After Abha mosque attack, what now?

Friday 14/08/2015
Mourner calls for the enactment of a law considering hate and sectarianism a crime

There have been three attacks on mosques since May in Saudi Arabia, two on mosques frequented by Shias and the latest on a mosque with ties to the police. Could this be the begin­ning of the entrenchment of the Islamic State (ISIS) in the king­dom?
Local newspapers wrote of the existence of 1,400 ISIS members in Saudi Arabia. More than 500 alleged members of the group have been arrested over the past six months.
The latest developments in the region include the nuclear agreement with Iran, Turkey changing positions regarding the armed conflict in Syria and Moscow offering to host a meeting between the Syrian opposition and the Assad regime.
The question is whether Saudi Arabia should rearrange its priorities and take a new look at the war on terror through the lens of the latest geostrategic develop­ments.
Following the mosque attacks, Saudi authorities emphasised the necessity of fighting hatred and sectar­ian strife. This means that Riyadh realises that it must safeguard its youth from joining the ranks of ISIS and al-Qaeda, ensuring that they do not join these destructive armies that seek to wipe out everything.
Political Islam, encapsulated in the Arab world by the Muslim Brotherhood, is definitely going through its severest crisis in decades. Furthermore, it is important to take into considera­tion the fact that different jihadist ideologies have been birthed from within the Muslim Brotherhood. Thus, the head of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi; the head of al- Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri; the leaders of Ansar al-Sharia; and the founder of Boko Haram all have ties to the Brotherhood.
It is high time for the political, intellectual and religious elites in Arab and Muslim countries to take a stand against this evil ideology and the threat it represents to security and national interests.
It is also important not to conduct this battle through violence but by relying on argument, media and voting. The choice of violence has been tried since the 1960s but always failed.
There is no excuse for not eradicating the real roots of these extremist movements, which lie in both the ideologies of political Islam and jihadist Salafism.
It is important to point out that some Muslim Brotherhood ideologues regret the group’s rush to political power.
The result of their haste is that they laid bare their true inten­tions, their obvious lack of competence in governing and the total absence of a modern civic and democratic state from their vision. These figures think things were better when they were in the opposition camp than when they were in power.
Moreover, the tug of war between Egyptian authorities and the Muslim Brotherhood has driven a wedge of distrust between Arab public opinion and the Brotherhood in all “Arab spring” states.
After attacks on Shia mosques, and now a mosque tied to the authorities, this has solidified consensus regarding the impor­tance of eradicating the jihadist movement and its extremist religious offspring factions. With this popular support, it is going to be easier to launch the next stage in the war against terror.
Supporters of the liberal democratic and nationalist paradigm and the proponents of a moderate reformist mainstream Islam must do more to rise to the challenge of coming up with a new discourse that lays the founda­tions for the modern state, one in which different racial, sectarian and religious elements come together equally in a citizenship paradigm.
Muslim states should look to enact legislation forbidding the creation of political parties on the basis of religion. Those seeking religious activism must do this through civil associations, not politics. They will have to abide by the related regulations, which forbid all forms of divisive discourse and actions and guarantee the safety and respect of all religions. Thus, the state becomes receptacle for all shades of the spectrum, drawing its legitimacy and strength from the constitution and the rule of law and national cohesion.