Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

A Prison of Repetitive Statements - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
Select Page

Nothing impedes comprehension more than the repetition of ready-made answers. Nothing buries the truth more deeply than the reiteration of expressions committed to memory.

This is how I felt when I read the reactions in the Saudi press to the latest clashes in al Nakheel neighborhood in Riyadh, between an Al Qaeda terrorist cell and the security services.

The al Nakheel gun battle or the dawn attack, as it was referred to, was short and decisive; six militants were killed and a seventh was injured. Two other militants were detained by the security services, according to a statement from the Interior Ministry.

It is true the Saudi security services seized the initiative and acted professionally. This is the result of experience and of years of confrontation with terrorists, going back to the wave of bombings in May 2003, or perhaps even earlier, in July 2002 when Simon Veness, a British banker at the Saudi French Bank, died in a car bomb attack in the al Nakheel neighborhood.

Therefore, the success of the security forces is a natural development and an amazing accomplishment.

However, to claim that the latest clashes are proof that terrorism is about to come to an end and that the number of terrorists is “in constant decline and they will soon be eliminated,” as Lieutenant Saleh al Zahrani, a member of the security committee in Majlis al Shura stated, belongs to the realm of fantasy.

Problems arise when an official, supposedly driven by professional considerations, utters such words of wishful thinking. Strangely, this analysis does not represent government policy or the vision regulating the war on terrorism in Saudi Arabia. King Abdullah has repeated, more than once, that the face-off with terrorism is ongoing and that the government is ready to continue fighting terrorists for decades, if necessary. After the al Nakheel operation, Prince Naif, the interior minister, said it was wrong to claim terrorism had been eliminated.

Every observer of events in Saudi Arabia and of other countries suffering from the ills of terrorism, who is also aware of the roots of terrorism, knows that the tumor remains fiercely resistant to treatment. Proof, if it were needed, is the re-emergence of the hydra’s head every time it is cut off, from the Riyadh bombings in 1995 to the latest al Nakheel clashes.

Lieutenant al Zahrani and other experts claim the latest pre-emptive strike, against the terrorist cell in al Nakheel, is the beginning of the end for terrorists, as Al Madina newspaper reported on Sunday. This is self-deception and no more than wishful thinking.

Nevertheless, our amazement diminishes when we realize that these kinds of unrealistic statements are very common amongst government officials and those who believe these words will please those in government. This handling of the war on terrorism delays the solution and even contributes to deepening the crisis, instead of acting as a basis for a resolution!

While I contemplated al Zahrani’s words and reflected on the reasons why some individuals in Saudi Arabia follow his line of thought, I discovered that the Lieutenant, in a speech at the Officers’ Club entitled “The Foreign Dimension of Terrorism in Saudi Arabia,” in March, said Al Qaeda had been infiltrated by the world Zionist organization, which had attained leadership positions in the organizations thanks to Egyptian takfir groups who left Afghanistan after the Taliban came to power.

To back his claims, al Zahrani cited the assassination of Abdullah al Azzam, “the inspiration of Arab Afghans”. He indicated that Azzam was killed by agents of the Israeli Mossad because he sought to transfer jihad from Afghanistan to Palestine. He also indicated that the September 11 attacks on US cities demonstrated that a group such as Al Qaeda could not have carried them out, unless it received help from Zionist circles in the United States. These and other views were reported in Al Watan newspaper on 22 March 2006.

Of course, Zionism has harmed Arabs and Muslims, seized Palestine and made its people refugees. It has committed numerous crimes against Arabs but not all Arab problems are caused by Zionist schemes. Believing this we lead us to become conspiracy theorists and Al Qaeda will become a meteorite from outer space. This is all self-delusional!

Al Qaeda, dear lieutenant, was born from our midst. Its ideology and the roots of its cultural language are part and parcel of our intellectual, social and political weaknesses.

If proof was needed, dear lieutenant, on the identity of those who assassinated Abdullah Azzam, I refer you to his friend Dr. Moussa al Qarni who spoke about the incident in an interview with Al Hayat published in March 2005. He said “To be honest, at the time, most of our analyses pointed the finger to the Israeli Mossad, in cooperation with US intelligence. But, further analysis revealed that perhaps Islamic Jihad, in Egypt, was behind the murder, because they hated Sheikh Abdullah Azzam.”

Our way of thinking is in deep crisis; we tend to repeat ready-made answers. We should be rational and objective and critically deconstruct reality, instead of seeking to appease certain people.

I do not want us to lie and then fall victim to our own lies. Honesty is beneficial. It is good for us to discover that the culture of terrorism has roots in our society. We should uncover this and then treat it, instead of claiming that there are only a few bad elements in our society, our culture and education are satisfactory, our media is in great shape and Zionism created Al Qaeda.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is time to wake up and leave behind the prison of ready-made answers. This is the way to salvation.

Mshari Al-Zaydi

Mshari Al-Zaydi

Mshari Al-Zaydi is a Saudi journalist and expert on Islamic movements and Islamic fundamentalism, as well as on Saudi affairs. He is Asharq Al-Awsat’s opinion page editor. Mr. Zaydi has worked for the local Saudi press, and has been a guest on numerous news and current affairs programs as an expert on Islamic extremism.

More Posts