Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdulaziz Bin Abdullah al-Sheikh told Asharq Al-Awsat yesterday that terrorism in Saudi Arabia is a foreign phenomenon that this is no longer present in the Kingdom after the security authorities completely eliminated this.
The Grand Mufti was speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat via telephone on the seventh anniversary of the 12 May 2003 Riyadh Compound Bombings. Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Sheikh, who is also the Chairman of the Council of Senior Ulema, confirmed that terrorism is no longer present on Saudi soil, and he described the phenomenon of terrorism as being “alien” to Saudi Arabia.
Sheikh Abdulaziz Bin Abdullah al-Sheikh told Asharq Al-Awsat “Terrorism does not have a presence on our soil, and nobody amongst us supports this phenomenon because it is something that is foreign to our society and our religion rejects and opposes this; this is why there is no terrorism [in Saudi Arabia] at this time and why this was nipped in the bud, thank God. We live in safety and stability, and this strange phenomenon has been amputated from amongst us because this is something that has no place in our country.”
The Grand Mufti also stressed that the political leadership in his country is alert and vigilant against Al Qaeda, and those who supported this organization in Saudi Arabia over the past 7 years.
Responding to a question about whether Al Qaeda today has become more than a group or organization, but rather an ideology, the Grand Mufti said “whatever the case, thanks to God, Saudi Arabia is a country that is vigilant and alert, and its leadership – headed by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, the Crown Prince, and the Second Deputy Prime Minister – is vigilant [against Al Qaeda] and is paying attention and concerned with the public interest and protecting the citizens. This is why there are no roots of terrorism in our country, thank God.”
As for the reasons which led to the emergence of terrorism in Saudi Arabia, the Grand Mufti put this down to “the ignorance of those [involved in terrorism] and their lack of awareness and their failure to consider the consequences of their actions, they have also been misled by deluded views and those who trick them and portray terrorism positively.”
The Grand Mufti also praised the efforts of the Saudi Interior Ministry in the fight against terrorism, and its elimination of the threat of Al Qaeda on Saudi soil.
Asked about the slogans utilized by Al Qaeda to recruit young Muslims, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia told Asharq Al-Awsat “there can be no doubt that when society saw that this phenomenon led to bloodshed and the destruction of property, it did not accept this.”
Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Sheikh called on Muslim youth to resist Al Qaeda, who attempt to recruit and radicalize Muslims in the name of jihad, describing such methods as being “nonsense,”
As for what he would like to tell young Muslims who are at risk of being recruited or radicalized, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Sheikh said “I advise them to be patient and think things through and not yield to any such calls, and to reflect on these calls and the individuals who make them, and their objectives and goals…and not be fooled by such nonsense.”
Wednesday was the seventh anniversary of the Riyadh Compound Bombings, which took place on 12 May 2003, and resulted in 27 fatalities and over 160 wounded. Al Qaeda carried out around 30 other terrorist operations across Saudi Arabia; these include bombings, assassinations, and kidnappings. More than 74 Saudi security officers have been killed and 657 wounded in clashes with Al Qaeda over the past years. In total, more than 90 civilians have been killed and 439 wounded in Al Qaeda attacks. Saudi Arabia claims to have foiled more than 200 terrorist plots by Al Qaeda in recent years, seizing more than 3 tons of RDX, C4, and TNT explosives, 25 tons of home-made explosives, and thousands of RPGs and heavy and light weaponry. 90 percent of people who took part in the government sponsored Munasaha rehabilitation program abandoned their extremist ideas, while 10 percent of Guantanamo returnees returned to the ranks of Al Qaeda. In general, the number of detainees who return to Al Qaeda stands at less than 1 percent. Riyadh has established 5 modern prisons that specialize in dealing with terrorist suspects, costing approximately 1.7 billion riyals. These 5 prisons received more than 243,000 visits in 2009.