Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Saudi Arabia: The world’s finest in counter-terrorism | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat – Saudi Arabia, led by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz and Saudi Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Crown Prince Naif Bin Abdulaziz, has taken a strong and firm stance against all forms of terrorism, on both the domestic and international front. Acts of violence and terrorism on a domestic and international front have decreased, as Saudi authorities have taken action to confront terrorism domestically and condemn it in the media, whilst the international community has become convinced regarding Saudi Arabia’s efforts and expertise in combatting terrorism. Riyadh has focused many of its government agencies to protect society from the threat and evil of terrorism, detaining a large number of terrorist operatives across the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia has confirmed its rejection and condemnation of terrorism, regardless of its source, motivations or objectives. This can be seen in the Kingdom’s contribution and cooperation in international efforts against terrorism, financing terrorism, and its active commitment and implementation of international resolutions issued by the UN Security Council with regards to combatting terrorism. Riyadh has also effectively participated in regional and international meetings to discuss the issue of combatting terrorism, and criminalizing terrorist acts and those who support it based upon false Islamic rulings. Saudi Arabia considers such rulings to be criminal and subject to the harshest penalties; Riyadh has taken action to develop and strengthen its counter-terrorism organizations and agencies, along with all security agencies involved in counter-terrorism operations, as well as providing counter-terrorism training for all security personnel, and establishing an open line of communication between the Saudi Interior Ministry and the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency [SANA] in order to facilitate cooperation and communication in combatting terrorism financing.

Actively and pre-emptively combatting terrorism

Saudi Arabia has combatted terrorism via two methods, active security operations and pre-emptive operations.

As for security operations, Saudi security authorities have achieved huge victories in dealing with acts of violence and terrorism. They succeeded after recognizing the justness of their cause and the nobility of their battle in confronting the “deviant” group, namely Al Qaeda. The Saudi authorities have clamped down on deviant ideology, detaining those espousing this, without endangering the lives of citizens who live in neighborhoods where these terrorist members are hiding. Saudi security authorities have achieved unprecedented successes in preventing terrorist acts, foiling 95 percent of all terrorist operations in the planning stages thanks to the security strategy adopted by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which has garnered international plaudits. Riyadh has also worked to address those who may not be terrorists themselves, but actively aid and abet them. These affiliates are no less dangerous than those who physically carry out the terrorist acts themselves, and Riyadh has worked to bring charges against and imprison anybody who serves in this capacity.

Saudi Arabia’s experience in combatting terrorism and uncovering terrorist operations before they can be carried out has won unprecedented international acclaim and achievements, outstripping the counter-terrorist operations of developed countries who have suffered from the blight of terrorist for decades.

From a humanitarian standpoint, and in appreciation of the sacrifices that have been made in this regard, Saudi Arabia has also focused on the security officers who are fighting this battle against terrorism on the front-lines, making sure that the family and children of slain officers are well-looked after. As for officers who are injured in the line of duty, they are also looked after and visited by government figures such as the Saudi Interior Minister and the Emir of their home governorate amongst others, in order to pay tribute to their efforts, achievements and sacrifices for the security of the homeland.

During a recent cabinet session, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz confirmed his complete confidence and trust in the Saudi security authorities and officers in all fields. King Abdullah praised the Saudi security officers’ dedication in the service of their religion, homeland and people, and their efforts – with the grace of God – in combatting terrorists and foiling terrorist operations.

The Saudi Interior Ministry has also strived to raise the morale of the security apparatus that defends the homeland from the blight of terrorism by providing material and moral support. The families of security officers killed or injured in the line of duty are provided with everything they could need, not to mention families of victims who lose their lives in terrorist incidents or counter-terrorist operations.

Religious scholars and the general public have also contributed to combatting terrorism by providing moral support and encouragement to the security forces, whilst also condemning terrorists and terrorist act. These religious scholars and the general public express their support that the Saudi security apparatus is protecting the nation, foiling terrorist plots and pursuing those who would target national security.

As for pre-emptive operations, Saudi Arabia has carried out a number of initiatives in this regard to clamp down on extremist ideology and prevent terrorist operations. The most important such initiative was the one-month amnesty announced by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz for all Al Qaeda members who surrender themselves to the authorities in the allotted time-period. The Saudi monarch pledged that anybody who surrendered themselves to the Saudi authorities in the allotted time-period would be treated in accordance with Islamic Sharia law.

