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Four years after the attacks of September 11, the war on terror continues unabated on a number of fronts: military, technological and cultural. In hindsight, much of what was said and written about al Qaeda was not true, as was made clear in Dammam last week.

The dangers of al Qaeda were evident for all to see in 2001 and again in the eastern Saudi city where one of the terrorists was only 23 years of age, meaning he was 19, when Mohammad Atta and his associates flew their hijacked planes into the World Trade Center. How did this young man acquaint himself with the ideology and actions of al Qaeda?

Hiding in inaccessible mountains, the group”s leadership can, at best, communicate with the rest of the world through videotapes, as was the case recently with Ayman al Zawahiri who discussed the July London bombings.

Al Qaeda has morphed into an umbrella organization guilty of a large number of terrorist attacks despite the continuous best efforts of security forces worldwide. The success of the terrorist group can be attributed to its ideological supremacy and the inability of many governments to fully grasp its dangers.

The increasing number of satellite news channels and internet websites extolling militant ideologies are partly to blame for al Qaeda’s continuing popularity. Those who follow events in the Middle East, from Morocco to Indonesia, knows only too well that extremism creates more supporters than the security forces can possibly apprehend.

Unfortunately, many well-respected thinkers decry the rise in terrorist activity but wrongly attribute the phenomenon to political developments; they appear to be constantly searching for external factors, forgetting that terrorism is a major Arab problem.

Holding politics and injustices against Arabs responsible for the growth of al Qaeda, they forget that bin Laden and his followers adopted these justifications at a later stage to valid their actions.

In truth, terrorist attacks cannot be blamed on injustice alone, as they remain criminal behavior.

Terrorism spread in Algeria 10 years before the September 11 attacks but terrorists never linked their reign of terror to developments in Palestine or Iraq. Terrorism subsequently spread to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and engulfed most of the Arab and Islamic worlds.

Those linking terrorism to major conflicts in the region are in fact defending the terrorists and publicizing their activities. One only needs to look at the damage caused by some internet sites and media outlets that have assisted al Qaeda’ in its recruitment drive and supplied it with a constant stream of gullible young men eager to become suicide bombers.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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