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The Ferocious Conflict in Saudi Arabia - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The Saudi Arabian Interior Ministry revealed that 19 terrorist cells were planning to carry out operations against institutions, foreign nationals, security figures, and even media figures within Saudi Arabia [before they were arrested by the security apparatus over the past 8 months]. This in an indication that the conflict that is taking place between the terrorists and the Saudi security forces is becoming more ferocious. The statement issued by the Saudi Arabian Interior Ministry revealed that Al Qaeda is trying to undermine the security achievements made by Saudi Arabia by targeting easy or open targets, such as media figures and foreign nationals who – of course – do not receive special individual security protection, as this would be impossible.

Al Qaeda wants to achieve two goals; firstly, intimidating those who criticize it, namely the media, and secondly undermining the image of the security services and the successes it has achieved both domestically and externally. This is what is making this battle so difficult and ferocious. The problem in Saudi Arabia today is not in the security effort or its citizens’ cooperation with the security apparatus but rather in the ideological division that exists, and the implementation of laws that aim to dismantle the smaller parts of terrorism that contribute to the construction of the grand machinery of terrorism which Al Qaeda utilizes to polarize society, motivate and incite people, and raise funds.

What we mean here is the extent that we tolerate the assault on the dignity of the State which the terrorists are seeking to undermine. Since the establishment of the Al Qaeda organization we have – from time to time – seen how easily fatwas that takfir [denounce as infidel] others, transgress the bounds, and strengthen division, are issued in Saudi Arabia. This is despite the issuance of a Royal decree banning fatwa issuance outside of the framework of the Saudi Arabian Council of Senior Scholars. This is because there are those who transgress the limits, issuing fatwas that accuse others of treason; those who do this should be tried and punished for their only aim is to inflame the situation.

There is also another problem, and that is fatwas being issued on topics that have nothing do with religion, such as the surprising fatwa that was issued about women’s employment. One mistake gave rise to another with regards to this fatwa, and a media campaigns were launched [denouncing this fatwa] causing problems in the Saudi press and inflaming the situation for no reason. This was not useful dialogue, but discord and division being sowed between the two parties, and the victims of this – as always – are the moderates and the State. We all know, and this is a historical imperative, that only one decision is issued from above to decide and settle such issues, whether this is the issue of women’s education, or others.

The infringement of the State’s authority does not end here, but in fact this is something that has reached minor regulatory decisions such as the Saudization of jobs in Quran schools, where we have witnessed dangerous incitement. There is a huge difference between incitement and objection; there are those who incite in the name of religion but who are not in a position of power, or a position of possessing the requisite knowledge [to make such decisions], exploiting controversies over small regulatory decisions in order to incite and radicalize the youth. The State says that it is the system, whilst the instigators say that it is sedition and takfir and unfortunately they are stoking the fire of this incitement and escaping without behind held to account or punished [for their actions].

The process of attracting young people to terrorism also means that a defect remains in the education process, in the widest definition of the term, from the family to school. This means that Saudi Arabia is in urgent need of reviewing and evaluating special educational programs for young people, from those teaching this to its syllabus, as well means of occupying the time of young people and benefiting from their energy. This is not through civil action in what is essentially a conservative Muslim society, but through activating the creative energies of young people, filling their leisure time, expanding their horizons, and teaching them that we do not live in a Dar al-Harb [abode of war: territory that is not governed by Islam], but rather we are facing a battle for survival that calls for the protection of every single drop of blood.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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