For the past few days Saudi Arabia has witnessed an organized campaign of incitement and provocation on social media networks, with the support of satellite channels affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood, revolving around the story of a group of detainees in the city of Buraidah, suspected of being affiliated with Al-Qaeda.
This campaign is organized and large-scale, with a stream of fake popular demands behind it, trading on every public issue in Saudi Arabia. The authorities have arrested some of the key proponents, including women who have been dragged in to gain popular sympathy, and it is clear that the goal is to merge Al-Qaeda’s agenda with public issues. This approach has become evident in Saudi Arabia ever since the outbreak of the so-called Arab Spring. A rush of famous and popular faces have added fuel to the fire, including advocates, journalists, and intellectuals, and even some seeking to portray themselves as non-sectarian, so what are we witnessing here?
Of course this is nothing new. As usual, Al-Qaeda is interfering by merging an issue that is fundamentally its own problem, namely the detainees being held in Buraidah, with fake popular demands. Ibrahim Al-Rubaish, a Saudi leader of Al-Qaeda and one of the Saudi security services’ most wanted, issued a statement from Yemen in which he called for his followers to take up arms in order to secure the release of the detainees, who in turn he demanded to take up arms immediately after their release! Worse still, Rubaish highlighted the need to exploit the alleged public sympathy that the issue has garnered because of Al-Qaeda’s recent propaganda campaign. Rubaish is not an ignorant individual; he has made numerous statements on current affairs issues including his stance towards the present French intervention in Mali.
When I say that what we are witnessing is nothing new, the reason is simple, namely that there is now ample fuel for every fire in Saudi Arabia. There are those trying to exploit false issues in order to gain popularity. How else can we explain calls for political and educational reform, and calls to give women their rights, intertwined with calls to defend Al-Qaeda and its detainees who have tried, and are trying, to undermine the security and stability of Saudi Arabia?
Unfortunately, this is not the first instance of the people being misled by Al-Qaeda propaganda in the kingdom. Last year there was also a fierce campaign focusing on detainees who had been portrayed as prisoners of ideology, and yet it turned out they were Al-Qaeda associates. At the time, that campaign was being fought by those calling themselves human rights advocates! Before that, perhaps ten years ago or more, people still fell for Al-Qaeda’s tricks in Saudi Arabia, and Osama Bin Laden was being described as a sheikh! Now we see Al-Qaeda exploiting the Saudi people for at least the third time to convince them to defend their issues and justify their crimes under various names: reform, democracy, and the so-called Arab Spring.
If the proponents of these campaigns are as honest and innocent as they claim, the question is: When will they learn from their mistakes? Once bitten, twice shy, but there are those in Saudi Arabia who have been bitten many times already.