Colleague Saleh al-Shihi wrote an article in the Saudi Arabian Al-Watan newspaper titled “May God Forgive You, Tariq Alhomayed!” in which he wrote “I greatly admonish our brother the Editor in Chief of the Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper for giving an opportunity to suspicious and sick individuals to insult the residents of northern Saudi Arabia…by allowing a journalistic article which at best can be described as abusive, offensive, and insulting to be published…under a blatantly provocative title “Study Observes Absence of National Belonging Amongst Women in the Border Regions.”
Unfortunately, our colleague has overreacted and he has quoted what was reported out of context to say that this targets residents of northern Saudi Arabia, which is something that is completely untrue. This report quoted sources in the town of al-Manbaa close to the city of Medina, and sources in the city of Hafar al Batin in the Eastern Province as well as “other sources.” Al-Shihi described the author of this study in harsh terms that are unlike his usual language and articles, especially as the author of this study is an academic who is a member of the Saudi Arabian Advisory Committee on Women’s Affairs. Her report came from monitoring the families of detainees and fugitives in these regions, this means that the author knows what she is taking about and that she conducted her study in the correct regions. The headline of the news report was also fair, as this applies to some women [in these regions] not all of them, and applies to the border regions, rather than any particular region.
We must first recognize that serious debate is required on the threat of terrorism, regardless of whether this is foreign terrorists who are crossing into Saudi territory, and this is not to mention the large number of our youth who are on the terrorist watch list! We must discuss the causes of terrorism, the motivation of terrorists, as well as the spread of this phenomenon; we do not reveal the names of terrorists in order to slander the tribes and cities that these terrorists belong to but in order to protect the public and acknowledge the reality of the situation.
It is worth noting that the Saudi government enjoys flexibility and resolute interaction with regards to its fight against terrorism, and its examination of the causes of this. However at the same time other colleagues are trying to portray this situation as a regional affair, [despite the fact] that everything that we discussed in Riyadh, al-Qassim, Jeddah, Mecca, and other locations relating to terrorist has been from a single perspective, and that is [from the perspective] of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the threat of terrorist to it, rather than from a narrow regionalist perspective. Therefore we are surprised that this country enjoys a flexibility that is not shared by the educated. Therefore while – for example – the Ministry of Islamic Affairs has announced that around 15 thousand imams and preachers across Saudi Arabia will be subject to complete a program to implant a sense of patriotism and national belonging, one of our colleagues has come out to say that we insulted a particular region by publishing the findings of a study carried out by a specialist.
What is even stranger than this is that our colleague al-Shihi himself wrote an article in which he praised the speech given by Prince Khalid al-Faisal in January 2010 on “establishing the Saudi method of moderation.” In his article that was titled “The Saudi Method of Moderation” al-Shihi wrote that “this is in fact the case…for during our education from the primary school stage to university, we do not know anything about the history of the foundation of the third Saudi Arabian state, other than the founder King Abdulaziz – may he rest in peace – captured Riyadh in this year, and entered Mecca in this year, and annexed al-Ahsa in this year, other than this…we do not know anything else.” So how can this same colleague be angry with us today because we published a report that “some” in Saudi Arabia suffer from an absence of national belonging?
Therefore we can only say; May God show you the way, Saleh al-Shihi.