Al Arabiya TV carries an Asharq Alawsat column by Abdulrahman al-Rashed exploring how the group variously known as ISIS or Daesh is very wittingly playing word games to its benefit. By insisting on the use of the name “Islamic State,” the group attempts to give itself unearned legitimacy, wrapping itself in the honor of Islam. This, al-Rashed says, is doubly pernicious. Not only does it delude young Muslims into thinking the group righteous, but it provide an easy example for Islamophobes to point out and say, “See what Muslims really are?!”
ISIS: Why should we care about the acronym?
Many governments have begun urging the media to not use the “ISIS” acronym. The terrorist organization started using this acronym two years ago, when its leader declared himself a caliphate and changed the name of his group from ISI (Islamic State of Iraq) to ISIS in order to expand from Iraq to include Syria.
When the group’s formation was announced in April 2013 under the appellation of the “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria”, the media and specifically Al Arabiya News Channel decided to call it as “Daesh” (the Arabic abbreviation of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). We are all aware that ISIS wants to use us, as media platforms around the world, to build a picture that serves its purposes. A lot of people objected to the appellation and the coverage because it is insulting the true defenders of Islam against the Western occupiers or the oppressed Sunni community. It offended the defenders of the people of al-Anbar or the rebels against al-Assad regime in Syria. In fact, ISIS activities confused people initially, but most of them discovered later on that ISIS is nothing but the same al-Qaeda evil group, despite adopting rightful issues.
ISIS (Daesh in Arabic) is not a cynical label as said and written in the Western media. It is just the acronym of the appellation. The group is certainly against this acronym because it intentionally wants to be known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, to rally around it Muslims from all over the world.
According to this Saudi Gazette report, Saudi Arabia believes the media and commentators are overplaying the recent visit by Hamas leaders to the Kingdom. The visit was purely a religious pilgrimage, according to the country’s new Minister of Foreign Affairs, Adel Al-Jubeir, and there were no meetings between Hamas and the government.
SAUDI ARABIA on Thursday played down the significance of a visit by Hamas leaders, saying it was only a religious pilgrimage and Riyadh’s position on the Palestinian Islamist movement was unchanged.
“There was no (political) visit by Hamas to the Kingdom,” Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said at a joint press conference with his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukry.
The official Saudi Press Agency reported last Saturday on the rare Hamas visit.
“A group from Hamas, including (politburo chief) Khaled Meshaal… visited Makkah for Umrah (the lesser pilgrimage). They performed the Eid prayers there and offered Eid greetings to the King,” Jubeir said. “There were no meetings.”
Jubeir described as inaccurate and exaggerated media reports that the visit was political in nature.
Al Arabiya TV is featuring its exclusive interview with American Secretary of State John Kerry, pointing out his qualms about recent statements by Iran’s Supreme Leader. Kerry is still selling the nuclear accord, but appears to be acknowledging that regional states’ concerns aren’t just moaning about it.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday said recent anti-U.S. remarks from Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei were “disturbing,” adding that the United States was “not kidding about the importance of pushing back against extremism.”
In an interview with Al Arabiya News Channel’s Nadia Bilbassy-Charters, Kerry discussed Khamenei’s speech, made four days after Iran and world powers signed an accord designed to thwart Tehran’s nuclear program.
Khamenei had said his country would continue to support its regional friends despite its recent nuclear deal with world powers, including “the oppressed Palestinian nation, Yemen, Syria, Iraq (and) Bahrain.”
Saudi Gazette/Okaz report that Saudi telecommunication companies are claiming to have lost a quarter-billion riyals in business over the Eid to text messaging. Disruptive technologies like social media do just that: disrupt. The telcoms aren’t going to put that horse back in the barn, no matter how much they whine.
Telecom firms lose SR250m during Eid due to WhatsApp
Saleh Al-Zahrani | Okaz/Saudi Gazette
JEDDAH — Telecommunication companies in the Kingdom must have lost about SR250 million during Eid festivities this year due to a huge increase in the use of WhatsApp texting messages to convey Eid greetings, a noted economist has said.
In the not so distant past, Eid greetings were being sent by using SMS via mobile phones. But that system is outdated and completely out of sync with the present system of texting messages through WhatsApp, which, of course, is free of charge.
Muhammad Shammakh said telecommunication companies used to make a profit of at least SR250 million during the feast from the exchange of Eid greetings only through SMS service. This is through at least one billion messages. Shammakh said despite the recent uproar regarding cancellation of WhatsApp service due to complaints by companies that they will lose over SR3 billion, the service still exists and thrives. He said at the pace with which technological development is taking place around the world, the latest telecommunication services will make people’s life much easier and more comfortable.
Saudi authorities have arrested 431 people for their alleged involvement in terrorist attacks in the Kingdom, Al Arabiya TV reports. Those arrested come from ten countries, including Saudi Arabia. They are accused of playing a role in the attacks on Shi’a mosques and other Shi’ite areas in the Eastern Province, including attacks in 2014.
