Moreover, as they became wealthy from oil, the Saudis spent millions to spread Wahhabi teachings around the Muslim world. In its extreme form, Wahhabism is intolerant, antitechnological, antiwestern, anti-Jewish, and disdainful even of less militant Muslims. Extremist organizations have spread messages of intolerance throughout the Muslim world, and the spread of this thinking has stirred conflict in many Muslim countries, as it has in Saudi Arabia itself. As Saudi Arabia has modernized and evolved into an urban society, it has become increasingly difficult to hold on to the social and religious conditions upon which the country was founded. This has in turn inspired opponents of modernization to redouble their efforts.
Much of modern Saudi history has been defined by this struggle between modernization and Wahhabi tradition. Only over vigorous religious opposition did the Saudi monarchs introduce such innovations as television and education for girls. To impose those gains, the Saudi rulers have had to placate the religious conservatives on other matters, which is why women are still prohibited from driving automobiles and workplaces are still segregated by sex. It might seem that these are matters of social practice, not of religion, but in Saudi Arabia the two are commingled.
Nor are the rulers of Saudi Arabia at liberty to distance themselves from their country's religious beliefs, even if they were so inclined, because religion is the foundation of their legitimacy. The country's "Basic Law of Government," issued in 1992, specifies: "The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a sovereign Arab Islamic state with Islam as its religion." The Koran and the teachings of the prophet Muhammad are the equivalent of a western constitution. The law states that the purpose of education is the propagation of Islam and elaborates: "The state protects Islam; it implements the sharia; it orders people to do right and shun evil; it fulfills the duty regarding God's call."
The law makes no mention of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, but the entire document is his legacy.