In a two-part article in the Saudi government daily Al-Watan, journalist Qenan Al-Ghamdi, the former editor of Al-Watan and of the government daily Al-Sharq, harshly criticized the extremism in Saudi Arabia, which he said is present in every mosque and school and is constantly being spread by preachers, clerics, teachers and parents. The authorities, he added, do almost nothing to fight this extremism that is constantly seeping into Saudi society; on the contrary, they even give it a platform and help to promote it. This extremism is what makes Saudi youths especially susceptible to the extremist ideology of organizations, such as ISIS, he said. He wondered why, despite its awareness of the dangers of terrorist ideology, Saudi Arabia still has no law that criminalizes it.
The following are translated excerpts from both parts of the article:
Qenan Al-Ghamdi (image: Saudi Gazette, Saudi Arabia)
"There is nothing new [under the sun]! Since the takfiri terror attacks began to occur in our streets, mosques and institutions, we have been condemning [its perpetrators] and calling them criminals, deviant, Khawarij, etc. After every success of the security [forces] in exposing dormant or active terrorist cells - and these successes are too numerous to count - we praise the members of the security forces... and are proud of them and do everything we can to support them. Yet we do not do anything helpful and effective to assist the efforts of the Interior Ministry in the security and ideological [domains]...
"What the Senior Clerics Council [Saudi Arabia's supreme religious body], and other relevant bodies, are expected to do is carry out a critical reading of the [takfiri] ideology, correct it and comment on it - yet nothing significant [has been done in this domain]. Most [imams], from their mosque pulpits every Friday, continue to hurl accusations of heresy at Muslim groups that live among us and also at the People of the Book [meaning Christians in this case], many of whom work in our country. The [imams] curse and hurl invective at them. Those we call 'preachers and lovers of knowledge' are still doing this in their lectures and sermons - and some of them are employees of the Ministry of Religious Affairs and work under its supervision. [Moreover], television channels continue to host them, giving them an opportunity to spread this poison, which reaches every home, every eye and every ear. Prohibitions and excessive strictness still dominate most areas of life, even when there is no clear evidence in the pure and genuine [texts of] the Koran or the Sunna that the prohibitions exist.
"Our sons are still marching en masse to become cannon fodder in civil wars and [to serve as] criminal murderers in the ranks of ISIS in every war or terrorist crime around the world. [Saudi youths] form the majority in every arena of so-called jihad. The wellsprings of extremism and fanaticism still [exist] everywhere in our country, to the extent that some boys and girls in our schools accuse other boys and girls of heresy or of straying from the right path just for mentioning some pictures [they liked] or some movies they saw. This is because some of their teachers still instill in them the notion that every source of pleasure in life is forbidden, [even if it is actually] permitted, and because some of their illiterate or nearly-illiterate mothers and grandmothers attend lectures by so-called women preachers who entrench extremism and fanaticism [in their minds]. Moreover, many of the women who attend such women's forums are excited by what they heard... and share it with groups of women on social media. These are the mothers of families and the educators of the [next] generation, at home and in school, and some of them even become muftis and preachers [themselves]!! Many men are also subject to the same influences - so much so that some of them avoid listening to the national anthem or the musical inserts on news programs, and they are willing to preach and spout prohibitions in every forum, market and street.
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"Consequently, many men and women have become preoccupied with [scrutinizing] others - their neighbors, acquaintances and friends - [and asking]: Is he Sunni or Shi'ite? Does he observe the non-obligatory fasts? Does he pray the [supererogatory] Duha prayer? How does he or she dress? Does he watch movies and [television] series? Does he shave his beard? Does she style her eyebrows? Does he do this? Does he do that? As though Allah appointed them to supervise His creatures, interfere in their affairs and assess their intentions...
"So far, despite our awareness of all the dangers of takfir and despite the shameful crimes that the country has witnessed, we [Saudis] have not found in all this a logical and intellectual justification for approving a law that would criminalize sectarianism, racism, takfir and everything that weakens [our] national unity. Even the Shura Council [the Saudi Parliament] ducked [the issue] with ridiculous and ludicrous excuses.
"Islam does not allow to kill a person, and in fact forbids this, regardless of [the person's] religion or beliefs, unless he committed a crime that mandates killing him. Islam does not allow, and even prohibits, accusing a person of heresy as long as he recites 'there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his Messenger,' for his account [is to be settled] by Allah [alone]. Islam does not allow prohibiting what Allah completely permitted. Islam does not allow you to exhibit hostility towards anyone who did not originally display overt enmity towards you.
"The [Saudi] state maintains amicable ties with all the world's countries, excluding the aggressive Zionist Israel, and this does not contradict Saudi Arabia's status as a path-breaking Arab Islamic state that respects all the Islamic ethnicities and sects and all those residing within its [borders] who come from all parts of the world and belong to different ethnicities, sects and religions... and there's nothing wrong with this. Islam, via its justice, mercy and tolerance, grants protection to all people, as long as they respect its ways, serve them, benefit them and derive benefit from them...
"All the above is absolutely true. Consider this, [reader,] and then you will be entitled to ask: How will we wipe out terror when its sources come in successive [waves], flooding the eyes the ears and the minds? Moreover, we condemn the Internet and repeatedly say that recruitment [for terror] is done via [this platform]. This is completely incorrect, because we are the ones who filled [people's] minds with extremism and fanaticism, before and after the Internet, whereas the incitement of ISIS and its ilk only awakens the admiration [for extremist ideology] that is already deep-rooted in the minds and hearts of the youth and makes them easily susceptible to every call to jihad.
"Let us leave aside those already brainwashed by this ideology, for the Ministry of Interior is handling them, but let us act to stop the creation [of more minds of the same kind]. This is the challenge, and it is within our capacity, should we so desire. Anyone opposing this, whoever he may be, has, I believe, shameful intentions [to undermine] the state's unity and existence and seeks to destroy it - and this is the grave danger."