Every time an American fills up his gas tank, he is helping to send an eight-year-old boy to an Islamic religious school in the West Bank or Pakistan where he will learn to grow up to be a suicide bomber, said former Central Intelligence Agency director James Woolsey.

Woolsey’s message at a recent fundraiser for the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, was that reducing dependency on oil imported from Arab dictatorships may, in the long run, be the only effective means of stemming Islamic totalitarianism and radicalism.

Woolsey, who headed the CIA from 1993-95 during the Clinton administration, is co-chair of the Washington-based Committee on the Present Danger, along with George Schultz, former president Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state.

The committee seeks to fight global terrorism and spread democracy.

He warned that the war on Islamic terrorism will be a very long one, probably lasting decades, because it is rooted in a centuries-old religion that is not going to be abandoned like the secular totalitarian movements of the 20th century, fascism and communism.

There is also little difference in the ultimate aim of the extremist elements in Islam’s two main branches, Shi’a and Sunni, to defeat the West and establish religious domination.

But he characterized the Saudi Arabia-based Wahabi movement, which is closely linked ideologically to Al Qaida, as “one of the most fanatical in world history. Its fatwas call for the genocide of Shiites, Jews, homosexuals and apostates.”

And its reach is staggering. “With just over one per cent of the Muslims in the world, Saudi Arabia dominates 90 per cent of the Muslim institutions in the world,” he said.

The United States is paying Saudi Arabia $170-$180 billion a year for oil, he noted.

The radicals are empowered by their massive oil wealth, he argued. Two-thirds of the world’s known oil reserves are in the Middle East.

“The price of oil and the path to freedom move in opposite directions. With two or three exceptions, the countries with the largest oil reserves tend to be the most autocratic, while those that are consuming and importing the most oil are democratic,” he said.

Woolsey warned against “lapsing into moral relativism” by accepting fundamentalist Islamic practices that are contrary to Western values, especially those that degrade women.

“Sharia (Islamic religious law) is the camel’s nose under the tent that we need to oppose with every fibre in our being,” he said.

Woolsey said the West has to do more than simply defend itself against the terrorists.

He urged development as soon as possible of oil alternatives, such as electricity and other liquid fuels, for vehicles.

Women’s and human rights organizations also have to put the “absolutely horrible treatment of women in much of the Arab and Muslim world front and centre of their agendas,” he said.

“The West has been uncomfortable about confronting Muslims on this, or has dismissed it as quaint customs...We need to make the abominable treatment of women central in our public discourse.”

The totalitarian streak of Islam begins in the home with younger brothers supervising their older sisters and may escalate into honour killings, he said.

The inverse relationship between oil wealth and moderation is clear, he argued. “Which Arab country’s oil is running out most quickly? Bahrain’s. Which Arab country treats women the best and is making the most progress toward democracy? Bahrain.”

As for dealing with radical Muslims living in the United States, Woolsey suggested they be treated in a similar way as Communists were during the Cold War.

Americans, he said, are reluctant to interfere with anything of a religious nature, and there is a lot of difficulty in sorting out who is a threat, he said.

Woolsey would classify any Muslim who seeks to establish religious dictatorship as the enemy, in much the same way good socialists and bad socialists were distinguished in the 1950s.

The U.S constitution prevented the outlawing of the American Communist party, but “we caused it enough trouble that it stopped being a force,” he said.

Woolsey spent over 30 years in Washington serving both Democratic and Republican administrations in the areas of security and foreign policy, including as a member of the National Commission on Terrorism, ambassador to the Negotiation on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe and as undersecretary of the navy. He is currently vice-president of the global strategic security division of consultants Booz, Allen & Hamilton.