Abdurrahman Wahid, 67, the former Indonesian president and a leading Muslim scholar, revealed the root of his understanding of the risks and perils of Jewish existence. Wahid was a student at Baghdad University in 1966, earning his keep as a secretary at a textile importer, when he befriended the firm’s elderly accountant, an Iraqi Jew he remembers only by his family name, Ramin. In 1968, the Iraqi government effectively had come under the control of Saddam Hussein, who at that time was deputy to the president, Ahmad Hassan al-Bakr. At Saddam’s behest, Iraqi courts had convicted 14 Iraqis – nine of them Jews – on trumped-up charges of spying for Israel, and they were hanged in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, just steps away from where the textile firm had offices.
Wahid has gained prominence for his insistence on introducing Muslim nations to certain truths about the Jews. He has called Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a “liar” for denying the Holocaust. Wahid says moderate Islam stands a greater chance of triumphing over Islamic radicalism once Western leaders stop trying to accommodate Islamic extremists. Saudi Arabia, in particular, remains the primary funding source for the global spread of fundamentalist Islam.