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Debate at Counterterrorism Conference Rages | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Medina, Asharq Al-Awsat – One of the seminars at the ‘Terrorism: Between Intellectual Extremism and Extremist Ideology’ conference that has been taking place over a number of days in Medina was transformed into a scene of debate between members of the religious youth and their opponents. This debate continue to rage even after the seminar ended at the accommodation allocated for guests, and even in the aircraft that transported some of the guests back to the capital Riyadh.

Sheikh Mohamed al-Nujaimi, Professor of Comparative Jurisprudence at the Higher Institute of Law at the Imam Muhammad Bin Saud Islamic University in Riyadh ignited this fierce ideological debate by demanding “the suspension of those in the media and putting an end to their excesses and attacks on the people of knowledge.” This outburst led to many of the media figures present at the conference demanding an explanation for the reasons behind the absence of a critical approach to religious thought, as well as the reasons why religious students criticize [opposing] religious symbols.

The news media asked for clarification behind the reasons why some religious students have criticized legitimate religious symbols, such as Grand Mecca Mosque Imam and preacher Sheikh Dr. Abdul Rahman al-Sudais, and the well-known Saudi preacher Sheikh Salman al-Ouda, the director of the Islam Today website. Both clerics have been subject to criticism from religious students who oppose them via text message sent to their private mobile phones describing them as secularists and liberals.

Justice Minister Sheikh Dr. Mohammed al-Issa was present at the meeting in which the controversy occurred, and attempted to use diplomacy to put an end to the debate, saying “the question is out of context, and it cannot be answered.”

However the two Sheikhs who appear to have been affected by such talk informed Asharq Al-Awsat via telephone that they were giving these students an opportunity to express their opinions, and that the students went too far in accusing them of being liberals and secularists.

Sheikh al-Sudais said, “There is no need for hyperbole in defining terrorism,” and he also stressed the need to take up the principle of “cause and effect” which is something that many people overlook…one must see the effect of his actions and whether this results in good deeds, and if it does not one should stop.

Sheikh al-Sudais also asked, “Why do we hear a clamour in the media over ideological issues, while we do not hear anything about some important concepts such as Walaa wal Bara [allegiance and disownment] and the issues of jihad and takfir?”

Al-Sudais also said, “Some people want to drag us into some kind of corresponding ideological extreme; therefore there must be balance and moderation, which this country excels in.”

For his part, Dr. Salman al-Ouda confirmed the necessity of there being objectivity and neutrality, and that this must be away from opposing loyalties or settling scores, as terrorists do not differentiate between victims, and a person cannot live or work or worship under such conditions, and that terrorism is an attack on everybody else in society.