print
memri
October 13, 2006 No.
1320

Saudi Arabia Ministry of Islamic Affairs Launches Arabic-English Website to Fight Extremism

The Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs has announced the upcoming launch of a website aimed at fighting extremism and to reform individuals with extremist views. The website, which will have sections in Arabic and in English, is aimed at Muslim audiences worldwide. It will include forums for debating controversial issues like takfir (accusing other Muslims of heresy) and al-walaa wal-baraa. [1]

The site is to be operated by the Al-Sakinah Campaign, an independent Saudi initiative supported by the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs. The campaign initiates dialogue with extremists on the Internet with the aim of preventing the spread of extremist views. [2]

In an interview with the Saudi daily Al-Riyadh, the public relations director of the Al-Sakinah Campaign, Khaled Al-Mushawwah, provided details on the planned site.

The following are excerpts from the interview: [3]

The Website Will Contribute to the War on Extremism

"The [Al-Sakinah] Campaign is about to step up [its activities] with the launching of a very big site that the campaign is currently working on. We have [already] contracted a large firm to construct it in the best possible manner. The primary goal of the site is to display the efforts of the Al-Sakinah Campaign in fighting extremist and deviant ideology, to correct [aberrant] views, and to explain the position of shari'a on questions like terrorist activity and takfir. The site also aims to propagate the correct ideology and to publish materials related to the campaign's activities, e.g. fatwas by senior 'ulama and sheikhs as well as studies on [relevant] issues. The site aims to take part in proper [Islamic] da'wa and to spread the correct views regarding Islam..."

The Site Will Be In Arabic and English

"The site will benefit Muslims worldwide. There will be a section in Arabic and a section in English. [The site will serve] preachers and individuals who seek knowledge on the [Islamic] faith, from all over the world. It will include advanced forums on various controversial issues like takfir, the presence of infidels in the Arabian Peninsula, [the principle of] al-walaa wal-baraa, and the heated debate surrounding these [issues].

"The site will have several sections: The first section will introduce the [Al-Sakinah] Campaign. The second will contain an audio-library that the campaign has been compiling for a long time... There will also be a library [of texts], containing over 10,000 pages of books and studies... and a library of video clips featuring interviews with individuals who have renounced [their extremist views], including TV interviews with them and the conversations [that the campaign activists] conducted with them on the Internet.

"There will also be a media section, containing [media] reports about the campaign and its goals, and [we] will monitor [the media] for articles by columnists and intellectuals about issues of terrorism and extremism... There will be a section for fatwas by 'ulama... and a special section devoted to individuals who have returned to the right path. This section will include clips from TV [interviews with] these individuals as well as the dialogues conducted by the campaign [activists] with some of them..."

We Decided to Set Up the Site in Response to Requests from All Over the World

Al-Mushawwah said further that "the site, [which] will be very large... will be launched in the upcoming months, and may be completed by the end of the year... Initially," he added "the campaign had no intention of setting up a site. But in light of the many requests we received from inside and outside Saudi Arabia, from some of the Gulf states and from [other] countries around the world, and even from some Islamic centers in Europe, [we] decided that we must share our unique experience by [setting up] a website, so that everyone will be able to benefit from this experience..."

Religious Leaders, Not the Extremists Themselves, Are the Site's Primary Target Audience

Al-Mushawwah also said that "the entire campaign will operate under the supervision of the Ministry of Religious Endowments and Islamic Affairs, and the site will be under the supervision of the campaign..." He added that "[as a matter of fact], individuals with deviant views are not the primary target [audience] of the site, since only few of these people [are likely to] enter it. The primary [target audience] is people who seek religious knowledge, sheikhs, da'wa activists, imams of mosques and preachers. [These people] can have a great deal of influence if they become familiar of the extremists' inappropriate views and way of thinking, and [decide to] confront them. This, in my opinion, is will be the most effective strategy in the long run."

Endnotes:

[1] Al-Walaa wal-baraa is an Islamic doctrine which decrees that there must be absolute allegiance to the community of Muslims, and total rejection of non-Muslims and Muslims who have strayed from the path of Islam.

[2] This initiative, launched in 2003, is carried out by 'ulama and propagators of Islam who have Internet skills, on a voluntary basis. The volunteers enter extremist websites and forums, and converse with the participants with the aim of bringing them to renounce their extremist views.

See MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 260, "Reeducation of Extremists in Saudi Arabia," January 18, 2006, Reeducation of Extremists in Saudi Arabia.

[3] Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), October 8, 2006.