It is no secret that Saudi Arabia is essentially the only country in the world that openly practices Wahhabism, a very strict and conservative form of Islam that insists on a literal interpretation of the Koran. Because of this, the oil-rich Gulf State has been viewed as a source of controversy among the international community.

What is Wahhabism?

But perhaps even more controversial is the fact that many Islamic extremist groups have used Wahhabism as the foundation for their recruitment process as well as the justification of their actions. While there is no concrete evidence that suggests any direct Saudi support of Islamic terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda or ISIS, both practitioners of Wahhabism, the same cannot be said of their open support of funding and spreading this dangerous ideology.

Last week, the German government confirmed that Saudi Arabia along with other Arab monarchies from the Persian Gulf have been funding the spread of Wahhabism in Kosovo, a partially recognized state in Southeastern Europe with a predominantly Muslim population. Kosovo has also been one of the major recruiting grounds for ISIS.

Wahhabism Around the Globe

This certainly isn’t the first incident of Saudi Arabia trying to spread Wahhabism. The House of Saud has both funded and supported mosques and schools around the world in order to spread their radical ideology. In fact, after visiting 80 countries, the first American diplomat to serve as an envoy for Muslim communities around the world concluded that Saudi influence was deteriorating Islamic tolerance.

With Wahhabism so widespread due to Saudi Arabia’s influence, radicalization has increased. According to estimates, roughly 30,000 foreign militants from 104 different countries have joined the fighting in Syria and Iraq in the course of one year dating all the way back to 2014.

Europe has certainly been no exception from this trend in which a recent study from the International center for Counter-Terrorism based in The Hague suggests that Belgium, France, Britain, and Germany have been the largest contributors of Islamic militants from Europe.

Between these four countries, nearly 3,000 of their nationals have joined Islamic militant groups. But what’s even more frightening is that among these European militants, an estimated 30 percent of them have already returned to their home countries.

However, due to Saudi Arabia's close alliance with the U.S., it seems unlikely that any sort of action will be taken against them anytime in the near future.