Naif asks scholars to fight deviants


In comments published yesterday, Prince Naif said imams and khateebs were not doing enough to discourage militancy among Saudi youth, including those who travel to Iraq to fight alongside insurgents.

Last June, Prince Naif held a meeting with the imams and khateebs across the country and sought their support in fighting the deviant ideology that has been used to recruit Saudi youth to Al-Qaeda.

Asked if he felt there had been any progress since that meeting, the minister said: “No, not at the level I would have hoped for.”

Hundreds of Saudis are thought to be among foreigners fighting with insurgents in Iraq against US forces and the US-backed government. There have also been reports concerning the sons of prominent Saudi clerics who have attempted to join foreign fighters in Iraq.

Saudi Arabia is worried that the growing militancy in neighboring Iraq will overflow into the Kingdom, especially when the trained Saudi fighters return home.

Al-Qaeda militants in the Kingdom have been blamed for a campaign of suicide bombings and attacks on government installations, energy facilities and foreigners across the country over the past three years.

The Interior Ministry announced last week that it had arrested 208 people who had formed cells aiming to attack an oil site, assassinate prominent Islamic scholars and security figures, and set up a media wing that was helping Saudis go to Iraq.

“There are those who have done their job and those who have still to step up, and that includes religious scholars, intellectuals and the media,” Prince Naif said. “But as for preachers, there has to be an ideological effort that is strong enough to refute the falsehoods and tell people the truth about Islam,” he added.

The announcement of the massive sweep of terror suspects comes less than three weeks before the annual pilgrimage when more than 2.5 million Muslim faithful travel to the Kingdom to perform Haj.

The Interior Ministry listed six separate arrests in its statement, including the capture of 18 suspects led by a non-Saudi missile expert. The suspects were allegedly “planning to smuggle eight missiles into the Kingdom to carry out terrorist operations.”

A security official said the cell leader was a Yemeni rocket expert who had come illegally into the Kingdom over Saudi Arabia’s southern frontier with Yemen.

The official urged Saudi parents to monitor their sons’ behavior closely and be on guard “against the danger of terrorism.” He also asked parents to report to the authorities any “ideological deviation” on the part of their sons.

The new arrests of militants show that the Kingdom’s security crackdown is not sufficient to vanquish them and that the authorities also need to combat the extremist thinking that drives them.

“By focusing on the security approach, the state has eliminated the visible threat by foiling a series of attacks,” said Sheikh Mohsen Al-Awaji, a prominent Saudi scholar. “But the latent threat is there, and it is a big one. There is no guarantee that (the crackdown) will always succeed” unless accompanied by an effort to “confront the deviant thinking” of the militants.

Awaji said the Kingdom needs to “mobilize the whole society” in order to defeat the militants’ ideology of “takfeer” — branding other Muslims as infidels in order to legitimize violence against them.

“The state has achieved results that were beyond expectations by doing this in prisons,” he said, referring to the government-appointed “advice committee” that reportedly convinced 1,500 detained militants to change their ways.



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