Terror Attacks Provoke Soul-Searching In Saudi Press

July 7, 2008 - 8:13 PM

Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Editorials in Saudi newspapers indicate the Saudi people are grappling with the fact that some 15 of their countrymen carried out a triple suicide bomb attack in Riyadh this week, killing 34 people, Americans among them. Nearly 200 others were wounded.

While some editorials declared the perpetrators could not have been true Saudis, others said that the fact that the bombers were Saudis could not be ignored.

The root causes had to be explored, the editorials said, and could not be swept under the rug as they were after the September 11 terror attacks in the United States. (Fifteen of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers were Saudi citizens.)

Saudi papers are not government-run, but they are connected to the Saudi regime. Translations of the articles, which appeared in Wednesday's papers, were provided by the independent Middle East Media Research Institute on Thursday.

Adel Zaid Al-Tarifi, a columnist for Al-Watan, criticized the official sheiks and columnists for not awakening until a catastrophe happened. He also criticized the failure to deal with the "real causes and roots of the ideology of jihad [holy war]," blaming it on an imported ideology and ignoring the roots in their own culture.

"Our religious message includes many phenomena of religious extremism," Al-Tarifi wrote. "A quick glance at the Friday sermons in the mosques or at the fatwas [religious edicts] can attest to this."

Western experts have long pointed to mosque sermons and the anti-Western school curriculum in Saudi Arabia as the type of incitement that breeds the hatred that leads to terrorism.

According to Al- Tarifi, "The jihad groups find ideological cover in the religious message spread by the mosques and schools... The fatwas...have inflamed the emotions of many and provided a legitimate basis for these acts. Some fatwas justified September 11; other fatwas depicted these events as 'blessed [Islamic] raids.' During the Afghan and Iraq wars, the fatwas sent many wretched young men to the hopeless battlefield..."

Al-Tarifi argues that many messages coming from schools, homes and mosques need to be reformed. The columnist declared that terrorism cannot be blamed on economic or psychological conditions.

"These conditions can account for the behavior of criminals, but cannot account for a terror event based on religious belief. Religious terror cannot be contained, because it is part of the religious belief of those who carry it out," he wrote.

He said that terror attacks are not new to Saudi society and should not push the country towards "religious extremism" as it has in the past because it would lead to a "Saudi Manhattan" (Manhattan being a reference to the Sept. 11 terror attacks at the World Trade Center in N.Y.).

Al-Tarifi noted that he had written the article prior to Monday's three car bombings in Riyadh, "and I am sorry to say that the Saudi Manhattan has indeed happened," he added.

Editorials published on the website of the Saudi English language Arab News had a similar theme.

In an article entitled, "Too Much Dust to Go Under the Carpet," columnist Raid Qusti charged that the theme in Saudi papers over the attack was "denial."

"I picked up an Arabic newspaper yesterday morning. After reading the huge headline about the three blasts that rocked Riyadh, a certain well-known writer began his exposition. And then the magical words came to the surface, 'You are not Saudis. You could not have been Saudis. Your actions are despised by us all.'

"The exact same denial was seen in other publications. Nobody wants to admit that the perpetrators, the terrorists who carried out these heinous acts, were Saudis, many bearing well-known Saudi family names," Qusti wrote.

It is the same denial that happened after September 11, he wrote, and if the Saudis cannot admit that their "own flesh and blood" carried out the attacks then there will be more such incidents in the future.

"Who are we trying to fool? Ourselves, or the international community? Neither can be fooled," he said. "The time of pretending that radicalism does not exist in Saudi Arabia is long past. The time for pretending that we are above errors and could not possibly commit terrorist attacks is no longer with us...

"How can we expect others to believe that a majority of us are a peace-loving people who denounce extremism and terrorism when some preachers continue to call for the destruction of Jews and Christians, blaming them for all the misery in the Islamic world?"

Qusti slammed a leading sheik's denunciation of terrorism, because it ignored some key points: "We needed to hear three questions that are never asked. Like dust, they are swept under the carpet: Why are more and more Saudi young men being fed with radical ideas? Who are the people brainwashing them? How are they being radicalized? And so it happens that so much dust is swept underneath the carpet that it finally bursts out in full view of everybody. At last, the truth that was hidden has come out," he said.

In a second editorial in Arab News entitled, "The Enemy Within," the writer tells the Saudis they must face the fact they have a terrorist problem.

Last week's announcement that the government was searching for a terror cell should have been a wake-up call, he said, "particularly to those who steadfastly refuse to accept that individual Saudis or Muslims could ever do anything evil, who still cling to the fantasy that September 11 and all the other attacks laid at the doors of terrorists who happen to be Arab or Muslim were in fact the work of the Israelis or the CIA....

"We did not want to admit that Saudis were involved in September 11. We can no longer ignore that we have a nest of vipers here, hoping that by doing so they will go away...

"The suicide bombers have been encouraged by the venom of anti-Westernism that has seeped through the Middle East's veins, and the Kingdom is no less affected. Those who gloat over September 11, those who happily support suicide bombings in Israel and Russia, those who consider non-Muslims less human than Muslims and therefore somehow disposable, all bear part of the responsibility for the Riyadh bombs," the editorial said.

But several editorials in the Saudi paper Okaz took an opposite approach, blaming the terror attacks on imported ideology and drawing a distinction between suicide bombers.

"Blaming the extremist phenomenon of people who blow themselves up to harm others on our curriculum is not objective or fair, because this phenomenon is new, and it is inconceivable that it is the product of the curriculum that has served our society for half a century," Khaled Hamed Al-Suleiman wrote.

"Ideological extremism is merchandise that was never manufactured or sown in this land; it is merchandise imported to this land, duty-free, and the one who exported it got nothing for it, except the pure souls harvested by indiscriminate acts of terror," Al-Suleiman said.

"No country in the world has been spared terror... and therefore we must not go overboard in analyzing these practical ramifications," he added.

Also in Okaz, Abed Khazandar tried to differentiate between different kinds of suicide attacks.

"If I carry out suicide operations against an enemy occupying my land, killing my children, and expelling me from my home, this is legitimate jihad," Khazandar wrote.

"But if I carry out similar operations against innocent civilians who came to Saudi Arabia at the invitation of its government in order to serve the country and train its sons, then this is a criminal and terrorist act.

"This is the unjust killing that Allah forbade. In this case, taking their own lives is the equivalent of killing innocents, primarily because they caused no damage to American interests, as they claimed, but damaged their homeland," he said.

Calling the terrorists "foreign cave dwellers" - a reference to al Qaeda members who trained and lived in the caves of Afghanistan - Hamad bin Hamed Al-Salame denied any Saudi connection with the terrorists in an article in Al-Jazirah. He told them, "depart our country and go to hell.""