The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s commitment to combatting terrorism and radicalisation is all too often unacknowledged or understated. Saudi Arabia does not fund, support or excuse any radical institution in Belgium, Europe or anywhere. In fact, the Kingdom is recognised as a pioneer in addressing the problem of radicalisation and terrorism at its root.
Falsehoods linking Saudi Arabia and its values to extremism cannot be allowed to circulate unchallenged. Extremist thought and acts of senseless violence are diametrically opposed to what the Kingdom stands for. To tar Saudi Arabia with the same brush as Da’esh/ISIS is lax.
In reality, condemnation of terrorism permeates all levels of Saudi society from King Salman bin Abdulaziz to the Saudi citizen, and it is clear to see why. Saudi Arabia is the birthplace and home of Islam; the Kingdom’s culture, society and justice are closely tied to Islamic values of peace and tolerance. To commit a terrorist act is therefore deeply un-Islamic and, by extension, profoundly un-Saudi.
“The biggest challenge facing our Islamic nation is how to keep our youth, the real wealth and hope of the future, away from the dangers facing them – particularly extremism and violence – and distance them from masterminds of misleading ideas that force them to behave in extraordinary ways that contradict the principles of our Islamic religion and the pillars and values of our Islamic societies.”
King Salman bin Abdulaziz, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, July 2016
This logic is reinforced by the ‘Majlis Hay’at Kibar al-‘Ulama’ – The Council of Senior Scholars. The Council is the Kingdom’s highest religious body, which finds consensus between learned religious scholars from a broad spectrum of Sunni Muslim schools of thought. The Council advises the King on religious matters through its ‘fatwas’ or decisions, which are well respected, not only in the Kingdom, but by Muslims around the world. Condemnation of terrorism from the Council has been unwavering, issuing its first fatwa on the subject in 1988.
The Council has consistently made clear that acts of terrorism cannot be considered in any way Islamic, nor their perpetrators Muslim. In 2010, the Council defined terrorism as any “crime seeking to corrupt and destabilise the security of life and property, private and public, such as destroying housing, schools, hospitals, factories, bridges, blowing up or hijacking airplanes, or the usurpation of the public resources of the state such as oil and gas reserves and all such acts of corruption and vandalism are prohibited in Islam. Whosoever alleges that it is jihad is ignorant and misguided. It is in no way jihad for the sake of Allah.”
More recently, the General Secretariat of the Council of Senior Scholars in June 2016 stated that “Islam outlaws terrorism and considers it as a corruption in the land, which ultimately serves only the people with racist believes that spread hatred and push for more division, which does not serve to build a world of order and a recognition of rights.”
In September 2014 the Council pronounced that “Terrorism is a heinous crime perpetrating injustice and aggression and is rejected by the Shariah, sound disposition and common sense in all its forms.” It is important also to underline the universality of the Council’s decisions regarding terrorism. Fatwas unfailingly call on the whole world to stand against it, and the Senior Scholars respond to heinous acts wherever they are committed.
Following the horrific terroristic attacks in Paris in 2015, it was reiterated that “Islam bans this terrorist action and does not accept any justification for it.” In the wake of the further lamentable attacks in Brussels in March 2016, the Council of Senior Scholars “affirmed that the whole world should unify to fight terrorism whatever its source is and regardless of the targeted region, and that the criminalisation of terrorism should not be justified in a region unlike the other, this will be a mean of intensifying terrorism and expanding it”.
Months later, when the scourge of terrorism re-emerged in Nice, France, the Council stated that “Islam magnifies the sanctity of human blood and criminalizes terrorism that kills and terrorizes innocent people in their homes, markets and facilities teeming with men, women and children, and that all humanity rejects and condemns it”.
The Kingdom’s rejection of all forms of terrorism is not merely empty words but also reflected in its actions. Most notable among these is Saudi Arabia leadership in the Islamic Alliance against Terrorism. On the occasion of the Alliance’s announcement, the Council declared that “fighting and combating terrorism are one of the most important duties imposed by the Islamic religion, which is a duty at a time where the Islamic world has to be urged to fight and cooperate against it.” In an age where wilful disinformation is become increasingly prevalent in our societies, it is of paramount that we strive more than ever to read beyond the sensationalist headlines, scratch beneath the surface of unfounded allegations, and examine the facts more rigorously.
Those trying to link ISIS to Islam, Sunnis or so-called Wahhabis or to the teachings of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, are mistaken. ISIS and what they’re doing is not Islam. Islam does not justify the killing of innocent people. Islam does not justify violence and does not justify hate. Islam is a religion of moderation, tolerance, love and mercy. What these criminals are doing has nothing to do with Islam.
Our Kingdom will continue to support national and international authorities to help eradicate the terrorist scourge and its supporters from our societies.
Ambassador Abdulrahman S. Alahmed
Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the Belgium & Luxembourg
Head of the Saudi Mission to the European Union