In a stunning statement to Saudi Arabia's unelected "parliament," the Shoura Consultative Council, Interior Minister Prince Naif noted: "We have witnessed the criminal acts of some of our youth, who are citizens of this country; they have killed people, and have destroyed property, and have terrified families," referring to the explosions in Riyadh on May 12.
We need to ask: Did the source of this ideology come from this land or was it imported from outside? Was it the result of fanatical ideas from people who have been brainwashed? Or is it a combination of factors, inside and out? But above all, how powerful is this ideology and how widespread is it?
Arab News, a Saudi English-language newspaper, reported further on the minister's remarks:
The problem, the prince told the Shoura Council, was not in the criminal acts in themselves, or in the criminal instincts of the terrorists, but in their convictions. "If a person does something wrong and is convinced it is right, then we have to look at the root causes," the minister said. He said the roots, which created these beliefs and formed these ideologies, were the real concern. … In response to a question, the prince reiterated there was no doubt that the young people arrested — many of them under 25 — were brainwashed, and added the role played by the school, the mosque and the home was vitally important in correcting any false conceptions.
Comment: If the interior minister of the Saudi state acknowledges that the key problem is not the acts of violence but the ideas that inspire them, how can anyone else deny the role of ideas in the war on terror? (July 2, 2003)
May 30, 2004 update: Another Islamist terror rampage yesterday (this time in Khobar, killing twenty-two persons), prompted similar discussions once again. Here is Al-Watan newspaper of Abha today, discussing "the fruits of the extremist ideology which was fed for decades to some of our youth, the fruits of silence, turning a blind eye, justifications and even sympathy on the pretext that they were acting out of sincere religious feelings and an ideological stance based on loyalty and innocence":
In all these decades, these youth had their scholars, theoreticians, justifiers, apologists and silent sympathizers, whose support and admiration they kept in their hearts. When the ulema of this nation discovered the dangers of the ideology of these youth and their evil intentions, they used all possible means to warn against it and to explain its misguided ideas. However, there were people who kept silent about these youth, denounced them in a soft and easy way, or found a justification or excuse for them in the fact that they were foolish and were led astray, and that the issue should be dealt with through dialogue. This happened while the sedition was baring its fangs and killing the souls, which is prohibited by God.
June 6, 2004 update: Suleiman al-Hattlan, a Saudi columnist and author, is quoted by Neil MacFarquhar in the New York Times today making this important comment about the jihadist groups engaging in terrorism: "We [Saudis] have not addressed the ideology of these groups, which is the same one the government is promoting. They [the government leaders] attack just the individuals." The same can be said, actually, about government leaders in most countries around the world.