me. “We allowed them to grow up in pampered emptiness, until they turned to the bin Laden extremists in an effort to find themselves.” Saudis claim that al Qaeda deliberately fills its ranks with the kingdom’s alienated young. Bin Laden’s goal, they believe, is to topple the Saudi royal family, partly by convincing the West that its principal source of oil is fatally infected with extremism. (


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Cowan
    • 1
  1. 1.Boston CollegeBostonUSA

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