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Manage the Crisis - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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I would not say that the recent discovery of the seven terrorist cells in Saudi Arabia came as a surprise. What has been revealed was news that was expected at any moment. This is not because of the failure of security and intelligence in confronting the “Al Qaeda” trend nor was it because of a lack of official willingness to wage a war on the “Al Qaeda” movement. The conflict between “Al Qaeda” and the Saudi government is a matter of life or death, not a partial conflict where the opponent could be bargained with or tamed in time.

What has been disclosed recently is no shock despite of all the new “creations” of Al Qaeda such as the training of suicide pilots as well as dispatching trainees beyond the borders of the south then returning them to work, and finally exploiting a “leap” in investment and the obsession of operating funds in Saudi Arabia for the sake of pumping money into the terrorist body. All these ideas, and the uniqueness of these ideas, are still details, even if they are major details.

Even though we are not surprised by the recent discovery in Saudi Arabia, this does not mean that the arrest of these cells was not a significant security achievement; however the point is that the “roots of the problem” are yet to be addressed.

After a sheer hatred for this kind of talk, many had tackled this issue of late. They had stated that the crisis was ideological and that efforts of clerics, teachers, preachers and media figures should be intensified to refute ideas of terrorists, the “deviating groups”.

The Islamists had also spoke about this issue after deeming those who “insisted” upon this cultural necessity as insistent upon exploiting the issue of terrorism for the sake of combating the entire activist Islamic trend throughout Saudi Arabia.

However, I am convinced that these claims are nothing but “a passing wave” and that this enthusiasm is only temporary and will quickly evaporate for us to go back to square one. The same people, who now demand ideological reform, will later be seen as embroiled in their pointless battles and the “illusion” of secularism in Saudi Arabia.

Thus, calling for intellectual reform is no longer a taboo, as it had been in the early days of the war on terror in Saudi Arabia.

Now, after nearly four years of attack and retreat between “Al Qaeda” and Saudi security, it is clear that the war will be extensive.

This article argues that there has been no offered solution to the problem of religious terrorism even until now and that we must deal with this problem by “managing the crisis” rather than solving the crisis. This is exactly the case with the Palestinian issue, which is dealt with internationally and regionally through crisis management and not by resolving the crisis.

The difference between the two conditions is that solving a crisis means that the problem is solvable and could be “finished” with the adoption of certain steps and procedures. We then reach the point where we say that the problem no longer exists and that we can bury it deep in history. Similar problems are “a degree of environmental problems” such as oil spills in the sea; this is a serious environmental crisis that could be solved if certain steps were adopted over time. Also problems that could be ended ultimately are conflicts over borders that could otherwise result in the eruption of war, yet it can be solved according to certain negotiations and bargaining. Even major political projects which cause crises, not only one crisis, such as Hitler’s Nazism, were solvable through military intervention associated with certain political and economic actions that could have abolished the old vision that ruled Germany and disbanded it with a new vision, thus ending the sizable German crisis.

But there are some kinds of crises that it seems cannot be solved, rather they can be managed and their damages minimized. The crisis is unsolvable either because of the loss of the ability to exercise necessary solutions, or due to the lack of correct diagnosis of the crisis.

The concept of crisis management is a concept that was tackled and often used in several realms of international policies or marketing problems in economics or even the problems of management in general and issues of emergency and environmental disasters.

As Abdul Salam Abu Kahf said in his book entitled ‘Al Idara Asstrijiya wa Tadbeegatuha’ (Strategic Management and its Applications), crises management is a result of either the absence of planning and policies or strategy. He stressed that crisis management basically means, “A set of preparations and administrative efforts that are exerted to counter or limit the extent of destruction resulting from the crisis.”

Therefore it is not a method of solution, in all cases, but rather a method of “limiting” damages.

Some definitions of crisis according to specialists state that a crisis is, “A negative event that could not be avoided regardless of the degree of preparation. Such event could lead to the destruction or at least inflicting harm upon the organization.” This definition was presented by Abdul Bari Taher and Abdul Aziz Shahin in their joint paper presented to the Research Institute for Hajj regarding the stone-throwing ritual that is part of the Hajj pilgrimage.

