Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

A moment with al-Arifi | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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It was worse than McCarthyism, the Inquisition, or exploiting public opinion…I am talking about Saudi Arabian Islamist Mohamed al-Arifi and what he said [during his Friday sermon], in which he launched attacks and issued insults – that should not come from any religious figure – against the Saudi press and its writers. He asked, “Where were they [the writers] during the 12 days of incitement against Saudi Arabia?” in reference to what has falsely been named the “revolution of longing.”

Al-Arifi was not discussing [anything], but rather vilifying others, accusing certain institutes or groups of not standing with Saudi Arabia [during this period], and this represents clear opportunism from a man like al-Arifi, who has made many political mistakes in the past. The response to al-Arifi should not be to defend those who signed the statements or the inciters; I have a special position on this that is unwavering. Rather, the response to al-Arifi should come via the door of addressing his false accusations, opportunism, and incitement, for his exclusionary statements will force those who hold contrary positions to speak up!

Why is al-Arifi overlooking the fact that some of those who signed these statements were Islamists? Why is he overlooking the fact that the first people to sign the statements –before the days of incitement– and present these to the leadership were also Islamists? Al-Arifi, who [during his Friday sermon] cited a number of articles published in some newspapers, should be capable of uncovering this so long as he continues to consider himself a researcher! However unfortunately for him there is not a single study or report available on the internet about those who signed the petitions, and who were the initial inciters.

However we must clarify something else here; are we talking about the Islamist statements, and therefore by responding to al-Arifi, what we mean to do is comment on the eminent [religious] scholars or the Council of Senior Scholars? Of course not, for they are all well respected and appreciated by the people of Saudi Arabia. Rather what we are talking about here are the religious fundamentalists who are attempting to extort the public, and history has shown – contrary to al-Arifi’s assertions – that they did not stand with Saudi Arabia when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, or following the terrorist events of 9/11, which represented a pivotal moment in Saudi Arabian history.

This is not all, for al-Arifi also said something else that should be discussed. He said that the support of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz to members of the Commission of the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice came in response to hypocritical writers. In my opinion, there is no shortcoming in support for the security apparatus, as this support has come as part of complete support for all state institutes and segments of society, including literary and sporting clubs [by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques]. So why is this issue being dealt with in this superficial manner? Everybody must recall that King Abdullah, in his historic speech, thanked the intellectuals and writers immediately after thanking [religious] scholars.

This is truly opportunism, and al-Arifi is continuing to commit systematic mistakes and aggravate the situation, for who can forget his involvement on the Iraqi scene and his attack of Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in the midst of the last elections? This imparted a sectarian dimension, and caused a political crisis, in a manner that revealed al-Arifi’s political ignorance. This was no less ignorant than his previous announcement of his intention to travel to Jerusalem, despite the alarm caused by the issue of normalization of relations [with Israel], and working for foreign powers. Now today we have seen al-Arifi return to the scene calling for Saudi Arabia to start an Inquisition, and this is something that is completely unacceptable and rejected.

Yes to dialogue, discussion, and laying cards on the table. Yes to reform and arranging the political and media landscape. No to generalizations. No to opportunism, whatever the kind, and regardless of who is attempting this, even al-Arifi.