[Article by Saudi academic and writer Hamzah Qablan al-Muzayni: “Back to Square-One”]
Al-Hayat newspaper published on 15 July 2008 a report about a plan drawn up by the Islamic Call and Guidance Council of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, which includes in its membership several government authorities. The newspaper said that the council presented this plan as: “A preemptive step to limit the dangers of the phenomenon of terrorism against the Saudi society… Its aim is to fortify the youths against falling victims to the schemes of the ‘misguided group,’ and represents a precautionary step aimed at enlightening the members of the society about the corruption of the course of the ‘misguided group,’ and the deviation of their behaviour. This is because of the need of the society for skilful plans to limit this phenomenon, especially as the members of the misguided group are carrying out operations that lead to killing and destruction.”
The plan includes some positive aspects, such as asking the Ministry of Labour to continue with “the Saudization of jobs, creating job opportunities for the youths, putting an end to unemployment,” “looking after the unemployed youths, establishing specialized centres to train and rehabilitate the unemployed youths,” “encouraging the establishment of vocational training centres, supporting the existing centres, and laying down the suitable incentives for the youths to join these centres.”
The positive aspects also include asking the Ministry of Commerce to “encourage the businessmen to establish development projects in the various fields in all the regions of the Kingdom in order to attract the largest possible number of youths,” and “encouraging the youths to establish small businesses, and facilitating the licenses and procedures for the establishment of such projects.”
Perhaps the aim of these positive aspects is to be a bait to pass the real “plan,” which does not seem to be new, because it deals with the problems of hard-line attitudes, extremism, and violence in the same way we used repeatedly whenever terrorism brandished its sword against us.
It is the same treatment to which we resorted after the Al- Sablah battle [in 1929 King Abd-al-Aziz faced a revolt by some of his former Salafi allies, the Ikhwan, because of his introduction of modern technology, and his alliance with the British. He slaughtered them in the Al-Sablah battle], after the Juhayman sedition [Juhayman al-Utaybi is a Saudi national who led the raid and takeover of the Kaaba Mosque in 1979 in protest against the royal family’s corruption and imitation of the west], following the “Al-Sahwah [Awakening]” eruption after the invasion of Kuwait, after the al- Ulayya explosions [terrorist explosions in al-Ulayya district in Riyadh on 13 November 1995], and since the Al-Hamra explosions [terrorist explosions in Al-Hamra housing compound in Riyadh on 17 May 2003] on 12 Rabi al-Awwal 1424 AH.
Every time, the representatives of the “prevailing tendency” rush to distance themselves from those Khawarij who wage war against us; then they sneak in with “soft” plans through which they promise to bring in the aspired for treatment. However, these plans have never succeeded except in preserving the extremist ideas that bow their heads to the storm, and wait for the opportunity to erupt again. These plans have been an actual adoption of the plans of these [terrorist] groups. This situation is summarized by the saying: “We have destroyed Juhayman, and adopted his programme.”
This plan is nothing more than an attempt by the prevailing tendency to monopolize the planning in its pursuit of controlling the public domain, and tightening its grip on the other national viewpoints.
The plan considers that “the most prominent cause of the intellectual and methodological deviance of the misguided group” is foreign, namely “being influenced by the takfiri groups of deviant courses, which are widespread in many parts of the world. These groups have been able to influence these youths, who as a result of their youth and little knowledge were influenced by the ideas of these groups.”
The plan considers: “The crises of which the Muslim world suffers -especially in Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq, and others -have instigated a strong reaction by these youths, namely to restore the dignity and glory of the Muslim nation through jihad…”
All this is the usual avoidance through which the domestic ideology tries to evade its responsibility for this crisis. Some of the supporters of the “Awakening” have tried repeatedly to use such justifications, despite the strength of the evidence against them.
This avoidance is rejected by the fact that some senior officials have admitted this responsibility, the last of whom was the minister of Islamic affairs in his meeting with the imams and preachers in Medina. The reader can do without us repeating well-known facts.
Moreover, the extremist ideology does not need such reasons to erupt; it has erupted in the absence of such causes, for instance before the Al-Sablah battle, and during the Juhayman sedition.
The plan mentions a reason, which the supporters of the Awakening tried to promote during the recent years in order to exonerate themselves from the responsibility, namely “the attack on Islam and Muslims by all the groups hostile to Islam, whether within or without the Muslim countries, and the consequence of this attack of steering away from the correct course, and the spreading of many evils that are contrary to Islam.”
The question is: As those who drew up the plan are talking about the Kingdom, what are the evils that are contrary to Islam, which have stirred up the jealousy of the “youths?”
This is a clear attempt to settle the account with some Saudis who have dared to criticize some aspects of our domestic culture, which lay down the foundations for clashes among ourselves, with other Muslims, or with other powers.
