The fight against extremism in Saudi Arabia continues

Friday 29/05/2015
Denouncing terror

The bombing of a Shia mosque in eastern Saudi Arabia was a timely reminder that the country is engaged in an existential fight with terrorism, a fight that cannot be conclusively won without the removal of the societal conditions that enable it. Perhaps the most important of these conditions is the sectarian rhetoric that has taken hold in popular discourse, both Sunni and Shia, and the failure of the elites of the country to challenge it.
Terrorism is not merely a failure of the individual who commits the criminal act. It is also reflective of a broader failure of the society that conditioned the individual to become susceptible to extrem­ist ideas. The perpetrator of the mosque bombing, Salih bin Abdul­rahman Salih al-Ghishaami, may provide some clues as to how this can occur. What was it, exactly, that caused him to blow himself up in a mosque packed with his fellow countrymen?
An important thread in answer­ing this question is the absence of a sense of patriotism and citizen­ship among al-Ghishaami and terrorists like him. Every terrorist who kills his countrymen is the result of an accumulation of failures: failure of the education system to instil a sense of patriotism and loyalty to country; failure of those in the media, education and culture to attract the youth to mod­erate views while extrem­ists win them over and, most importantly; failure to create systems that prevent the spread of violent and extremist thought.
Nobody can have failed to notice the increase in sectarian rhetoric that has accompanied the declaration of Operation Decisive Storm in Yemen. There has been a tolerance of extremist views from which only groups such as the ter­ror group Islamic State (ISIS) will benefit.
Affiliates of the Muslim Brother­hood have exploited the war in Yemen as an opportunity to return to popularity but have done so, not because of a sense of patri­otism but, rather, by launching vicious sectarian attacks.
The media have singularly failed to convey the ideas of the Saudi leadership that this is not a sectar­ian war but a national one. Islam­ist gangs, both Sunni and Shia, seem to have agreed between them to make the war in Yemen a struggle between their rival Islam­isms rather than the struggle of an Arab state against an aggressive and expansionist Iranian foreign policy.
Without the sacrifices of secu­rity services there would have been many more terrorist attacks and thousands of victims. The struggle is not simply between the security services and individual terrorists, however. It is a broader fight between society as a whole and terrorism.
As a society, we have left securi­ty services with sole responsibility for combating terrorism. We have not fought extremist thought in the home or challenged extremist agitators in mosques. The task of fighting terrorism has been left to the security services and we have forgotten that the battle is one of ideas and popularity. If society as a whole does not fight extremism then the losses will continue.
If we are to extinguish the flames of division and sectarian­ism then we must silence their promoters from the Muslim Broth­erhood and the satellite channels that broadcast hate and incite­ment, that talk of the rights of Sunnis while visiting the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Iran.
Our societies’ fight against Islamist gangs must be unceas­ing because they are a threat to the nation that cannot be taken lightly. No society can advance so long as it guarantees work for per­sonalities that oppose the rights of their compatriots and apostasise them.