Fighting extremism must not be left to the hesitant
By : Abdulrahman al-Rashed
Saudi security forces in six cities pursued terrorist cells linked to the terror attack in the town of al-Ahsa where seven citizens died this week. During a confrontation with gunmen, two members of the security forces were killed, including one who had been injured in 2005 during clashes with al-Qaeda-linked terrorists in the same area.
Interesting how history repeats itself! Extremist teachings yield terrorism, unarmed civilians are killed; the country becomes overwhelmed with fear about the return of terrorism; and a member of the security forces who survived a previous fight is destined to die in a later battle.
Terrorists are not born terrorists. They are victims of the schools of extremism in their broad context, i.e. of local culture, incapability to confront extremism, a defect in the system and a weakness of the judiciary. Several terrorist detainees were freed after complaints by some, despite that they were active in extremism.
At this time, extremist teachings and discourse increased because the situation was left to get worse. The circle of believers in extremism thus expanded until it all became as if we were living among the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group. It’s as if extremism had settled everywhere, controlling the mentality of a huge minority and sparking fear among a majority who were afraid of confronting it and who were afraid for themselves, their children and their future.
The situation reminds me of The Walking Dead series, where a few survivors in an apocalypse find prison to be the best place to be safe from flesh-eating zombies. The zombies are increasing in number and their brutality and the scale of their activities is also increasing. Confronting them continues to be the state’s responsibility. What’s the fate of the youths who are subject to such extremist ideology and which logic is adopted when arresting them – even though they are just victims of an available culture?
Every time a devious generation is pursued, a more devious generation is born. These generations are a threat to the international community who publicly complains about them and does not settle at discomforting Saudi citizens across the world’s airports and universities
Are we aware of the size of the problem and that the problem is not just one involving security? Every time a terrorist cell is started, we get security forces to pursue it and treat it as a threat to society and to emerging generations.
Every time a devious generation is pursued, a more devious generation is born. These generations are a threat to the international community who publicly complains about them and does not settle at discomforting Saudi citizens across the world’s airports and universities. The same societies also criticize us as they speak of the issue threatening the entire world as a result of our culture and as a result of our failure to curb extremism and get rid of the disease which terrorized the world since the 1990’s.
We must realize that there’s an international responsibility we must bear and that our rivals will exploit it to hold us accountable. The world will not just settle with avoiding us like it’s currently doing with societies stricken by the Ebola virus and similar fatal diseases.
Extremists are a source of internal and external threat. Hostile countries find in our sons, their organizations, crimes, publications and media a means to turn the international community against us, isolate us and thus destroy everything we’ve built.
Our record in fighting terrorism will not succeed at defending us. Is there someone who realizes the scale of the threat and is doing something to prevent it other than just counting on security forces to pursue terrorists who become like ticking time bombs walking among us?
It’s been a long time since the issue of terrorism surfaced and we’ve realized its extent since the mid 1990’s during the first wave of bombings. Then we were shocked by the September 11 attacks on the Twin Towers in New York 2001. Similar attacks then directly struck us in 2003 in Riyadh and we were then engaged in a fierce war against al-Qaeda across Saudi Arabia for around six years.
First of its kind
We thought all of the al-Qaeda cells had been destroyed, but their extremist ideology reproduced even more cells. These same cells recently fired their first bullet in al-Ahsa and their crime was the first of its kind.
Truth be told, the Saudi grand mufti’s strong and frank stance against the perpetrators is what encouraged many to say that we must not be silent regarding these terrorist cells, as the lives of millions of people are in danger. We must not be caught between the possibilities of either being a victim of extremist ideological deceit or of being a victim for extremists.
The responsibility of confronting extremism must not be left up to hesitant, scared and suspicious people. The practice of leaving it up to such individuals has not stood the test of time. They have done nothing to deserve success during a whole decade since war was declared on extremism. Funds continue to be collected, leaflets continue to be distributed and extremist doctrines continue to reign over different media outlets.
Meanwhile there are plenty of extremists in universities and schools – both teachers and students – and this leaves no room to doubt regarding the dangerous path of our future generations! Even our students abroad are not left alone to develop and flourish in an atmosphere beyond their influence.
This tough talk about the kingdom is not exclusive only to us. It applies to similar countries in the Gulf and to Egypt, Pakistan, Indonesia, migrant communities in the West and to all societies in which this Ebola-like virus of religious extremism has spread.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.