GCC unified in its support for Paris

Friday 20/11/2015
The Hazza bin Zayed Stadium, in the UAE city of Al-Ain, illuminated with the colours of the French national flag, after terrorist attacks in Paris.

London - Government officials and religious institutions in Gulf Cooperation Coun­cil (GCC) countries have been unified in their condemnation of the “heinous” terrorist attacks in Paris.

The day following the November 13th assaults, Saudi Arabia’s high­est religious authority, the Council of Senior Scholars, the only body in the kingdom authorised to issue fatwas, unequivocally condemned the attacks in Paris, stressing in a statement that: “Terrorists are not sanctioned by Islam and these acts are contrary to values of mercy it brought to the world.”

In Vienna, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir extended his condo­lences to the government and peo­ple of France, underlining that the terrorist acts “are in violation and contravention of all ethics, morals and religions.”

“The kingdom of Saudi Arabia has long called for more intensified international efforts to combat the scourge of terrorism in all its forms and shapes,” Jubeir added.

This year the Islamic State (ISIS) has launched a wave of terrorist attacks within the GCC, mainly in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait, revealing three branches of the ter­rorist organisation in the region. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks in Paris.

In the United Arab Emirates, President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan “expressed the UAE’s condemnation of these terrorist acts and extended his heartfelt condolences to the French govern­ment, the friendly people of France and the families of the victims, expressing his hopes for a speedy recovery by the injured”. He also stressed the UAE’s solidarity with France and its support to fight and eliminate terrorism, an official statement said.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE are members of a US-led international coalition conducting air strikes on ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq. The kingdom also works closely with Washington in its war against al- Qaeda and other terrorist groups. Since September 2014, French war­planes based at Al Dhafra Air Base near Abu Dhabi have been flying missions against ISIS in Iraq.

In Qatar, the Foreign Ministry condemned the “armed attacks and bombings” in a statement cited by official agency QNA, saying they “contradict all moral and humani­tarian principles and values”.

There were also strong condem­nations from Bahrain, Kuwait, and Oman.

Also joining the global outcry was the influential Jeddah-based Organisation of Islamic Coop­eration (OIC). In a statement, OIC Secretary-General Iyad bin Amin Madani condemned in the strictest terms the terrorist attacks perpe­trated in France, while reaffirming the OIC’s “unwavering solidarity and support to France at these crit­ical and painful circumstances”.

Madani called upon all govern­ments, international organisations and civil society institutions to close ranks and engage in a con­certed joint action to combat ter­rorism, which he described as “the arch-enemy of humanity at large”.

The regional condemnations come days after similar denuncia­tions were made after an ISIS attack in Beirut.

ISIS launched a number of at­tacks in Saudi Arabia in the last year with the goal of stirring sectar­ian strife within the majority Sunni kingdom. This resulted in a crack­down by Saudi authorities reminis­cent of its pursuit of al-Qaeda more than ten years ago.

In July, Saudi security authorities said they had thwarted operations sponsored by ISIS and arrested more than 400 individuals alleg­edly affiliated with it.

ISIS has been exceptionally successful in its ability to recruit members globally and GCC states have been no exception. This has prompted authorities in the re­gion to crack down on individuals involved in establishing and main­taining militant websites and social media accounts.

This also led to independent ac­tivists in Saudi Arabia and the UAE joining the fight in cyberspace by launching an organised campaign designed to identify ISIS social media accounts and subsequently closing them down. The online campaign has shuttered hundreds of accounts belonging to ISIS or its sympathisers.

In September, a Kuwaiti court sentenced seven men to death for their roles in a Shia mosque bombing claimed by ISIS, the bloodiest attack in the Gulf state’s history.

A total of 29 defendants, seven of them women, had been on trial on charges of helping a Saudi suicide bomber carry out the June 26th at­tack which killed 26 Shia worship­pers and wounded 227.