The latest arrest of 44 suspected terrorists in Saudi Arabia has made many people ask themselves: where did these men come from? Like other terrorists before them, they are young and from diverse backgrounds and nationalities. They are proof that the dangers of terrorism are still present, in spite of the repeated success in eliminating terrorist cells and networks.
In truth, the achievement of the security services has masked the failure in the cultural realm, supposedly the first line of defense against terrorism. Because the security services pre-empt every terrorist attack, nobody questions and holds accountable those responsible for the cultural failure and the continued emergence of new terrorists. Crucially, a cultural victory would have halted the spread of violent ideologies and the preaching of extremist views, as well as the mobilization of new recruits and the financing of terrorist plans. It would have shut the doors to the preachers of hate and not one new young recruit would have joined terrorist organizations. However, the painful truth is that dozens of new individuals are ready to join terrorist cells. The current campaign will not even succeed in eliminating the existing networks.
The mistake in the cultural realm is that the determination displayed by the security services, has not been met by a similar resoluteness towards the preachers of violence. The internet is replete with forums where young Saudis can acquaint themselves with the terrorist ideology, with examples drawn from Iraq, Palestine, Chechnya, Somalia and the local takfeer ideology. Unfortunately, the promotion of extremist views across Saudi Arabia has not ceased, despite the continued hunt of armed groups and their financiers.
A phase of relative inactivity followed the armed operations that came as a shock to many Saudi citizens; however, violence re-started and with it came the justifications of the takfeer ideology from extremist preachers through television, internet, newspapers, and even in the mosques. The reoccurrence of violence and its supporters has emphasized that it is no longer difficult for armed movements to raise money for their cause, recruit youngsters, and neutralize the active members of society. Members of society then turn a blind eye to what is happening in fear of what could in turn, happen to them, and in hope that the problem would sort itself out.
What has happened is that many youngsters joined terrorist organizations, such as those that have been discovered recently in Saudi Arabia and in other parts of the region such as Jordan. Jordanian officials announced that they had arrested a Saudi citizen who had given one million dollars to Al Zarqawi’s organization.
The joy that follows the arrests of terrorist cells should never blind Saudi society to the truth that comes with these arrests. The truth highlights that terrorists have succeeded in their main tasks, to recruit young men, to fund their organization and to build a large and extremely dangerous network. The danger will not disappear unless the cultural war against terrorism and terrorists succeeds. This terrorism, which has long threatened the security and image of the country, tarnished the image of Islam and subjected its supporters to various regional and international dangers, must be eliminated from its roots.