Saudi Arabia vows to eradicate extremism

Riyadh recently established a body tasked with monitoring interpretations of the Prophet Muhammad’s teachings to prevent them from being used to justify terrorism.

High gear. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz (C-L) and Managing Director of International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde (C-R) attend the opening ceremony of the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh, on October 24. (SPA)

2017/10/29 Issue: 129 Page: 2

The Arab Weekly
Mohammed Alkhereiji

London- As Saudi Arabia embrac­es a more modern era, Saudi Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz pledged to move the country away from ex­tremism and towards “moderate Islam.”

Crown Prince Mohammed’s re­marks at the Future Investment Initiative (FII) conference in Ri­yadh echoed the reform drive the kingdom is undergoing. Reforms include the reversal of the ban on female driving and the establish­ment of a domestic entertainment industry.

“Saudi Arabia was not like this before 1979. Saudi Arabia and the entire region saw the prolifera­tion of Al-Sahwa [awakening] pro­ject after 1979 for many reasons,” Crown Prince Mohammed said.

He was referencing major re­gional events in 1979 — the Islamic Revolution in Iran and the siege of Mecca by terrorists that inspired a generation of militants such as al- Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden.

“We are returning to what we were before — a country of mod­erate Islam that is open to all reli­gions, traditions and people around the globe,” the crown prince said.

“We want to lead a normal life, a life that reflects our tolerant reli­gion and our kind customs and tra­ditions. We want to co-exist with the world and contribute to the development of our homeland and the world.”

“Clear steps were taken over the past period on this matter and I think we will eliminate the rem­nants of extremism in the near future,” he added. “Frankly speak­ing, we cannot spend 30 years of our lives dealing with extremist ideas. We will destroy them today, and immediately.”

Crown Prince Mohammed is the architect of Saudi Vision 2030, a reform plan designed to wean the kingdom’s economy off oil depend­ency while creating jobs, stimulat­ing the private sector and modern­ising Saudi Arabia.

However, with the drive for re­form come opponents of change, especially in a society long ac­customed to conservatism. In a reminder of how challenging the kingdom’s reforms could be, terror groups called on the Saudi popula­tion to resist the changes.

A senior member of the Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Pen­insula (AQAP), arguably the most active and deadliest branch of the terror organisation, said Saudis should resist the new policies, ar­guing they would lead the country to secularism.

In a video posted on so­cial media, AQAP member and Saudi national Khalid Batarfi quoted from the Quran and say­ings of the Prophet Muhammad and calling for a return to basic Is­lamic values, including “the pro­motion of virtue and the preven­tion of vice.”

Quoting Islamic scripture out of context to support terrorist activi­ties is an oft-used al-Qaeda strat­egy that has frustrated the legiti­mate religious establishment.

Acknowledging that this tac­tic has led to the recruitment of many of its young people, Riyadh recently established a body tasked with monitoring interpretations of the Prophet Mu­hammad’s teachings to prevent them from being used to justify terrorism.

A royal decree launched the King Salman Complex for the Prophet’s Tradition, which is to have head­quarters in Medina. A statement by the Saudi government said the plan would “eliminate fake and extremist texts and any texts that contradict the teachings of Islam and justify the committing of crimes, murders and terrorist acts.”

The statement added that the council would be made up of scholars from around the world and will be headed by Sheikh Mo­hammed bin Hassan al-Sheikh, a member of the Council of Senior Scholars, the kingdom’s highest religious authority.

Mohammed Alkhereiji is the Arab Weekly’s Gulf section editor.

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