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Who Dispatched Saudi’s Youth? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Forty-five Saudis have been fighting with the terrorist group Fatah al Islam in Nahr al Bared camp. So far, 23 of them have been killed and were buried in a mass grave, as stated by the Secretary-General of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in Lebanon [Brigadier General Sultan Abul Ainain] in Asharq Al-Awsat last Monday. The names of some of those killed were published in ‘al Hayat’ newspaper.

But what had brought these young Saudi to Lebanon’s utmost north?! What could possibly have prompted them to meddle in the complexities of the Lebanese political chess game? What interest do they have in the conflict between the March 14th Coalition forces and the Lebanese opposition led by Hezbollah?

Have Saudi Arabia’s youth been turned into fuel that is ready to be used in any fire that breaks out here or there?

Are they victims or perpetrators  or both?

Undoubtedly most, but not all of them, are naïve individuals who readily believe, readily execute and readily forget  but what is the machine that produces these men? Who operates it and does the maintenance work when it is ready to stop or breakdown?!

I pose these questions with full awareness that a great number of non-Saudi fundamentalists are also implicated in this issue, suffice it to mention the Jordanian [Abu Musaab] Zarqawi, the Egyptian Abu Hamza al Muhajir, the Syrian Abu Musaab [Abu Musaab al Souri, who is a former member of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood and a member of al Qaeda] and the Moroccan Karim Majati in Saudi Arabia.

Although I am aware of this, it still does not negate the reality that there are far more Saudi elements in the conflagrations breaking out everywhere. After all, weren’t 15 of the 19 men who carried out the 9/11 disaster Saudi nationals? Nearly every day we hear that a Saudi national had participated with al Qaeda in an attack in Iraq, or is being tried on charges of implication with al Qaeda, or is imprisoned because of a connection to fundamentalist militant activities. We must not overlook or ignore these facts.

There must be a ‘problem’ that facilitates the recruitment of Saudi youth, embroiling them into the world’s conflicts  naturally after stamping it with the ‘fundamentalist’ stamp and transforming every political crisis worldwide into a new Badr [Battle of Badr] that demands men  and there are plenty  who are willing to die and who love death as much as their enemies do, as the famous verse goes.

Didn’t some clerics in Saudi step forward to openly and mildly state that Bin Laden was simply an ‘erroneous mujtahid,’* as though this man was not responsible for setting the Muslim world ablaze, taking it back centuries and much farther than its original backwardness. And following the attack on Manhattan wasn’t Bin Laden regarded by many Saudi preachers and well-intentioned people as the emir of the mujahideen and the new Salahuddin [al Ayyubi]?

And yet still, this tempestuous storm did not abate until after Bin Laden directed his bombs on Saudi Arabia. His disciples began threatening to establish their emirate, publicly holding the state to be ‘infidel’. It was only then that the support for al Qaeda started to wane, but not disappear!

The perplexity that afflicts everyone when confronting al Qaeda, attempting to put an end to the spawning youth associated with it is due to the fact that the required remedy for the plague that is al Qaeda ideology is radical, sensitive and costly. Perhaps there isn’t the sufficient emotional, political and social capital available to expend on this remedy. Regrettably, this is the reality that has been stated time and again since the al Qaeda ‘devils’ began to roam the land. All land has become a potential theater for al Qaeda, the latest being London, the bastion of democracy and civilization.

A young Jordanian man of Palestinian origin traveled to London to study medicine at his government’s expense, but he didn’t take advantage of this opportunity that he was granted, something that is hardly available to other Palestinians. He ignored all that and dedicated all his efforts to terrorism  if indeed the allegations against him are true, in light of three botched attacks in London and Glasgow.

Naturally, we do not want to see these charges proved, but it would not come as a surprise if he was convicted amidst this atmosphere of poisonous ideology and the media discourse dominating the Arab and Muslim world today.

It would be pointless if some were to say that we are ‘exaggerating’ matters and that these young men are part of a small group, that everything is under control and that the problem is restricted  that is, if indeed they do admit that there is a problem in the first place. Some circumvent around the problem and avoid confrontation while circulating illusions and diverting society’s attention away from the real matter at hand by referring to false battles.

I broach Saudi as an example even though the same discussion could be applied to other countries, such as Egypt, to some extent. In Saudi Arabia, the real problem in society is the presence of some secularists who seek to empty Saudi of Islam, in addition to the existence of those who want to render women into cheap commodities and objects of lust and debauchery.

It is a dishonest oversimplification and a deliberate attempt at fostering such illusions. And yet still, some people persist in this endeavor and only stop nurturing such illusions whenever a major terrorist event takes place and awakens everyone from their deep slumber. However, soon after, everything goes back to normal and this boring, detrimental and stubborn [drama] series resumes.

The truth is that none of the prominent scholars in Saudi have called for the secularization of the kingdom. This is a lie. What was demanded by some intellectuals and writers, even among some of the circles of clerics and jurisprudents, is a reconsideration of certain religious and social conditions, the expansion of social horizons and ridding development of religious politicization so that the state may advance into the future without fear.

Amidst all this is a small and humble request: Guarantee us that Saudi youth will not be used as firewood to serve the blaze of global terrorism. Are we asking for too much?

Any honest man would acknowledge that this is a necessary and crucial step; it is not a matter of being too much or too little. However, this request is considered by those who benefit from keeping the social and religious affairs unchanged because it means the disintegration of the hegemony and the tutelage practiced in the name of virtue and religious zeal over the rest of the people.

Perhaps this situation might have been acceptable (but it is unacceptable under any circumstances) at a time prior to the emergence of terrorism, however the present situation is one in which such men want to have a finger in every pie. This is a time in which we should have an honest moment of silence for reflection.

These words are prompted by a love and concern for protecting the state and its security against the storms of politics and terrorism rampant everywhere. Gloating is completely absent from this equation because matters have escalated to the point where silence or engaging in courtesies has become almost like being an accomplice in crime.

After all, Saudi Arabia is the cradle of Islam and of the Two Holy Mosques. It is the leader of the Muslim world and the richest Arab and Muslim country. Saudi Arabia has constantly extended its hand in peace and benevolence to both the Arab and Muslim worlds, starting with the al Taif Accord, which helped rebuild Lebanon to the Mecca agreement between the two archenemies, Fatah and Hamas, of which the latter violated that agreement.

Saudi Arabia is the country on which hopes are pinned to bring about reform and provide support in Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, as well as Iran and Turkey. Saudi Arabia is a giant powerhouse, but there are some who want to remove these aspects from promising picture so that the world would only regard it as a country that is comprised of youth who are readying themselves to be terrorists, some by [Abu Musaab] al Zarqawi’s in Iraq and others by [Shakir] al Absi’s in Lebanon.

Who will safeguard these young men, and who will bring them back to their senses? This must be achieved so that it does not come as a surprise when another batch of Saudi men surface in another part of the world.

* Someone who makes legal decisions in Islamic law in accordance with his own efforts and interpretations, traditionally a jurisprudent or scholar.

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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