by Ayman Ahmed (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 44, No. 1, Jumada' al-Ula', 1436)
There were two conferences back-to-back on combating terrorism last month. The first was in Washington DC, the second in Makkah. The irony is that the host countries are the biggest supporters of terrorism.
Two conferences last month on combating terrorism reflect the surreal nature of this whole phenomenon that has gripped global attention in recent months and years. The first conference in Washington, DC (February 18–20) was attended by representatives of some 60 countries, among them Muslim countries, as well as many “prominent” Muslim Americans. In one of its opening sessions on the first day, US President Barack Obama addressed the conference.
This was followed a few days later (February 23–25) by another three-day conference held in Makkah. Organized by Rabitah al-Alam al-Islami (the World Muslim League), a Saudi front organization, it brought together scholars from the Muslim world as well as individuals linked to various Saudi organizations. A number of Saudi clerics, among them the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Aziz Aal al-Shaykh, also attended the conference.
It is interesting to note that while rulers of the two host countries addressed or had their speech delivered at the respective conferences, these regimes themselves are the biggest promoters of extremism and terrorism. For the US, it is a geo-strategic imperative, for the other — Saudi Arabia — it is an ideological imperative. The US, or the military-industrial-banking complex that formulates and guides US policy, is addicted to war. Endless wars are necessary for profiteering. Thus, whether there are extremist/terrorist groups in existence or not, US policy ensures they are created. This way, the US can justify its endless wars to its own war-weary population.
Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, is the biggest peddler of the ideology of hate. Saudi preachers routinely dish out fatwas of takfir (denouncing other Muslims as kafirs) against anyone they disagree with, and that includes virtually all the Muslims in the world who do not follow the narrow extremist interpretations of Wahhabism. The brains of terrorists rampaging in Syria and Iraq are stuffed with the nonsense the Saudi preachers and regime peddle.
Let us consider what was said at the two conferences. Speaking on the first day of the conference in Washington, President Barack Obama was at pains to stress that the US was “not at war with Islam.” He emphasized that Washington was only fighting those that had “hijacked” Islam. He called on officials and representatives of participating countries, especially from the Muslim world, to join the US war against the takfiri terrorists that go by different names: Da‘ish, ISIS/ISIL, or even the erroneous title, the Islamic State (IS).
“We are at war with people who have perverted Islam,” Obama declared, adding later that Muslim leaders “need to do more to discredit the notion that our nations [the US and its European allies] are determined to suppress Islam.” If the “do more” mantra sounds familiar, it should. This has been repeatedly used by the US to demand that Muslims must “do more” to advance the imperialist-Zionist agenda. In Pakistan, it was to pressure the Pakistani military to fight Taliban militants; now the same demand is being made of other Muslim countries as well as Islamic scholars to discredit the takfiri terrorists. Relatives of the victims of America’s industrial scale violence in the Muslim world would beg to differ. America’s war on terror is seen by most Muslims as a “war of terror” that has murdered millions of innocent people. Very few of those killed in American bombing were terrorists.
The theme of the Makkah conference was “Islam and the Fight Against Terrorism.” King Salman did not appear in person; just as well. He reportedly suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and could easily have forgotten or misread what was handed to him to read. Instead, his speech was read on his behalf by his nephew and governor of Makkah, Khaled al-Faisal. Salman said, “Our security services have been relentless in blocking the efforts of terrorists.” He described the terror groups around the world as representing “a grave threat to our Islamic Ummah and the entire world,” adding that the crimes committed by members of terror groups, whom he described as being “misguided and misguiding,” had now “exceeded the limits set forth in our Islamic world.”
The aging Saudi monarch, who became king on January 23 when his predecessor Abdullah died, also alluded to acts committed by global terror groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front, that were affecting relations between Muslims and other people around the world. He said such groups had “given an excuse to those already against Islam and who seek to harm it to vilify our upright and rightly guided faith whose followers number 1.5 billion people [in reality 2 billion] in the world and who are now associated with this mindless faction which has no relation to Islam in any way.” He went on to say that relations between Muslims and other people had become “shaken and have deteriorated in the midst of this wave of negativity and prejudice against Muslims which follows whenever terrorist incidents take place.”
The Saudi Grand Mufti Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Aziz Aal al-Shaykh said fighting terrorism was an Islamic duty. Fair enough but why he did not address the issue of the Saudi regime and some of its court clergy financing and promoting the takfiri terrorists? The takfiris have not fallen from the sky; the overwhelming majority of terrorists in takfiri ranks are from Saudi Arabia. Their funding comes from the Kingdom via numerous channels, including Kuwait. One Saudi prince, al-Waleed bin Talal admitted on CNN on October 19, 2014 that there were some people in Saudi Arabia who were providing funding to these groups. He quickly added that the authorities had put a stop to it. Is it really possible to end such funding?
Even more critically, it is the ideology of Wahhabism based on extremely narrow interpretations of Islamic texts and augmented by arrogance that insist only they are right and all other Muslims are “misguided.” It is at the root of the mayhem that engulfs the Muslim world today. This ideology emerged from Najd, the heartland of Wahhabism and has been promoted and financed by the Saudi regime. The body that organized the anti-terrorism conference, the World Muslim League, itself is the biggest promoter of this narrow ideology. It has hundreds if not thousands of preachers on its payroll who peddle the Saudi-Wahhabi ideology that has led to serious conflicts in the Muslim world.