Saudi Arabia arrested 431 people as part of a crackdown on a cluster of cells linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group, the kingdom’s Ministry of Interior (MOI) said.
Authorities also thwarted seven mosque attacks that had been planned by the suspects in the capital Riyadh as well as the Eastern Province, MOI Spokesman Gen. Mansour Al Turki said in a press conference carried by Al Arabiya News Channel.
Among the arrested were Saudi nationals and suspects from nine other nationalities, he said adding that the cluster of cells was divided by tasks and target, he told reporters.
In one cell, made of five members, their task was to prep suicide bombers while another five-member cell had the mission to manufacture explosive belts.
Of the 431 arrested, 190 made up the four cells suspected to behind the Al-Qadeeh and Al-Unoud mosques’ bombings which claimed the lives of dozens of worshippers in May.
A suicide bomber killed himself and injured security personnel at a checkpoint in southern Riyadh, Arab News reports. The checkpoint was on the way to Al-Ha’ir high-security prison from the capital. The bomber was identified as a Saudi national.
RIYADH: A suicide bomber blew himself up on Thursday at a security checkpoint in Al-Hair neighborhood of the capital city, killing himself and wounding two policemen, the Interior Ministry said.
The blast went off when policemen manning the checkpoint on Al-Ha’ir Road stopped the car at the time of Maghreb prayer for a routine inspection, a spokesman for the ministry said.
“The bomber, Abdullah Fahad Al-Rashid, 16, a Saudi national, blew up the car and killed himself,” he was quoted as saying. The policemen were taken to hospital and were in a “stable condition,” the spokesman said.
Saudi media are reporting on the meeting between Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir and American Secretary of State John Kerry. All report that Saudi Arabia isn’t particularly pleased with the nuclear agreement recently worked out with Iran. This Arab News report likens it to the agreement worked out with N. Korea during the Clinton administration which did nothing to thwart that country’s developing nuclear weapons.
WASHINGTON: Iran should use a nuclear deal agreed this week with six world powers to improve its economy, and not to pursue “adventures” in the Middle East, Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said on Thursday.
“We hope that … if the deal is implemented that the Iranians will use this deal in order to improve the economic situation in Iran and to improve the lot of its people … and not use it for adventures in the region,” Al-Jubeir said after a meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry.
“If Iran should try to cause mischief in the region, we’re committed to confront it resolutely,” he said.
Al-Jubeir stressed the importance of inspections to verify Iran is complying and the “snapback” of sanctions if it is found to be cheating.
It didn’t take long, but after a decent interval following the Iran nuclear deal, after waiting to see the details, Saudi Arabia — through Pr. Bandar, its former ambassador to the US — has decided it doesn’t like the deal.
Al-Arabiya TV reports:
Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan, a former ambassador to Washington, has said in an opinion piece for Elaph newspaper that the United States moved forward with the Iran nuclear deal despite predictions of the situation developing into a North Korean-style scenario.
In a column published by the London-based Arabic news website Elaph, the former chief of intelligence said the nuclear deal “will wreak havoc in the Middle East,” a region already plagued by major conflicts.
“Serious pundits in the media and in politics say that President Obama’s Iran deal is ‘déjà vu’ in relation to President Clinton’s North Korean nuclear deal.”
President Clinton’s decision was based on strategic foreign policy analysts, top secret national intelligence, and the desire “to save the people of North Korea from starvation,” wrote Prince Bandar, in reference to the 1994 “Agreed Framework” between North Korea and the United States that aimed to freeze the country’s nuclear power program.
Given Saudi Arabia’s concern over a nuclear-armed Iran, Pres. Obama called King Salman to discuss the recently completed agreement with Iran over its nuclear program. According the the report from Al Arabiya TV, the Saudis will watch, hopefully, to see how the agreement is implemented.
President Barack Obama telephoned Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz on Tuesday from Air Force One to discuss the newly completed Iran nuclear agreement, the White House said.
Saudi Arabia expressed hope Tuesday for an end to Iran’s regional “interference” after a historic nuclear deal aimed at ensuring Tehran does not obtain an atomic bomb was struck.
“Given that Iran is a neighbor, Saudi Arabia hopes to build with her better relations in all areas on the basis of good neighborliness and non-interference in internal affairs,” said an official spokesman cited by the Saudi Press Agency.
Both leaders also discussed the urgent need to stop the fighting in Yemen and ensure assistance for all Yemenis through international humanitarian channels.
Obama also spoke with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan by telephone to discuss the nuclear agreement.
According to the UK’s Telegraph, however, things aren’t quite so sanguine. It sees Saudi Arabia and Israel in agreement that Iran’s program is dangerous and that the agreement may not pan out as its most hopeful supporters expect.
In an op-ed for Asharq Alawsat, Abdulrahman Al-Rashed says that trying to shut down social media (typified by Twitter) won’t do much to address the real problems caused by ISIS or other extremist groups. Social media are just that: media. They’re the channels through which information is flowing. Blocking the channels won’t alter the information; won’t make the groups or their ideologies any less dangerous. Block one channel, and another one will appear.