A large number of those who hold “deviant” ideology that surrendered themselves to the authorities benefited from this amnesty, including figures that were present outside of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Combatting ideology with ideology

Saudi Arabia has adopted a unique approach to treating the extremist ideology that is held by certain Saudi citizens, namely by combatting ideology with ideology. The Saudi ministries of Interior, Culture, Information, Islamic Affairs, Endowment and Dawa and Education have all worked jointly in this regard to combat extremist ideology. The Saudi Interior Ministry established the Munasha rehabilitation initiative, which is made-up of intellectuals, scholars and religious figures, with the objective of correcting misconceptions and misinformation believed by those who had been detained on terrorism charges, informing them of the correct teachings of Islam, and ultimately rehabilitating their extremist views. This takes place at the Prince Muhammad Bin Naif Care Rehabilitation Center, which is a facility that helps re-integrate former jihadists into mainstream culture, explaining and eliminating their misinformed hardline views and providing them with correct Islamic teachings. This Center is staffed by Islamic Sharia law scholars, sociologists, psychologists, and other experts; whose main objective is to correct the misconceptions and wrong beliefs held by those who hold “deviant” ideology. This process is based upon open dialogue and transparency; the majority of those who attend this facility or go through the Munasha program renounce their former beliefs and convictions.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has established a comprehensive approach in dealing with the threat of terrorism which focuses on refuting terrorist ideology, arresting those who espouse and promote such views, whilst also clamping down on those who fund and finance terrorism, attempting to prevent recruitment and radicalization of Saudi youth. As for terrorist cells, Saudi security apparatus work hard to uncover and eliminate any and all terrorist cells and networks, whilst all those who are arrested go through the rehabilitation program in order to correct their misinformed views.

Perhaps the most noticeable achievement in this context is the sharp decline of those who hold the takfirist ideological doctrine, as well as the sharp decline in the issuance of religious fatwas that can be used by terrorist groups to justify their crimes. Indeed many sheikhs and clerics have come out to retract their fatwas in this regard, admitting that they were wrong and repenting their former views.

Saudi Arabia, in coordination with the International Institute of Counter-Terrorism, established a joint-campaign to combat terrorism in various regions of the country, in which all Saudi security apparatus and education departments participated. This campaign aimed to increase public awareness about the threat of terrorism and facilitate cooperation amongst different segments of Saudi society to combat terrorism and strengthen national belonging and defense of the homeland against extremism.

A set of regulations, instructions and rules were issued with regards to the use of the internet, with the objective of combatting online crimes and cyber terrorism, in addition to organizing training sessions on how to combat computer crimes.

In addition to this, Saudi Arabia also works to cooperate with families of fugitives linked to terrorist operations, ensuring that they are not held responsible for the crimes of their wanted family-member. The state has also worked hard to place a stranglehold on terrorism financing by reorganizing how charitable and fund-raising organizations operate in the country, as these could be exploited for non-legitimate means. Riyadh established a supervisory body to monitor and regulate all charitable organizations and work, with the objective of organizing the charity sector in Saudi Arabia, and ensuring that people with evil intentions and objectives are not allowed to exploit charitable or humanitarian organizations.

International community engagement

The achievements that have been made by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in combatting terrorism, not to mention the security victories secured by the Saudi security apparatus in thwarting terrorist plots, have been the subject of international praise and acclaim. Saudi Arabia continues to lead the way in counter-terrorism, and stands with all peace-loving countries in the fight to root out and eradicate the evils of terrorism. Riyadh has called for the international community to adopt comprehensive framework to combat terrorism, safeguarding the lives of the innocent, not to mention preserving national security, stability and sovereignty. The 2005 Counter-Terrorism International Conference was held in Riyadh, and demonstrates Saudi Arabia’s relentless efforts to combat and eradicate the blight of terrorism, particularly as Saudi Arabia believes that effective counter-terrorism can only occur with strong international cooperation.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia exerted great effort to ensure that the Counter-Terrorism International Conference was a success, and the 2005 conference’s closing statement – called the Riyadh Declaration – has served as a rallying call against terrorism. This closing statement stressed that terrorism represents an ongoing threat to international peace, security and stability, and that there is no justification or excuse for terrorist acts whatever the circumstance or motives.

The Riyadh Declaration stressed the importance of promoting the concept of tolerance, dialogue, pluralism, mutual understanding and rapprochement between different peoples and cultures, whilst rejecting the logic of the clash of civilizations and all ideologies that promote hatred and violence and condone terrorist crimes as something that is unacceptable to all religions and laws.

This Riyadh Declaration also asserted that terrorism is not tied to any specific religion, race, nationality or geographic region; rather this represents a threat to the entire world which can only be combatted with mutual understanding and cooperation based upon shared values and inter-faith dialogue.

