September 2, 2014 Special Dispatch No. 5832

Al-Arabiya Director 'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed: The War On Terror Must Be Won On The Ideological Level

September 2, 2014
Saudi Arabia | Special Dispatch No. 5832

In an article titled "From 9/11 to Foley’s Murder, Extremism Lives On," 'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, the director of Al-Arabiya TV and former editor of the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, seeks an answer to the question why the world's 13-year war on terror has not achieved its objectives despite the enormous investment and numerous tactical successes. He contends that extremism is a disease that cannot be treated by security measures but only by drying up its "sources of education, media and funding."

The following are excerpts from an English translation of the article posted August 25, 2014 on the Al-Arabiya website.[1] The Arabic article was published the same day in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat.

'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed (image: English,

The War On Terror Has Failed

"It was following negligence and a lack of attention that the Al-Qaeda organization flourished and attacked U.S. soil on Sept. 11, 2001. The event marked the beginning of the war on terror. [Now] a new era of the war on terror is about to begin after news of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s (ISIS) execution of American journalist James Foley shocked the world. The act signals that similar crimes by the organization are in the pipeline. It will also succeed at awakening concerned parties – Western ones as well as regional ones – since they are also threatened by the organization and its sympathizers.

"The past 13 years witnessed some of the largest wars in history against rebellious groups. These wars included military confrontations, pursuit [by] security [apparatuses], [the offering of] financial rewards, freezing of bank accounts and shutting down propaganda-disseminating media outlets. Despite all that, these wars have failed, despite the murder and arrest of Al-Qaeda’s major leaders.

"Many of the organization’s leaders were killed or detained but the group’s ideology continued unabated. So our enemy is not Al-Qaeda or ISIS or the Al-Nusra Front, but the concept itself – the concept of religious extremism which is a source of inspiration and energy... This concept is also the reason why tens of thousands of youths [have] arrived in Syria and Iraq, prepared, or rather willing, to die."

Fight The Disease Of Extremism, Don't Just Get Rid Of The Patients

"Our war - the war of the world, [both] Muslims and others - is against evil ideas. Al-Qaeda is an idea and so is ISIS. It is not about building an army or expanding on the map or gaining oil fields. It’s about a 'sacred' group that rules in the name of God and claims to get closer to him by offering human sacrifices.

"Even if American troops, or Iraqi troops, or Iraqi tribes manage to kill [ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-]Baghdadi and his rival [Abu Muhammad Al-]Joulani and the thousands of terrorists who follow them, the rebirth of Al-Qaeda under a new slogan is almost certain.

"We are locked in a struggle with extremism, a struggle that hasn’t ended since Ayatollah Khomeini took power in Iran and since Juhayman Al-Otaybi occupied the Grand Mosque in Mecca in 1979.

Extremism is a disease that plagues the Arab world, many Muslim countries, and Muslim minority societies in European countries and even in China. It’s an Ebola-like disease, meaning it’s not enough to get rid of the patients; you must also fight the virus.

"ISIS, and Al-Qaeda before it, should not only be seen as a threat to the West and to followers of other religions, as most of its victims are Muslims and most of those are Sunni Muslims. Therefore, the biggest burden in the new round of the war on terror is on Muslim countries, their governments and their intellectual figures."

The Islamic World Is In Denial

"I am certain that the extremist thought will end and will not be reborn for another 100 years if its sources of education, media and funding are dried out. However, the Islamic world still refuses to admit the problem of extremism which lies within it. On the one hand, it fights against extremism on the security level. On the other hand, it tries to shift the blame onto others, instead of admitting its illness and the need for a long and harsh treatment.

"The virus of extremism has infiltrated society and culture. It’s due to this virus that many act like brainwashed people and roam the streets of their cities repeating the same ideas and defending extremism, willing to spread its teachings. And so, whenever counter-terrorism forces kill one hundred of them, a thousand more of them are born."


[1], August 25, 2014. The text has been lightly edited for clarity.

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