In a November 22 article, prominent Saudi journalist 'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, the former editor of the London-based daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat and former director of Al-Arabiya TV, writes that terrorism cannot be eliminated by taking out its leaders, for new ones always emerge in their stead. Nor can it be eliminated by withdrawing from territories, such as the American withdrawal from Iraq, which was supposed to bring an end to the terrorism against its forces there. Rather, says Al-Rashed, the effective way to fight terrorism is to combat the extremist ideology on which it is based. He stresses that the people who spread the ideology - such as preachers, media personalities and teachers - are more dangerous than terror leaders like bin Laden, for they are capable of producing new terror leaders and organization when the old ones are eliminated.
Al-Rashed notes that, following World War II, the Europeans went to extremes to ban Nazi ideology; they prohibited teaching it or marketing it and excluded anyone associated with it from the public arena. He argues that today's extremist Islam resembles Nazism in many ways, for it too is fascist and based on blind faith in an ideology and on extreme hatred and hostility towards others. Hence, similar measures should be taken against it as well.
Al-Rashed argued in the same vein in an article from May, 2015, in which he likewise drew a parallel between religious extremism and Nazism. He noted that, just as Western democracies, which normally safeguard freedom of expression, felt the need to make an exception of Nazism and banned the movement, Saudi Arabia is equally justified in banning religious extremism.
The following are excerpts from English translations of both articles that appeared on the Al-Arabiya website.
'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed (image: al-Arabiya.net)
Terrorism Is Not About Leaders Or Their Motives But About Ideology And Those Who Spread It
In his November 22, 2015 article, Al-Rashed wrote: "In May 2011, millions of people across the world witnessed the end of al-Qaeda organization, or to be more accurate, the end of the organization's leader, Osama bin Laden, who was killed during a skillful intelligence operation. Bin Laden's body was wrapped in sheets and iron chains and buried at sea. Whatever he had symbolized also ended with his death, and al-Qaeda, which had terrified the world, was also buried with him. All significant figures within the organization were either killed or detained [as well]...
"What was believed to be a motive behind terrorism - the U.S. military presence in Iraq - was also believed to have come to an end when [the U.S.] withdrew.
"I think the problem here is related to diagnosing the initial problem. Terrorism was neither about leaders or their motives but about an ideology motivated by preachers, media personalities, teachers and strong believers in extremism, who are more dangerous than Bin Laden and Zarqawi. These people are capable of producing alternative leaderships and organizations, under different slogans and in different areas. They invented Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as an alternative to Bin Laden, and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as an alternative to al-Qaeda. Syria has become a new battlefield and Bin Laden's videos were replaced by taking to Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp. They have become more dangerous.
"The war has gone back to square one, [but] terrorists nowadays are distinguished from their predecessors. [The organizations] have now not only grown in size but also have more experts and are more influential. They brought down a Russian plane using a bomb estimated to contain 1 kilogram of explosives and carried out a series of terrorist attacks in Paris. A terror branch in Nigeria crossed the borders to Mali and seized a hotel taking hostages. Then ISIS claimed it executed a Chinese hostage and threatened the United States with imminent operations. All these terrorist acts which horrified the world were committed in less than a month."
"Today's Extremist Islam Is Also Fascist, And It Resembles Nazism, Which Is Based On The Concepts Of Discrimination And Elimination"
"I think there is a number of mistakes when it comes to understanding [the] ÔÇ£newÔÇØ terrorism. The first mistake is believing that a terrorist organization collapses with the murder of its leaders. The second is believing that declared excuses are the motive for terrorism - particularly by linking these excuses to liberation plans of the past; for example, claiming that the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq would bring about an [end to] terrorism. Historically speaking, al-Qaeda was born six years before the Iraq invasion and it further expanded after the U.S. withdrawal.
