Let us imagine a time in Saudi Arabia when Salafism is a thing of the past. A time where mosques are utilized for prayers and nothing else, with their doors being shut once prayers are finished and no religious lessons, Islamic seminars, or competitions with regards to the reciting or memorization of the Quran taking place there. In this scenario, Islamic clerics will have lost interest in Islamic ideology and doctrine, they will not pay attention to the charities that aid the poor, orphans, and widows, either inside or outside of Saudi Arabia, these clerics will no longer rush to the world’s humanitarian disasters in order to provide aid, instead they will only be concerned with emphasizing morality. In this scenario, school syllabuses will have been torn up and recreated from anew to focus only on the scientific field, with no Islamic curriculum, no religious activities, no after-school activities, not just with regards to summer school, but also during the rest of the year.
The question then is; will this be enough to wipe out terrorism in Saudi Arabia and eradicate extremism, as some intellectuals believe?
I put forth the above question, which is based upon an imaginary situation, because whenever terrorist activities take place inside or outside of Saudi Arabia, the intellectuals [complain that this is aided by] Wahabism, Salafism, school syllabuses, charities, religious institutions, Islamic universities, Quran seminars, and [religious] summer schools. They should specifically refer to which of these [they believe to be responsible], either implicitly or explicitly. The latest and most dangerous terrorist operation was that of the failed assassination attempt targeting the Saudi Assistant Interior Minister for Security Affairs, Prince Mohammed Bin Naif.
Certainly nobody has the right to deny another’s opinion on what the answer to the problem of terrorism and religious extremism is, so long as there is a national consensus on the diagnosis of this problem. However the danger lies in some of the “extreme” solutions which are being put forward by some intellectuals, who are not aware that these solutions will only exacerbate the problem. In fact, it would not be an exaggeration to say that these solutions would only serve to nourish terrorism and create a sound environment for religious extremism to flourish.
Many of these intellectuals are also not aware of the heated debates that are taking place between the followers of terrorism and extremism, and moderate religious figures and scholars who are attempting to eradicate these terrorist and takfirsit ideology. Therefore one can image that had the scenario described in the first paragraph of this article actually taken place – even partly – then the terrorists would be in an even stronger position to recruit members of the youth to their ranks.
The threat that Prince Mohammed Bin Naif represents to the terrorists is not just that he is pursuing their cadres and imprisoning them, but because he is giving them a taste of their own medicine. In his confrontation with terrorism and extremism, Prince Mohammed Bin Naif has started from a position of moderate Islam, and due to his wisdom and experience, has managed to bring a sizable number of clerics and scholars to his side in the fight against terrorism. This has been a great success both for the Prince, and Saudi Arabia, in its struggle against terrorism. One of the strategies utilized by the terrorist leadership is to convince as many scholars and clerics to join their ranks and take up their ideology. Neutralizing this would be an excellent achievement, let alone gaining religious clerics and scholars support in the State’s protracted fight against terrorism.
Prince Mohammed Bin Naif is present on the frontlines of the battle against these terrorists who exploit Islamic discourse and religious vocabulary, and one thing that is in his credit is that he has never slid to the other extreme of adopting liberal thoughts and ideologies that clash with Islam and the conservative society that he belongs to. This is one of the reasons why the pubic sympathy towards the Prince [following the assassination attempt on his life] was completely natural and logical.
Therefore any attempt to put an end to any of the Islamic foundations of the Saudi Arabian state would only serve as points scoring in the battle between [religious] orientations; however in the end this would also weaken Saudi Arabia in its confrontation with the terrorists and others.