London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Western media claims that Saudi Arabia is connected—in any way, shape or form—to the terrorist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) organization is a “malicious falsehood and should not be repeated,” a Saudi spokesperson has said.
In a statement to Asharq Al-Awsat, a spokesperson for the Royal Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in London said: “Saudi Arabia wants the defeat and destruction of ISIS and other terrorist networks. Terrorist networks are as abhorrent to the government and people of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as they are to the governments and peoples of the rest of the world. That is why we urge the international community to do all in its power to join together to secure an end to the ISIS threat.”
ISIS, a Sunni extremist terrorist group that initially managed to gain ground in Syria during the revolution against Bashar Al-Assad expanded its operations into Iraq in late 2013. In June 2014, ISIS spread from Iraq’s Sunni-dominated Anbar province to central and northern areas of the country, capturing the city of Mosul on June 9. ISIS’s northern advance was repelled by Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, but the terrorist group has been able to secure territory in central and northern parts of the country, announcing the establishment of an “Islamic state” on June 29.
The Saudi spokesperson criticized western media attempts to draw comparisons between Wahhabism and extremist ideology.
“There have been suggestions that ISIS followers are members of some sort of Wahhabi absolutist sect. Indeed, certain UK media outlets often refer to Muslims within Saudi Arabia as Wahhabists. The unsubstantiated use of this invented connotation must end because it is untrue. Wahhabism is not a sect of Islam,” the spokesperson said.
“Muhammad [Ibn] Abd Al-Wahhab was a scholar and jurist of the 18th century who insisted on the adherence to Qur’anic values and the teachings of the word of God as revealed to the Prophet Muhammad,” the statement added.
The Saudi spokesperson told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Our aim is to live in the peace, security, and harmony that our Islamic faith teaches. Terrorism belongs to no country. It has no religion, nationality or identity beyond a belief in the power of death and destruction to secure certain political ends. The sole purpose of ISIS’s extremist ideology and politically motivated reign of terror is to kill the innocent in the cause of their own power lust.”
The spokesperson stressed that Riyadh had warned about destructive regime change in Iraq as early as 2003. “If change of regime comes with the destruction of Iraq, then you are solving one problem and creating five more problems,” Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal said at the time.
“We have repeatedly emphasized that the best way to cut the road before the forces of extremism on the future of Syria is to provide maximum support to the forces of moderation,” the Saudi foreign minister said at the UN in 2013.
Saudi Arabia is doing everything in its power to wipe out “the evil of terrorism” the Saudi spokesperson told Asharq Al-Awsat, listing a number of initiatives and projects that Riyadh has supported in this regard.
The Saudi spokesperson pointed to the establishment of the UN counter-terrorism center in 2005, which was established “with financial support of 200 million US dollars from our government,” in addition to the establishing of the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue “to enable, empower and encourage dialogue among followers of different religions and cultures around the world.”
“In February this year a royal decree in the Kingdom outlawed participation of citizens in hostilities outside the Kingdom and membership of radical religious and intellectual groups with punishments ranging from three to up to 30 years imprisonment,” the spokesperson added, while also citing a recent statement by Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al-Sheikh labeling terrorist organizations as the number one enemy of Islam.
The official said: “Firm action is taken immediately against any imam found to hold extremist views or to be inciting violence,” adding that “laws are [also] firmly in place to prevent funding of these groups. All donations are scrutinized by international monetary agencies and have been for 14 years. Accounts of any individual or organization within Saudi Arabia found to be financing extremist groups are frozen.”
“We urge, yet again, the international community to work collectively to put an end to this terrorist scourge once and for all,” the Saudi spokesperson concluded.