Crisis management on the other hand means, “Working to avoid the transformation of conflict into a full-scale conflict yet at affordable expenses that do not include sacrificing interests or values,” as stated by some researchers.

The idea is that solving the terrorist crisis is quite difficult at the moment, since it is a solution that requires a new vision in ideologies, education and politics. We need a vision that entails concessions, profound self-criticism and willingness to accept the results of this criticism as well as a painful shift towards new ground and what this entails from transition from old ideas and overcoming previous illusions.

What has happened and what is taking place in Arab countries that have been stricken by terrorism for over a decade in Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, is “local” treatment that delay the explosion but do not eliminate it ranging from Egyptian awareness campaigns and debates [around the subject] aimed at members of armed fundamentalist groups and some Al Azhar clerics or even the advice Judge Hamoud al-Hatar gave in Yemen or the efforts of the advisory committee in Saudi Arabia.

Let us stick to Saudi Arabia as our core issue since it is currently under attack by Al Qaeda and since Al Qaeda has various capabilities and multiple manoeuvres within Saudi Arabia. It does suffice to refer to these capabilities through the details of the new organization that is made up of seven cells.

If we look at this example, advisory committees could be useful in implementing “crisis management” but not in “solving the crisis”. The same applies to the content of media discourse that is against terrorism and terrorist ideologies. It usually does not surpass three or four issues: praising the role of security officers (and they really deserve such praise), recalling the blessing of security and stability, “satirising” against deviated individuals and calling upon parents to protect their children against the dangers of these groups. These are almost the basics of media discourse that is launched against Al Qaeda, yet they are superficial defences that are only temporarily valid. Since all crises have their own media, it is such part of the “crisis management” media and in the least efficient manner possible.

We are not demanding the impossible and we know how complicated and diverse the problem of fundamentalism is. We need frank discussions that tackle the “fundamentals” of Salafist Jihadist groups. For example, is their argument valid that jihad for the sake of God i.e. fighting non-Muslims to propagate Islam as was the case in Islamic history, a religious duty and a basic element of Islam or rather the “the pinnacle of Islamic belief “?!

If this is true, why has jihad against “infidel” Americans or (formerly) atheist Russians become a rejected practice and not jihad for the sake of God?!

Why (as they say) had jihad become an abandoned ritual, on the pretext of blind obedience to the main leader? Which governments carry out jihad in the first place? Should these governments be deemed as Islamic despite that they implement rules other than those of God and are subjected to the laws and charters of the infidels? Where is the dignity of Muslims and where are their references to Islam and the laws of God? The same can also be said on the issue of women’s liberation, the idea of religious tolerance, and the idea of “pagan” citizenship.

The core issues endorse using an historic and theological heritage that supports their arguments and discourse. Counter discourse is based upon the same heritage and the same names, but they (combatant fundamentalists) think that they are more entitled to this heritage that has no traces of citizenship, liberation of women or global peace within. In this heritage, they do not see any alienation or estrangement, unlike their opponents, even clerics.

The most that advisory committees do is offer “psychological reassurance” for sympathizers with “Al Qaeda” against the state and the cruelty of the state. This is important, yet psychological fear is not the ideological motive for Al Qaeda. This means that many of those who join Al Qaeda do not join these committees not only because they are afraid of imprisonment or of being prosecuted, but also because of their sense of religious guilt for their failure to perform their duty through carrying out nonexistent Shariah and the establishment of Islamic jihad for the sake of God.

All of these are just examples that elaborate on the difference between the method of crisis management on one hand and how to resolve the crisis on the other, with respect to the religious discourse. We did not address any aspects of education, the culture of society, politics or economics.

After all this, what is definite is that as long as we are not ready to carry out the duties of solving the crisis, then the most that man could aspire to is to improve and develop the method of crisis management. This is in order to limit the scope of damage and minimize it as much as possible despite the difficulty of the battle and the frequent fog that obscures vision.

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.

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