Saudi Arabia Is Protecting Itself: Whether The Change Is Positive Or Negative
24 February 2014
By Mshari Al-Zaydi
Last week, the Saudi Interior Ministry issued a
statement designating a number of groups as terrorist
organizations among other things, in accordance with
the royal order issued by King Abdullah last month
that led to the formation of a joint committee to
officially designate terrorist groups. The royal
decree was part of a broad effort to confront any and
all parties that might pose a threat to Saudi Arabia
or its people, and the Interior Ministry's statement
was an effective means of implementing that decree.
Perhaps some people were apprehensive about this
decree, hoping it would not be implemented in any real
way and keeping in mind the Arab proverb "keep your
head down until the storm passes." Any such hopes have
now been dashed.
The committee's statement is not the result of
internal investigations within the Interior Ministry
alone, as some have suggested. No, the committee
includes representatives of the ministries of the
interior, foreign affairs, Islamic affairs and
justice, as well as the Court of Grievances and the
Bureau of Investigations and Public Prosecution.
The historic statement has 11 articles, which
criminalize a range of offences in a number of fields,
from politics to religious sermons to media and
finance. The first list of terrorist organizations
announced by the committee included the Muslim
Brotherhood, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, all
branches of Al-Qaeda, including Syria's Al-Nusra
Front, Hezbollah's activities in the Kingdom and
Yemen's Houthi Movement.
The classification of Al-Qaeda and its affiliates is
nothing new, and the Kingdom has been in a state of
continuous war with the terrorist organization for
several years now. What was notable was the
classification of the Muslim Brotherhood as a
terrorist organization, which represents both a
serious challenge and a major shift in Saudi society,
especially if we consider the ambiguous and indefinite
nature of the Brotherhood's membership, which includes
everyone from youths to elderly gentlemen.
As for Hezbollah, some might ask why only its
activities "in the Kingdom" have been prohibited. What
about Lebanon's Hezbollah movement? Well, the Gulf
Cooperation Council has already issued a statement
designating Lebanese Hezbollah as a terrorist
organization. Furthermore, Hezbollah "in the Kingdom"
includes Hezbollah Al-Hijaz, the Saudi local chapter
of the party, as well as anyone else in Saudi Arabia
with ties, whether financial or political/ideological,
with Lebanese Hezbollah.
The royal decree and the joint committee formed under
its auspices are different from anything in Saudi
history. This is a decisive time in Saudi Arabia's
history and we are witnessing a huge shift in the
structure of Saudi society, including in the fields of
education and culture.
The committee's decision is a massive change akin to
the ones introduced by Saudi Arabia's Founder, King
Abdulaziz, when he dealt with the hardline separatists
and "armed" Muslim Brotherhood of his time. After he
exhausted all possibility of peaceful dialogue with
these groups, King Abdulaziz held a large assembly in
the capital, Riyadh, in 1928 to alert his subjects to
the danger in their midst. Then, when such talk was no
longer useful, King Abdulaziz delivered a fatal blow
to the Ikhwan [Brotherhood] Revolt and the Battle of
Sabilla in 1929, thereby safeguarding the future of
the state. His son, King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, is
now protecting the Saudi state and its people just as
his father did before him.
A Saudi journalist and expert on
Islamic movements and Islamic fundamentalism as well
as Saudi affairs. Mshari is Asharq Al-Awsat's opinion
page Editor, where he also contributes a weekly
column. Has worked for the local Saudi press occupying
several posts at Al -Madina newspaper amongst others.
He has been a guest on numerous news and current
affairs programs as an expert on Islamic.