May 1, 2012 Special Dispatch No. 4682

Leading Saudi Daily's Opinion Page Editor and Expert on Islamic Movements: The Arab Spring Is Not the End of Islamist Extremism; Al-Qaeda Is Alive and Well

May 1, 2012
Saudi Arabia | Special Dispatch No. 4682

In his April 29, 2012 column in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, titled "Al-Qaeda Is Still Alive," opinion page editor Mashari Al-Zaydi, who according to the paper is a veteran Saudi journalist and expert on Islamic movements and Islamic fundamentalism as well as Saudi affairs, argued that in the world of the Arab Spring, "religious extremism" remained a problem. Recalling "the arguments put forward by multiple Arab and non-Arab writers and politicians... that the Arab Spring... mark[ed] the end of an era for Al-Qaeda and those like it," he enumerated recent instances of Al-Qaeda activity. He went on to state, "The claim that Al-Qaeda has disappeared by virtue of the Arab Spring is nothing more than a fanciful wish and a dream."

Following is the article, in the original English:[1]

"The Bloated and Corrupt Nature of the Mubarak Regime... Does Not Mean That the Diagnosis Of Egypt's Problems During Mubarak's Rule Was Incorrect... [Including the Problem Of] Religious Extremism"

"The 'Arab Spring' has transformed into Al-Mahdi Al-Muntazar,[2] Christ the Redeemer, and the Land of Dreams all in one, for those who devoutly worship its shrine.

"For those who have come to rely on the magical solution of the Arab Spring, everything that was said about problems before the collapse of the regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Libya has become a pack of lies propagated by the media of those regimes.

"I remember having a discussion with an Arab television anchor who was singing the praises of the magical Arab Spring in Egypt. He argued that once Mubarak fell or was overthrown, the celebrations and festivities would set in. I countered by arguing that despite the bloated and corrupt nature of the Mubarak regime, particularly over the last five years; this does not mean that the diagnosis of Egypt's problems during Mubarak's rule was incorrect. For example, the issue of overpopulation existed well before Mubarak's departure and shall remain a problem in the future. It may even be further aggravated by the unstable situation in Egypt is now experiencing. The same can be said for shortages in bread and fuel supplies, the overwhelming lack of security… and religious extremism."

"Do You Remember the Arguments Put Forward... That the Arab Spring Was A Sign Marking the End Of An Era For Al-Qaeda and Those Like It[?]"

"With regard to religious extremism, do you remember the arguments put forward by multiple Arab and non-Arab writers and politicians, stressing that the Arab Spring was proof that the 'fundamentalist scarecrow' was a lie, and that the Arab Spring was a sign marking the end of an era for Al-Qaeda and those like it, and that Arab rulers previously exaggerated the problem to extort their people and remain in power?

"Right now I do not know how to explain the eruption of Al-Qaeda activity in Yemen. Recently, the organization has abducted a Saudi diplomat and is currently trying to negotiate with the Saudi state to release him in return for some of its demands. Prior to this, Al-Qaeda displayed a clear show of strength in the governorate of Abyan, where it killed many Yemeni security officers and declared the establishment of an 'Islamic Emirate' there.

"Largely due to the state of disorder and pressures caused by the Arab Spring in particular, Al-Qaeda has also displayed several shows of force in the African Sahel.

"Here I am trying to point out that the automatic link between the agenda of armed extremist currents and the Arab Spring does not make sense. What do the young men and theorists of Al-Qaeda have to do with the Arab Spring? Why would the Arab Spring be a reason for the decline of these groups? I can't understand this arbitrary link."

"Al-Qaeda and All Those Representing Its Ideology Have Other Inclinations and Dreams Which Have Nothing To Do With Freedom And Democracy"

"Al-Qaeda and all those representing its ideology have other inclinations and dreams which have nothing to do with freedom and democracy. Al-Qaeda is still proceeding with its plan and course and will try and exploit all existing variables in its favor. With this in mind, there is nothing better than when a regime – any regime – loses its grip on power.

"Does this mean that it would have been better if those bygone regimes had survived? Of course not, but it means that the problem of Al-Qaeda, just like the problems of poverty, unemployment and overpopulation, are problems which exist on their own and have their own survival engines. The solution to such problems comes through a cultural, social, economic and political confrontation, and more importantly, a critical one through our minds."

"The Claim That Al-Qaeda Has Disappeared By Virtue Of the Arab Spring Is Nothing More Than A Fanciful Wish and A Dream"

"We are yet to come into direct confrontation with all the aforementioned issues. The overthrow of Mubarak, the fleeing of Ben 'Ali, the murder of Qadhafi and the elimination of Saleh will not directly solve these problems.

"The claim that Al-Qaeda has disappeared by virtue of the Arab Spring is nothing more than a fanciful wish and a dream."


[1] The original English has been lightly edited for clarity.

[2] The Hidden Imam according to Twelver Shi'a.

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