January 26, 2005 Special Dispatch No. 853

Arab Columnists: Terrorists are Motivated by Cultural and Religious Factors, Not Poverty

January 26, 2005
The Gulf, United Arab Emirates | Special Dispatch No. 853

Several Arab columnists have recently published articles critical of the view that the main motivation to terrorism is poverty or despair. They instead cite the role of cultural and religious factors in motivating terrorism, and particularly the incitement by sheikhs who encourage young men to conduct terror operations. The following are excerpts from three articles; one, by Muhammad Mahfouz, was published in the Saudi Gazette; another, by Abdallah Rashid, was published in the UAE Al-Itihad daily; and a third, by Abdallah Nasser Al-Fawzan, was published in the Saudi daily Al-Watan:

Saudi Columnist: 'The Only Way to End Violence and Terrorism Is to Fight a Cultural and Ideological Battle'

In an article published in the Saudi Gazette, columnist Muhammad Mahfouz, who is also editor of the cultural magazine Al-Kalima, published in Lebanon, wrote: [1]

"It is an undeniable fact that social problems and phenomena [that] are ignored without determining their root causes will proliferate and surface repeatedly. But … their re-emergence will be associated with more complications and grow to the extent that they become incurable…

"This brings me to the phenomenon of terrorism, which is oneof the most dangerous problems encountered [in] recent times, for it undermines the stability and security of all human societies. This shows that [an] external and superficial probing of the problem will not be effective until [we] delve deeply into its cultural and ideological roots…

"Of course the security efforts [are] one of the tools to fight terrorism … [but] the security efforts always need to be associated and supported with national, cultural, political, and socioeconomic efforts…

"The relationship between the phenomenon of terrorism in our society and culture is like the relationship betweenthe cause and consequence. A thorough study of this phenomenon shows that the … real reason behind the mobilization of a handful of young men by this deviant group is purely cultural. This means that these youths were brought up in a special cultural atmosphere which finds its roots in astereotyped understanding of religion. This understanding serves as a basic incubator to this group. This may explain the reason why some youths belonging to richfamilies and others who are well positionedin the state's civil service hierarchyare implicated in terrorist crimes.

"This [means] that financial and economic factors can not be associated with this group. Therefore, it is a cultural and religious factor that motivated them [to kill] innocent people and destroy the country's infrastructure.

"Thus, the only way to put an end to the wave of violence and terrorism is to fight a cultural and ideological battle against terrorism as well as [against] its direct and indirect causes. Without fighting this fateful battle, we will never succeed in eliminating this menace, and thus our country will suffer from this phenomenon from time to time.

"In my opinion, [any] delay in fighting this ideological cultural battle against terrorism will drag our country to abyss of instability. We need more than ever to … expose the phenomenon of terrorism and dismantle the cultural and ideological incubators which feed this phenomenon and mold it socially and culturally.

"This brings me again to the point that the elimination of terrorism and violence are associated with uprooting the culture of violence which promotes killing, justifies terrorism, and provides it with a legitimate cover.

"[On the other hand,] the security battle will not help much in putting an end to this phenomenon. On the contrary, it may give it a justification [to continue].

"Thus, I find it necessary to elaborate on these points: The phenomenon of terrorism and violence we are facing can be classified as religious violence carried out by a group of brain-washed youth influenced by glamorous slogans. Thisrequires us to re-formulate the prevailing religious concepts and implant in their minds other religious values, such as the values of dialogue and religious tolerance, as well as recognizing pluralism. Thus … we need to formulate a new religious vision isolating and freeing it of all the facets of extremism and fundamentalism.

"… Confronting … this phenomenon requires bold decisions and policies because any laxity in this matter will cost the country morelives and destruction, [and for this] we need transparency and courage to put an end to this poisonous menace.

"Our determination will pave the way for successfully dismantling the ideological and cultural structure that offers fertile ground for the proliferation of this phenomenon. Moreover,the formulation ofnewreligious conceptsbased on dialogue inspiring the values of Islam and its civilization will make it necessary to allow the [entire] spectrum of society to participate in molding these new concepts…

"Thus, the coming battle of our country is the battle of culture and thought to fight and defeat terrorism in all its stages."

UAE Writer: The Reason for Arab Muslim Youth Involvement in Terrorism is Religious Brainwashing

In an article in the United Arab Emirates daily Al-Itihad, columnist Abdallah Rashid stated that the reason for terrorism is not the socio-economic situation in the Arab countries, but the religious brainwashing of Arab youth. The following are excerpts:

"The greatest mistake of the social and political commentators is their attributing the cause for the spreading of the phenomenon of terrorism in the Arab and Islamic world solely to the lack of social justice, the spreading of poverty, and the harsh social conditions in most of the Arab and Islamic countries.

"The socio-economic situation of most of the terrorists who participate in the criminal operations around the world is very good. Thus, for example, Faysal Zayd Al-Matiri, a young Kuwaiti man from an economically well-off family, went to Fallujah to fight alongside the terrorists supporting the Al-Qa'ida organization, together with the terrorist Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi. He left behind his parents, his wife, and his three girls. He was killed in the fighting, leaving a widow, three orphan girls, and stricken parents mourning his death…

"Interrogations by the Iraqi authorities of terrorists arrested during raids and searches in Iraqi towns revealed that most of the Saudi youth and some of the [youth] from the Gulf who went to Iraq to join the Al-Qa'ida terrorist groups come from families that are not poor and from a social environment that does not suffer from economic problems.

