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Marring its Image, Holding the Saudi Kingdom Accountable - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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What seemed out of the question had finally happened. The United States Congress passed a bill that would allow the families of victims of the Sep. 11 attacks to sue the government of Saudi Arabia for the losses they had suffered.

One must keep in mind that Saudi Arabia had suffered al Qaeda’s terror long before the Sep.11 horrendous attacks; it does not make sense for a victim to stand for the criminal’s wrongdoing.

The 1995 car bombing in Riyadh, which leveled a residential compound and wounded somewhere around 500 nationals preceded the 2001 New York City attacks by six years.

More so, on the subject of terror tolerance for Saudi Arabia; documentation, footage and video logs in which Qaeda leaders clearly sound their labeling of both Saudi Arabia and the U.S. as undeniable arch enemies are found in abundance.

Extremist ideology alone can be blamed for terror, Saudi Arabia is only as guilty as Google, Facebook, Twitter or Youtube can be.

Should by some unfortunate abomination a Saudi national be subjected to radicalization, and commit crimes, does that mean that the government must hold trial on their behalf?

That is equivocal to saying that social media companies experiencing the exploitation of terror ideology, and using their services to spread spite and incitation for crime, means that the companies must hold trial too.

It is downright foolish to accuse any government for the presence of extremist ideology among its citizens; if so, that means many fingers will be pointed towards a large number of the world’s nations.

France, Britain and Holland for example have accounted for the presence of ultra-hardline radicals that are just as primeval and as brutal as those found in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The only scenario in which a government can be held accountable for actions of terror organizations, is if it proves to be in direct charge, or has shown leniency towards the group or individual’s actions- which is not the case in neither Saudi Arabia, France, Facebook or any given society whether virtual or real.

How is it possible for accusations and wild claims made by media outlets or by fleeting statements by politicians be transformed to a bill that can effectively stand to threaten a nation?

The main reason behind this is the failure in reaching effective communication among the parties, despite the decade-long and sturdy relationship shared by the two countries.

There has been a mix up in the understanding of spreading religious extremism. Social terrorism, Islam as a religion, Muslims as followers of Islam, Muslim extremists, and governments adopting Islam for a main religion, all have been defined wrongly- hence the mix up in the labels.

Each of the above mentioned terms can easily be confused for the other. Another reason that made it easier to point fingers towards Saudi Arabia and accuse it for terror under the prejudice against the nation’s conservative nature.

Such a bill, if passed and put in effect, will undermine bilateral relationships shared by the Kingdom and the States. Saudi Arabia might have committed a single mistake- it has continuously resorted to diplomatic approaches when dealing with rising complications with the U.S.

Diplomacy could work when dealing with a central government, such as Russia or China- however, it falls short when dealing with Western countries that are heavily influenced by several sub-authorities.

British former Prime Minister David Cameron had exhausted all his connections in hopes of preventing Britons from voting on Brexit, yet was letdown.

Cameron had also resorted to the U.S. commander in chief Barack Obama, who had sent out in his speech to Britons pleading them not to vote for Brexit, yet he too had his word go unnoticed.

Saudi Arabia’s image has become vague in the eyes of its closest friends, leaving them at the question: Is the kingdom a conservative or an extremist country?
The confusion on Saudi Arabia’s nature is happening despite the country being the first and foremost to stand up and counter ISIS’ and Qaeda’s terror.

The Kingdom ranks top among the countries to make most arrests against all who are suspected of affiliation to terror organizations, or even those who are suspected of reaching out for recruitment and those who attempted to travel to war zones.

Saudi prisons have thousands of inmates admitted under convictions of terrorism, among which are those who spur strife and preach hate. Many men of religion, who had issued fatwas religiously legislating the terror creed adopted by Qaeda have also been placed in confinement.

On the other hand, such hate inciters and preachers roam free, leading a happy life in countries like Britain, France and Germany without accounting to any of their actions.

Congress is making a huge mistake when passing the JASTA bill, an acronym used for (Justice against Sponsors of Terrorism Act) which Saudi Arabia is chiefly targeted by; Saudi Arabia is the true key to countering terrorism. Minus the Saudi contribution the world would not be in an easy situation.

It is imperative to distinguish between conservatism and basic social characters such as the Niqab, or women being barred from driving, which is a class-one issue projecting a clash between the traditional school of Islam vs the modern-life Islam. The Saudi community within itself realizes the case at hand and holds public discussions concerning that matter. The matter here is not terror related.

Most of terror ideologies were given rise at the time of the Iranian revolution– Former Supreme Leader of Iran and founder of the revolution Ruhollah Khomeini was the first to introduce the thought of using violence in the name of religion. His preaching was the main comeback of the concept of Martyrs’ glory, and the fight against the West. Aside from the war in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia never took part in all the terror witnessed by the world; neither did it have any involvement with the Sep. 11.

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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