It also confirmed commitment to UN resolutions relating to counter-terrorism, whilst calling on the international community to promote counter-terrorism in all fields and by all means, in accordance with the UN Charter, particularly as terrorism represents a threat to global peace and stability.

Saudi Arabia confirmed its condemnation of all forms and manifestations of terrorism, as well as its commitment to its ongoing national campaign to combat terrorism and extremist ideology in Geneva in March 2009. Saudi Arabia was one of the first countries to achieve success in combatting terrorism by way of stimulating dialogue via conferences, summits and workshops, promoting a true understanding of the Islamic religion. Riyadh has also supported regional and international initiatives in this regard. The Saudi experience has been used as a template to establish initiatives which promote dialogue, and a number of countries have benefited from this. However Riyadh has also expressed its commitment to fight against terrorism in all its forms by whatever means available, as well as its support to the international community in combatting this scourge.

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz has also thrown his backing behind the Madrid Declaration, which was issued by the 2009 World Conference on Dialogue, organized by the Muslim World League. Saudi Arabia expressed its commitment to achieving worldwide justice, security and peace, seeking to strengthen mutual understanding and coexistence between different peoples of the world, despite differences in religion, race, language and culture. This declaration called for spreading virtue, wisdom and mutual understanding, whilst rejecting extremism and terrorism.

The 2009 World Conference on Dialogue invoked the disasters that mankind has suffered through and survived throughout the twentieth century, stressing that terrorism is one of the most prominent obstacles to dialogue and coexistence. Terrorism was described as an international phenomenon that requires joint-international effort to confront and combat, via a serious international agreement that first defines what terrorism is, addresses its root causes, and achieves international justice and stability by combatting this terrible phenomenon.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia signed the Arab anti-terrorism agreement during a meeting of Arab foreign and justice ministers on 22 April 1998. This remains the most prominent counter-terrorism security agreement to have been signed in the Arab arena, whilst it also set a world precedent with regards the establishment of a regional counter-terrorist agreement.

Saudi Arabia also signed the Organization of the Islamic Conference [OIC] convention on combatting international terrorism on 7 May 2000. Saudi Arabia was the first OIC member-state to sign this convention. Riyadh is also a signatory of the Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC] agreement on counter-terrorism.

Ideological security

The Prince Naif Bin Abdulaziz Chair for Intellectual Security at the King Saud University was established to promote and integrate the efforts of various agencies and authorities to address dangerous ideologies and prevent ideologies that do not exist in Islamic culture or religion from being promoted, either out of misinformed or for ulterior motives.

Since its inception, the Prince Naif Chair for Intellectual Security, has succeed in this regard and has been described as one of the most important and influential research bodies at the domestic or regional level, thanks to the activities and events it hosts which are attended by a large number of those interested in ideological and intellectual security issues, whilst many Saudi citizens have also benefited from this.

This has also contributed to promoting a culture of intellectual and ideological security, and promoting this on a broad-scale, whilst also aiding scientific research in the promotion and consolidation of correct ideology and behaviour, strengthening Saudi society against deviant ideology and behaviour. The Prince Naif Bin Abdulaziz Chair for Intellectual Security has organized a large number of lectures, workshops, training sessions and seminars to promote intellectual and ideological security and condemn terrorism and extremist ideology.

At the level of legislation and the judiciary, Saudi Arabia established a special court to deal with national security and terrorism cases, named the Special Criminal Court which is based in Riyadh. In addition to this, the Saudi Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution established a specialist department to deal with national security cases in order to ensure that legal defendants in such cases are given all their legal rights, including the right to a fair trial, the right to defend themselves in court, as well as compensation for those who are found innocent.

The Prince Naif University for Security Sciences has also worked hard to organize seminars to address terrorist ideology and combat terrorist recruitment of youth, as well as identity the methods is used to promote such ideology. This has served to raise awareness to the threat that such ideology represents, particularly to the youth. The Prince Naif University for Security Sciences has exerted effort researching the best means to combat deviant and terrorist ideology, promoting intellectual, sociological and psychological means of addressing this. In addition, the university has researched the role and guidance that family and the media can play in combatting ideological deviation, as well as social methods of combatting terrorism and the Saudi experience and expertise in this regard, not to mention what makes such deviant ideology attractive to certain segments of society and the psychological characteristics of those who may be taken in by such ideology.

Since September 11, 2001, Saudi Arabia has questioned more than 1,500 individuals, arresting hundreds of suspects and succeeded in practically eliminating terrorism from Saudi soil. The Kingdom has also audited its charitable organizations, enacting strict financial measures to ensure that terrorists cannot take advantage of the generosity of Saudi citizens. Saudi Arabia today is the home of some of the toughest counter-terrorism laws and regulations in the world.