Published online by Cambridge University Press: 10 June 2021
This chapter examines how the rise of populist nationalism in Saudi Arabia interacts with Wahhabism and the role of Western power in controlling the outcome of this interaction. As a result of its founding agreement, the Saudi ruling family needs the support of Wahhabi clerks for internal legitimacy and of the West, mainly the US, for technological help and defense and security backing. These Saudi rulers have instrumentalized Wahhabism to advance a pan-Islamic ideology (da?wa) in an effort to fight rivals at home and combat Arab nationalism and liberal, socialist, and Marxist trends in the Arab region and Islamic societies. This ideology was also used to achieve global influence. The chapter explains that Saudi Arabia is a case in which an extreme interpretation of religious doctrine was needed to legitimize an authoritarian regime and ultimately became a tool of domestic governance and foreign policy.