Around the 1950s, about the time oil was being discovered in the Gulf, many Muslim nations were relatively liberal by today's standards. Alcohol flowed freely, women went uncovered and there was lively public debate about "Ataturk's way", the separation of Islam and state, modernisation, and dialogue with the West. The Middle East seemed to be going in the right direction.
Saudi oil changed all that. Why oh why, critics ask, was oil found there? Why not somewhere more conducive to global progress, like Taiwan or Holland? But no, Saudi it was – the home of Wahhabi Islam, the most fiercely anti-Western, autocratic, intolerant and warlike of all Islamic cults. The combined possession of oil and Mecca quickly gave Saudis, previously an insignificant mob of goat-herders and woman-beaters, delusions of grandeur. Having no education other than what the mullahs told them, they didn't understand the world beyond the campfire, and they didn't like it.
Oil meant that the Saudis now had the means to change the world to more resemble them. The mountain would come to Mohammed. Their mission, their warped religion told them, was to change the world to be like them, except that they had Mecca and would thus be the most important women-beating goat-herders in the world.
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