These claimed causes are no more than an attempt to blame others rather than admitting even part of the responsibility. The proof of this is that the plan does not mention anything about the responsibility of the domestic religious ideology for these crises.
The plan focuses completely on the religious aspect, and recommends that numerous government authorities should go back to the “correct course,” “train the callers to God and develop their skills,” and intensify the preaching lectures in the mosques, schools, and sports and cultural clubs in order to warn against the course of the “misguided group.” The plan also recommends that the educational authorities should go back in their curricula to the books of the good predecessors, and to liberalize the two concepts of jihad, and loyalty and innocence.
The plan also focuses on the media in the Kingdom. It is no secret that the aim of this is to frighten the media, make the people fear it, control it, and put an end to the wide margin of freedom of expression enjoyed during the era of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdallah Bin-Abd-al-Aziz, God preserve him.
The plan asks the Ministry of Interior “to follow up anyone of the writers, journalists, and others who stirs up sedition, or insults the rulings of the Islamic shari’ah or the guardians, and to refer them to the authorities concerned!”
The plan asks the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice “to cooperate with the Ministry of Islamic Affairs in monitoring the shari’ah violations in the visual, audio, and written media that might stir up the jealousy of some youths, and lead them astray into deviant paths; reply to these violations; and refer the observed violations to the authorities concerned in order to take the necessary measures towards each violation!”
The plan asks the Ministry of Information “to pay attention to the various media and guidance organs, monitor their products, remove and prevent anything that promotes sedition, evil, and shari’ah violations, and to hold to account anyone who violates this of the newspaper proprietors, or state-owned or state-affiliated satellite channels,” and “to prevent visual, written and audio media organs from publishing anything that violates the Islamic shari’ah, and that might antagonize or provoke the youths, or ignite the fire of jealousy in their hearts; and to observe the special nature of this country and implement the media policy of the Kingdom on this issue!”
The aim of this is to silence the voices that promote different viewpoints. Some of those affiliated to this [prevailing] tendency tried to distort the image of Saudi writers and silence them by all means on the pretext of such reasons.
The plan refers to the two concepts of loyalty and innocence, and jihad. It asks various authorities to explain the “correct” stance towards these concepts. What is meant by the “correct” stance is the well-known jurisprudent opinion that links jihad to the guardian.
The extremists have used these two concepts repeatedly as a pretext for takfir, explosions, and dissent from the homeland. They consider the ruler who does not perform jihad an “infidel;” he is an “infidel” because not performing jihad does not fulfil the concept of loyalty and innocence.
The domestic religious culture has preserved the traditional understanding of the two concepts, despite the practical renewal achieved by King Abd-al-Aziz, God have mercy on his soul, when he took into consideration the contemporary international conditions.
After the unification of the Kingdom, King Abd-al-Aziz abolished the general trumpet call for “jihad,” formed a regular army to protect the borders and a police force to preserve internal security, formed regular troops from the Ikhwan [religious militia formed the main military force of King Abd-al-Aziz during the unification of the Kingdom] whose primary mission was preserving the domestic security and participating in the protection of the borders, and established diplomatic relations with a number of non- Muslim countries. All this took place at a time when all the Arab and Muslim countries were under British mandate or protection, or under French or Italian occupation, a fact that calls for jihad according to the traditional understanding of the two concepts.
The indication of these practical measures is that the old understanding of the two concepts is no longer suitable for the contemporary international situation. It was expected that the religious institutions will notice this renewal, and reach theoretical interpretative judgments that are compatible with it. However, this has not happened, and the traditional understanding of the two concepts remains alive in the domestic culture, a fact that makes them ready for use under any pretext, and they have been used against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia itself. In our domestic culture the call for renewing the interpretative judgment of the two concepts still is considered a call for abolishing them, and anyone who promotes this renewal is described by the most appalling and violent adjectives, and is accused of the most atrocious charges.
The reality is that this “plan” represents only one viewpoint of planning for the confrontation of the ideology that supports violence. It is not new in its content, because it recommends a treatment that we have tried for a long time, and that has not succeeded. It disregards many aspects that can help us in dealing with extremism, violence, and terrorism.
If we want to draw up a plan that is more representative of the various national viewpoints and more successful in putting an end to the periodical crises, this requires that such a plan is the subject for a dialogue among the various viewpoints that constitute the intellectual spectrum of our country. This also requires that a single viewpoint should not unilaterally draw up such a plan of destiny, because in this case it will be a copy of previous plans none of which has succeeded in dealing with this ideology that threatened many times to destroy us, but all of which have succeeded in keeping this ideology dormant and liable to erupt whenever there is an opportunity for this.
Originally published by Al-Watan website, Abha, in Arabic 24 Jul 08.
(c) 2008 BBC Monitoring Middle East. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.
Story Source: BBC Monitoring Middle East