THE assassination attempt last month on Prince Muhammad bin Naif, assistant minister of interior for security affairs, shows that the roots of terrorism are still strong and have gripped our society. What are the reasons for the spread of this problem? Why does the problem surface now and then in different ways despite the government’s efforts to contain it through security operations and counseling programs?
It would be very difficult to give specific reasons for the phenomenon but it is quite obvious that the general atmosphere has contributed to the development and deepening of a culture that promotes extremism and violence and rejects coexistence with others.
The failure in tackling some important cultural, political, economic and social issues over the past few years and in learning lessons from major crises such as the Gulf wars and the aftermath of 9/11 — which came as a warning bell to speed up reforms — have contributed to the problem.
Moreover, the lack of effective participation of individuals in building society and the negligence in establishing civil society organizations in a methodical way and the shrinking of society into special interest groups as well as the contradiction between what is said and what is happening on the ground have all added to the problem.
Another major reason could be the isolation and introversive characteristic of Saudi society during the recent past. Considering itself “something special” and fearing loss of identity the Saudi society has been opposing proposals that were aimed at overall development. Other factors that promoted terrorism were poverty, unemployment and an educational system that does not cater to the needs of development.
The prevalence of a specific way of thinking that has been imposed on society, pillaging its freedom and preventing it from thinking outside set limits, is another reason. This peculiar thinking did not go well with the developments taking place in the outside world.
This school of thought monopolized thinking in Saudi society during the last decade, causing greater seclusion, obstinacy and resistance to change. This had a negative impact on the government’s development plans because there cannot be any real progress without open and enlightened thinking.
As a result, development plans produced results contrary to what was desired and failed to achieve the objectives of improving the lives of the people and changing their mode of thinking in a way that goes in harmony with the country’s development requirements.
Now the time has come to look for effective solutions in order to eradicate a culture that has produced generations of terrorists. We want solutions based on a comprehensive strategy and not temporary measures or responses to specific situations or incidents — solutions that can hit the problem at its roots and not ones that deal only with symptoms.
Our youths are badly in need of developing a culture of dialogue and mutual thinking. They need advice in order to cool and control explosive feelings. Youths who are prevented from entering markets and on whose faces all doors are closed have no chance of coexisting with others. We have to understand that some of these youths have been enticed and attracted by terrorist groups.
WE have to open new avenues and opportunities for youths in order to help them practice their hobbies and fulfill their desires in fine arts, drama, clubs, forums and all other areas considered important for human nature.
A suitable atmosphere should be created for these young men to enjoy mental, spiritual and cultural stability, and make them feel that they are not sidelined but taken care of. It is the only way to prevent them from being enticed by the terror groups and protect them from being intellectually hijacked by extremist groups who brand anyone who oppose them as infidels.
I am sure that no power can seduce a youth to work as a suicide bomber if he has received the lowest cultural and intellectual protection. Those who blow themselves up are the ones who have reached the stage of total mental bankruptcy and intellectual emptiness.
Our educational system needs an immediate overhauling in order to play an effective role in solving the problem, instead of remaining one of the causes of the problem.
The joy created by rising oil prices should not divert our attention from other economic and social issues.
Expanding the base of popular participation in the decision-making process is another important area we need to focus on. This could be done by developing existing political institutions and creating new ones. We should also establish new civil society organizations in order to meet the needs of society.
We will not be able to find real and correct solutions in order to tackle the problem at its roots without taking big decisions, at whatever cost. We should not leave matters until the time to tackle them and wait for the suitable time or moment when the society will be ready to accept the change. Awaiting society’s endorsement for major decisions will further complicate problems.
There is an important lesson from the history of King Abdul Aziz, the founder of Saudi Arabia. He was courageous in making big decisions at times when the country was passing through difficult situations. He did not wait for society to approve the decisions because he believed that it was the leadership that leads society, not the other way round.
The remarkable political, social and economic reforms carried out by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah are a source of pride for every Saudi. The tremendous success achieved by our security forces under the leadership of Second Deputy Premier and Minister of Interior Prince Naif has won international acclaim.
All these efforts are essential for protecting the country. But we should not focus on security solution alone; the focus should be followed by efforts to root out the problem. The counseling program is an important step in the right direction but it tries to solve the problem on the surface, not at its roots.
We have to be aware that the terrorist industry is continuing production and the counseling may help confront its products but will not stop the industry. So, we should work out a comprehensive strategy to root out the problem by destroying the factories of terrorism. (Courtesy Arab News)