October 17, 2018 Special Dispatch No. 7714

Columnist 'Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari, An Unconventional Voice In The Qatari Press: Defeating Terror Requires Not Only Military Action But A Comprehensive Ideological, Cultural, Educational And Religious Campaign

October 17, 2018
Qatar, The Gulf | Special Dispatch No. 7714

On September 17, 2018, several days after the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Dr. 'Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari, a columnist for the Qatari daily Al-Watan and the former dean of Islamic Law at Qatar University, wrote about the lessons to be learned from the events of 9/11. Al-Ansari, who is an unconventional voice in the Qatari press, noted that the identity of the 9/11 attackers, who were educated and from well-off families, belies the claim that it is factors like poverty and oppression that lead young people to commit terrorism. Rather, it is burning faith – the profound belief that they are serving a lofty goal – that motivates terrorists, and consequently no force in the world can prevent them from sacrificing themselves.  Al-Ansari also rejected the conspiracy theories claiming that U.S. intelligence apparatuses were behind the 9/11 attacks, on the grounds that the same misguided ideas continue to motivate terrorism in the Muslim and Arab countries, as well as in Africa and the West. Therefore, he argued, military action is not enough in order to counter terrorism. Such action must be accompanied by efforts to fight the terrorist idea, which is the most dangerous factor. To this end, he said, there is need for a comprehensive ideological, cultural, educational and religious campaign, involving all sectors of society, to immunize the youth against the terrorist idea and supplant it with values of equality and tolerance.

The following are translated excerpts from this column: [1]    

Dr. 'Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari (image:

"It has been 17 years since Al-Qaeda's terror attack on the U.S., that terrible catastrophe which cost the lives of 2,752 innocent victims, of various nationalities and religions... What lessons and conclusions can be derived from these terror attacks on the emblems of American pride?

"The first lesson: When the ideology of sacrifice for the sake of a goal that is perceived as lofty and worth dying for takes over a person's mind and soul, no force in the world can stop that person from sacrificing himself, regardless of whether others consider [his ideology] correct or not. A person in the grips of such an ideology heeds nothing on the way to realize his goal. That is the logical explanation for the fact that terrorism and suicide operations have persisted and will continue in the future – for Al-Qaeda's terror activity and the violence of ISIS have not abated. Although the two states [apparently a reference to ISIS's Islamic State in Syria and Iraq] no longer exist; [although] the leader of Al-Qaeda has been killed, many of the terrorists have been eliminated and those who remain are hunted everywhere, besieged and deprived of their sources of funding; and despite all the efforts of the international community to besiege [terror] and fight it, terror is still alive and kicking, striking everywhere and killing victims of every gender and religion.

"The second lesson: The struggle against terror will not be effective unless it takes the form of an ideological, cultural and religious campaign, as part of a comprehensive educational, cultural, media and religious strategy that will increase the immunity of the youth to the terrorist idea. This strategy must involve all sectors, social and governmental, [including] civil society organizations and the various political parties. True, military and security action plays a crucial role in the struggle against terror by destroying its dens and killing its major leaders and soldiers, in preemptive strikes that aim to prevent terror operations in  advance. However, these attacks crush the body and structure of terror but not the idea of terror, which is the most dangerous [part]. The idea of terror thus remains, like an airborne virus that can be destroyed only by means of a vaccination, [namely] a powerful counter-idea.

"The third lesson is the collapse of all the theories that associate terror operations with secondary factors like poverty, unemployment, economic hardship or lack of freedom, justice and democracy; with oppression and [dictatorial] regimes that persecute the opposition; with the factor of immigration, as in the case of the lone wolf [attackers] in Europe; or with secular provocations against Islam, which some writers and preachers claim [are the reasons for terror]. Seventeen years have proved that none of these secondary factors can transform a young person in the prime of life into a self-sacrificing human bomb. No force in the world can cause a person to consider death sweet except supreme, overpowering faith. Moreover, the 19 young men who carried out the [9/11] attacks did not suffer poverty, oppression or economic hardship. On the contrary, they came from middle class families, and all had academic degrees from universities in Europe and the U.S. Furthermore, the four pilots who flew the planes to the targets learned to fly in American schools.

"The fourth lesson: There is need to develop education, and especially religious education, so as to promote values of openness, tolerance, freedom, respect and justice, acceptance of the other and respect for his religion and beliefs, based on the premise of equal citizenship that embraces all components and sects in society without distinction or discrimination. There is need to promote equality among members of society and treat them all equally, based on the principle of equal opportunity. This is the armor against the penetration of the terrorist idea into the ranks of the young.

"The fifth lesson is the collapse of the conspiracy theory that American intelligence [apparatuses] staged the 9/11 attacks in order to blame the Muslims and attack the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. This conspiracy theory collapses for the simple, logical reason that the deviant terrorist idea adopted by the 19 young men, which led them to attack the U.S., is the same deviant jihadi idea that [continues to] motivate organizations and young people in the Arab and Muslim countries, as well as in Africa and the West, to carry out similar terror organizations to this very day. This is in addition to the explicit admissions by Al-Qaeda members and supporters, who actually boast [of the 9/11 attacks] and are proud of them, and the annual celebrations held by fundamentalists in London for "the 19 Great Ones,"[2] as well as thousands of documents and decisive pieces of evidence." 


[1] Al-Watan (Qatar), September 17, 2018.

[2] A reference to annual celebrations of 9/11 held by the Al-Muhajiroun extremist organization in Britain, led by Anjem Choudary and 'Omar Bakri. See Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), September 26, 2018. 

Share this Report:

2022 End-Of-Year Campaign