In his September 9, 2013 column in the Saudi government daily Al-Riyadh, columnist Muhammad Al-Rashidi focused on the phenomenon of sheikhs who mislead Saudi youths and persuade them to join the jihad in Syria against the Assad regime. Al-Rashidi criticized the lack of any official Saudi informational outreach aimed at explaining what is happening and preventing these young people from falling for these sheikhs' deception – especially in light of the fact that the country has seen its young people going to wage jihad before, in Afghanistan and Iraq, and has already been burned by it.
The following are excerpts from the column:
Muhammad Al-Rashidi (image: alriyadh.com)
"Recently, there have been many reports of the deaths of Saudi youths, some no older than 20, while participating [in fighting] Syrian regime troops. This record has been played over and over, from the days of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, through the American invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, to today's events in Syria.
"I am not [here to] talk about the circumstances of their deaths, or of [these young people's] goals; I am wondering what we are doing to increase their awareness and to stop those who deceive them – those who sleep in the most lavish palaces and enjoy European vacations.
"Why have we failed to make clear what it is that these young people are doing – that is, committing suicide – even though there are hadiths that forbid it?
"This same scenario has recurred [in the past], but we have not learned our lesson – [even though] it was we who were harmed by this [mobilization of] volunteers for jihad in Afghanistan and Iraq, and now in Syria. Where is the informational television programming on this topic, when we see [our] youths in the prime of their lives [going to] fight wars that are forbidden by the [Saudi] ruler?
"This matter is important in a religious sense, and no one denies this [fact] except those who are benefiting from these young peoples' deaths, or terrorist groups that exploit them [and direct them to act] against their homeland and its people. What a [great] price we have paid in this matter! And we suffer from it to this day.
"I am personally saddened by the families of these young victims who were led astray, who take pride in their sons' martyrdom and speak of their heroism. But is it really [so] easy for them to sacrifice their sons for something that is prohibited by the clerics in their own country...?
"I know that this matter is very sensitive for [families] who have just lost their sons in Syria – but the language of reason prohibits it [i.e. going to wage jihad]. For many long years, the media have been pointing out the danger of our young people's participation in such wars, warning mainly against certain 'partisan' sheikhs [alluding to the Muslim Brotherhood] who lead them astray and who, most regrettably, exploit the religion for [their own] personal interests...
"The media, and specifically the satellite channels, need to focus on [the issue of] our young people being lured [to participate] in regional wars, particularly in Syria. This because, unfortunately, we are witnessing the great silence [on this issue], [and] the exploitation of the death of sons, more and more of them recently; and the attempt to recruit many young people and to call on them, directly or indirectly, [to participate] in the war in Syria...
"The continuation of the luring of our young people, and of the use of religious rulings to push them, in the beginning of their lives, to join terrorist organizations that exploit them – while the goals of the organizations that are doing this are not clear[ly stated] – is a very sad affair. What is strange is that this scenario repeats itself over and over – and that many do not even know it."
 Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), September 9, 2013.