"What is the reason for the involvement of the Arab Muslim youth in such criminal and despicable acts?

"The simple reason is the terrifying brainwashing suffered by most of the Arab youth at the hands of 'religious clerics' and particularly at the hands of the extremists with backward views. [These 'clerics'] nourish the Muslim youth with various kinds of racist views and destructive extremist principles, and nurse them with hostility, hatred, and resentment towards other people and towards members of other divine religions.

"Those who award themselves the title of 'religious clerics' incite Muslim youth to what they call ' Jihad,' while they do not know the meaning of Jihad. What is odd is that they incite others to cross seas and oceans in order to fight 'the atheist and Christian infidels,' as they put it, while not one of them volunteers to go [there] himself and to serve as a model and an example to others…

"So many victims of the brainwashing to which Arab youth are subjected! So many people attribute the reason for these youths joining the caravan of terror to the socio-economic situation [in Arab and Islamic countries], all the while ignoring the fact that there are thousands of youth from peaceful households, from stable families and from rich families who join the gangs of terror, the most prominent leaders of which are bin Laden, Al-Zawahiri, and Al-Zarqawi !…" [2]

Saudi Columnist: Why Don't the Sheikhs Who Encourage the Youth to Fight Jihad Do So Themselves?

In an article in the Saudi daily Al-Watan titled "Question to the Youth Seeking Paradise," Saudi columnist Abdallah Nasser Al-Fawzan criticized the sheikhs who encourage youth to fight Jihad but refrain from doing so themselves:

"If there is a worthy deed that endangers one's life, but guarantees [one's reaching] paradise, like Jihad for the sake of Allah – are we to suppose that young teenagers in the early stages of life should aspire to carry it out? Or should it rather be the elderly, nearing death, [for whom] it is natural to aspire to end their lives through an honorable deed that will guarantee them paradise?

"Logically, and as reality shows us, the correct answer is the second one. Thus, for instance, youth indeed participated in Jihad for the sake of Allah in the era of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs, but it [i.e., their Jihad] depended principally on middle-aged men, and the elderly took part in every mission appropriate for their age…

"If adults took part in Jihad [in that era], why do we find today that all those involved in what they claim are ' Jihad ' operations – whether in Iraq or here [in Saudi Arabia] – are young teenagers, and we do not see among them any adults or elderly people?… After all, the elderly are quite capable of carrying out missions in the best possible manner. An old man over 100 years old can drive a booby-trapped car and explode it in a given area, perhaps even with greater expertise than a 20-year-old.

"In one of his quests for paradise, a youth traveled to another country in order to kill a man accused of atheism, in order to get closer to Allah by killing him, and thus to reach paradise. Fate had it that the man accused of atheism was the first one to meet the youth in a cafe. He saw him sitting there and realized that he was a foreigner. The man addressed him, shook his hand, welcomed him, and asked if he might sit next to the youth. The latter gave his consent. They had a friendly talk, and got to like one another.

"Afterwards the youth asked him, 'Do you know so-and-so?' The man saw that the youth had mentioned him by name and was startled, but he controlled his emotions and asked the youth, 'Why are you inquiring about this man?' The youth said that the man was an evil atheist and that he intended to rescue people from his evildoing in order to get closer to Allah and to reach paradise. The man, who was by now quite amazed, said to the youth, 'How are you so certain that this man is an atheist deserving of death, and that killing him will bring you to paradise?' The youth responded, 'Some sheikhs told me so.'… The man said, 'Why don't these sheikhs aspire to reach paradise themselves, and why are they giving up for your sake [the merit of] carrying out this honorable deed which brings one to paradise?' The youth was embarrassed and said, 'I don't know.'

"Today, the same question that the man asked the paradise-seeking youth could be addressed to the youth who blow themselves up and explode booby-trapped cars while still inside them, in order to reach paradise, for they are without doubt influenced by the Fatwa s, the ideas, the inclinations, and the instructions of men who have gained their trust and have done much to influence them.

"These people who hold sway over the minds of the youth have deceived them into thinking that what they are doing is an act of Jihad that will bring them to paradise. These youth should ask themselves why it is that these people prefer them [i.e., the youth] to themselves, and give up for their sake [the merit of carrying out] the 'honorable' deed that would bring them to paradise.

"In true acts of Jihad, everyone participated, including the Prophet and his sublime Companions. Today, however, those who carry out these dangerous acts, which are considered to be Jihad, are youth who have been influenced [by the sheikhs] and have turned into bullets. Where are the adults and the elderly? Where are the adults who have been influenced by the organization's ideology? Is there not a single elderly person convinced that this is an act of Jihad ? Is there not a single elderly person who would blow himself up or explode a booby-trapped car?

"Oh youth, you who seek paradise, where are your sheikhs [when it comes to] this 'honorable deed'?… Everybody wants paradise. Why then, oh youth, are your sheikhs shirking [Jihad], and not participating in your 'honorable' mission" [3]

[1] Saudi Gazette (Saudi Arabia), December 30, 2004.

[2] Al-Itihad (UAE), January 10, 2005.

[3] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), January 1, 2005.

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