• The Call

    by Krithika Varagaur
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May 7, 2020

Krithika Varagur

Harvard Book Store's virtual event series welcomes award-winning journalist KRITHIKA VARAGUR—Harvard alumna and The Guardian's Indonesia correspondent—for a discussion of her book The Call: Inside the Global Saudi Religious Project. She will be joined in conversation by Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter KAREN ELLIOTT HOUSEauthor of On Saudi Arabia: Its People, Past, Religion, Fault Lines—and Future.

Details

Everyone talks about "Saudi money," but no one really knows what it is. Journalist Krithika Varagur, a longtime chronicler of religion and politics, tells the story of Saudi influence as it has never been told before, in a book reported across the breadth of the Muslim world, from Nigeria to Indonesia to Kosovo.

The Call connects the dots on Saudi Arabia's campaign to propagate its brand of ultraconservative Islam worldwide after it became oil-rich in the 20th century. Varagur visits diverse outposts of its influence, from a Saudi university in Jakarta to a beleaguered Shi'a movement in Nigeria. She finds that the campaign has had remarkably broad and sometimes uniform effects, from the intolerance of religious minorities to the rise of powerful Saudi-educated clerics. The kingdom has spent billions of dollars on its da'wa, or call to Islam, at many points with the direct support of the United States. But what have been the lasting effects of Saudi influence today? And what really happened to their campaign in the 21st century, after oil revenues slumped and after their activities became increasingly subject to international scrutiny? Drawing upon dozens of interviews, government records, and historical research, The Call lays out what we really talk about when we talk about Saudi money.

About Author(s)

Krithika Varagur is an award-winning American journalist, essayist, and humorist based in Indonesia. Her work focuses on religion and politics. She is The Guardian’s Indonesia correspondent, was previously the Financial Times’ reporter in Indonesia, and has been published widely in other outlets including the Atlanticthe New York Timesthe New York Review of Booksthe New RepublicForeign PolicyNPR, and the London Review of Books.

Karen Elliott House is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin. She studied and taught at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics and was a senior fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.