"The third mistake is believing that the solution is to withdraw from crisis areas, like what happened in Vietnam. The U.S. withdrew its troops from Iraq and refused to enter Syria. The fourth mistake is getting involved in the sectarian game by supporting Shiites or Sunnis against one another. The fifth and most important mistake is taking a lenient approach to extremist ideologies, which is a major problem and the source of the power of terrorism.
"After Adolf Hitler committed suicide and following the burning of his body, the war's winners did not just raise the flag of victory over Berlin but they also banned Nazi ideology. They prohibited teaching it or marketing it and also prevented those who are in any way related to it from practicing any social activities.
"Today's extremist Islam is also fascist, and it resembles Nazism which is based on the concepts of discrimination and elimination. Like Nazism, extremist Islam is based on absolute loyalty to an ideology and to hatred and hostility against others, whether Muslims or not. If you want to eliminate al-Qaeda, ISIS and al-Nusra Front, you have to go after the ideology. Without doing so, we can expect the next century to be filled with anarchy and terrorism."
"In The Middle East, Our Version Of Nationalist Fascism Is Religious Extremism, Which Is Just As Dangerous And Destructive"
In his May 28, 2015 article, Al-Rashed wrote: "It is not a coincidence that in some Western countries, whose constitutions clearly stipulate protecting freedom of expression and partisanship, Nazism is exceptionally banned in belief and in practice, and those who violate this law are punished. This is not hypocrisy or a retreat from respecting freedoms. Nazism is banned because it is an extremist, fascist, nationalist ideology that represents a direct threat to the nation. Its bloody history is modern, and its fire still burns under the ashes. Extremist ideas are present everywhere, but since Nazi extremism is very dangerous, liberal countries that believe most in freedoms have decided not to tolerate it.
"In the Middle East, our version of nationalist fascism is religious extremism, which is just as dangerous and destructive...
"Nazis believe in elevating the white race above all others. Nazism caused the destruction of Europe, with 60 million people killed. After this disaster, the majority took it upon itself not to allow this extremist ideology to dominate in their societies. One can be religious, patriotic and nationalistic without being committed to eliminating others.
"We fear that we are at the beginning of the road to destruction in our region by allowing extremists to impose their agendas on society... Confronting these groups is everyone's responsibility. Governments have major duties to fulfill, their core task being to provide protection from the evils of extremist groups that operate across borders...
"Extremists have succeeded at confusing people's perceptions of what is just and unjust, and of who is friend or foe. They are also trying to divide people by categorizing them by sect, ethnicity, good and evil, to the extent of strengthening the idea of alternative identities to love of one's country, which is supposed to come before one's tribe and sect, and where everyone should have the same rights and duties."
"Amid this poisonous atmosphere, the [nation] state has become the most threatened, not groups and minorities, as some think. Destroying the civil ladder and dividing societies harms the backbone of the state, its structure, [whereas] persecuted groups always survive, no matter how besieged, pursued and displaced they are. States have collapsed, but these groups have survived throughout the centuries.
"Dangerous extremism is expanding, and it requires serious restraints. It is not acceptable for a university teacher, mosque preacher or ministry employee to incite against certain social [sectors], as the government is responsible for such acts because they employ these people.
"The government itself refuses to be betrayed and punishes whoever violates its laws. Those extremists, whether they know it or not, are destroying the structure from its base. They are more dangerous to society than foreign enemies, who fail when people are united and succeed when there are domestic disputes and divisions.
"What [obligates us to make] a law that criminalizes racism and sectarianism is the collective stance of clerics, intellectuals and social leaders who voiced support for unity and considered last week's suicide bombing at a Shiite mosque in the Saudi town of Al-Qadeeh as an attack against all of them. Dozens of writers, thinkers, and people with a clear conscience wrote in condemnation of the attack. This was the biggest solidarity campaign Saudi Arabia has ever known. The king's statement against extremism has encouraged them to voice their condemnation. These strong manifestations have disproved extremists' claims about their popularity and influence, and confirmed that the state can lead a project to eliminate extremism before it rots society's strongest pillar: its youth."