While the Saudi king lamented the fact that relations between Muslims and other people were being affected by the terrorist activities of the takfiris — Da‘ish and al-Nusra Front — he glossed over the fact that the biggest victims of takfiri terrorism were other Muslims. And it is the Saudi regime itself that is responsible for promoting such extremism. After all, the takfiris specialize in sectarianism and this poison has been spread by preachers in Saudi Arabia.
Some scholars at the conference rightly pointed to the fact that while some misguided Muslims abused the name of Islam, extremists from other faiths also misused religion as an umbrella for terrorism. “There have been concerted efforts by some agencies to link Islam with terrorism, but this has not been the case as regards other religions. If a Muslim, who is quite unaware of the fundamentals of Islam, commits an act of terror, it is linked to Islam. “But if the same terror act is committed by a Christian, Jew, Hindu or Buddhist, it is seldom linked to the perpetrator’s religion,” the scholars argued.
They insisted that terrorism is not the product of any religion or race — even though the Western corporate media as well as many Western regimes try to link it to religion — instead, it is a phenomenon that has existed in various communities in different forms and manifestations throughout the ages. The Zionists introduced terrorism to the Muslim East (aka Middle East) and the Zionist State was created through a systematic campaign of terror. Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir were both well known terrorists in the 1940s and were on the British list of “Most Wanted” terrorist list. There was a reward for the capture, dead or alive, of both men. They later became prime ministers of the Zionist regime!
In addition to the Zionists who are the masterminds of terrorism and continue to indulge in it but now at the state level, there were also cases of the Tamil Tigers, the Mujahideen-e Khalq Organization (an Iranian terror group opposed to the Islamic Republic of Iran that has been taken off the US, European and now Canadian government terror lists), the Baader Meinhof group, and many others. Thus, terrorism is not religion or area specific.
There is also an attempt in the West to brand liberation movements as terrorist organizations. We can name some of these liberation movements: the Taliban in Afghanistan, Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Palestine and Hizbullah in Lebanon. Western regimes have tarred all of them with the terrorist brush. The Egyptian and Saudi regimes have also added al-Ikhwan al-Muslimoon (Muslim Brotherhood) of Egypt to this list. This is where the West and its client regimes offer the most glaring example of hypocrisy.
While the sessions in Makkah were tame affairs and not much intellectual content was in evidence, apart from speakers letting off some steam, there were some interesting comments. For instance, on the second day of the conference, when several speakers addressed the topic “Terrorism and armed struggle” they noted, quite rightly, that the United Nations has endorsed the right to armed struggle and resistance in order to liberate an occupied land or restore usurped freedom. One wished they had pressed this point further and declared the Palestinians and Lebanese had the absolute and inalienable right to wage armed struggle against the Zionist occupiers. Further, they should have raised the issue of the Ikhwan that has been branded a terrorist organization. On what basis have the Egyptian and Saudi regimes declared them terrorist?
Similarly, the question of usurpation of civil and human rights of activists in the Kingdom should have been raised. Thousands languish in Saudi prisons for no other crime than to ask for their God-given rights. Others have been imprisoned because they signed petitions demanding a fair trial for human rights activists. But this would have been considered risky since the Saudi regime would not countenance such challenge to their authority. The entire purpose of the Makkah conference was to provide cover for the Saudi regime that has been the principal sponsor of terrorism, to protect it from international opprobrium. Will it work? The answer is yes and no; yes because the US needs the Saudi regime to create these monsters in order to advance Washington’s agenda of perpetual wars. It will not work for the vast majority of Muslims who have seen through the Saudi fraud. Now most of its allies have also realized the destructive impact of Saudi ideology of Wahhabism on the Muslim world.
Not everything said at the Makkah conference was irrelevant. Speaking on the first day, Shaykh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the Grand Mufti of al-Azhar University in Cairo, called for reform of Islamic education programs in the Muslim world which he said had been infiltrated by “extreme and incorrect interpretations of Islam.” He said without this overhaul of religious education there could be “no hope of this Ummah regaining its strength, unity, and sense of brotherliness, as well as its ability to develop and keep up with countries in the developed world.”
The Azhari Sheikh who in the past had condemned the conduct of takfiri groups, also called for a multi-pronged approach to combat global terror and its causes, including cooperation between different religious, educational, and media institutions to prevent young people from becoming drawn into extremist thinking and joining terrorist groups. Denouncing the takfiris as a “scourge,” Shaykh Tayeb said “there has been a historical accumulation of excessive trends” that have led some people to embrace a misguided form of Islam. “The only hope for the Muslim Ummah to restore unity is to tackle in our schools and universities this tendency to accuse Muslims of being kafirs,” he said.
If his hosts were paying close attention, they would have understood where this criticism was directed at but then the Azhari Shaykh went on a tangent. He lavished praise where it was not due; he described Saudi Arabia’s role in combating terrorism praiseworthy and urged for greater cooperation between countries affected by terrorism — each of which, he said, had “its own unique experience” in dealing with the phenomenon — and the “doubling of efforts” globally to combat terror groups around the world.
If Muslim scholars are serious about confronting the menace of terrorism then they have to expose the root causes and those behind it. Polite talk or even bombastic speeches at conferences would not eliminate this scourge — and a scourge it is since the vast majority of its victims are Muslims. Similarly, the US cannot get away with talking about combating this menace while actively supporting, training and arming the terrorists.
Enough of this hypocrisy!