Blocking social media will, however, annoy and inconvenience multitudes of people who aren’t involved in extremism for no good purpose. It’ll be just another ham-handed government effort that burdens citizens, including those who use social media to fight against extremism.
Blocking Twitter is not the solution
Many counterterror experts believe they have pinpointed the source of the problem when it comes to terrorism and extremism. They believe social media networks are to blame because they play a hand in inciting extremism and help with the recruitment of militants. Some experts have even called for blocking these sites in order to starve the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and its ilk of their primary means of communicating with sympathizers and potential recruits.
Despite the rush of calls to shut down Twitter and other social media sites, this is not an ideal solution, because these groups will just end up using alternative platforms. It’s also not fair to punish millions of ordinary users in order to get rid of the thousands of militants or militant supporters online. It is a known fact that the world is battling against extremist ideologies, and therefore it is understandable that this sometimes requires giving up our privacy and freedom. However, even the necessities of war aren’t enough of a reason to restrain millions of people just because the problem was not dealt with from another angle. Reform education, reform da’wah (the preaching of Islam), and spread Islam’s real and beautiful values, then you’d realize that extremist concepts are an exception and are actually rejected. If such steps are implemented, moderation would become a real ideological movement that everyone adopts.
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other websites are a means of communication that can either eliminate extremism or help spread it. What distinguishes extremists is that they are an active and determined party with a cause which they believe is righteous. They are capable of adapting to technological changes. They exploit religious communities, which they don’t belong to, and try to lure people into their extremist ideologies. There are hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of militants who spend hours surfing these websites in search of lost, angry, or curious youths, attempting to “guide them” to jihadist solutions and then recruit them as soldiers who await orders.
Writing at Asharq Alawsat, Mshari Al-Zaydi finds a difference in the recruitment of would-be extremists for Al-Qaeda and for ISIS. Candidates for the former, he suggests, come through ideological channels. Recruitment for the latter, through social media taking advantage of the dumb and ill-educated.
The Rapid Spread of ISIS
One of the differences between Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) lies in the way members join each of these ultra-radical groups.
Those wishing to join Al-Qaeda are often exposed for a long period of time to the writings of the group’s ideologues. The process would take several years before recruits are no longer content with the mission of merely calling for “jihad.”
However, with ISIS recruitment is much easier—but more dangerous. An ISIS member could be someone who had no Islamist links weeks or even a few days before joining the radical group. An ISIS recruit could be a normal youth who supports, say, Real Madrid or FC Barcelona, or a fan of pop stars. Such recruits usually go unnoticed by state security until they detonate themselves or engage in a shooting spree, taking by surprise official bodies who fail to predict their activities, particularly what they say on social media.
Two such examples are Seifeddine Rezgui, the Tunisian criminal who carried out the Sousse beach massacre, and Fahd Suleiman Abdul Mohsen Al-Qaba’a, the 23-year-old Saudi national who attacked the Imam Al-Sadiq Mosque in Kuwait.
Rafik Chelli, senior Tunisian security official, said the perpetrator of the Sousse attack was a university student who “had no criminal record.” The Saudi Interior Ministry said in a statement that Qaba’a was born in 1992 and was not previously involved in any terror-related activities.
This means that ISIS poses a hidden danger whose elimination requires from all those concerned, whether governmental or civilian organizations, in Muslim and non-Muslim countries to take preemptive measures against potential ISIS members.
In his current Asharq Alawsat column, Amir Taheri says that trying to analyze the chaos of the Middle East in terms of religious sectarianism is a mistake. It’s not religious identity that’s at play, but politics that will use sectarianism as another tool.
Shi’ism may be a big tent, he writes, but Iran has certainly not welcomed Syria’s Awalawites or Yemen’s Houthis into the religious fold. Both of those groups are seen as heretical. But, they’re useful. Supporting those groups serves Iranian ends, not because they’re religiously pure, but because they and their issues allow Iran an entry into the region that would otherwise be closed to it.
Continuing to try and parse the current struggles as sectarian matters is to continue to miss the point: It’s politics, all the way down. And if you’re not correctly identifying the problem, the odds of fixing it are remote.
Faced with the growing threat of terrorism, Western officials and analysts seem hard put as to how to deal with something they find difficult to understand.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has advised the media not to use the term “Islamic State” for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)—known as “Da’esh” in Arabic—because, he claims, the “caliphate” based in Raqqa in Syria is not Islamic. In other words, Cameron is casting himself as an authority on what is Islamic and what is not. At the other end of the spectrum, French Premier Manuel Valls speaks of “Islamofascism” and claims that the West is drawn into a “war of civilizations” with Islam.
Cameron continues Tony Blair’s policy in the early days of Islamist attacks on Britain. Blair would declare that although the attacks had nothing to do with Islam he had invited “leaders of the Muslim community” to Downing Street to discuss “what is to be done.”
As for Valls, he seems to forget that Islam, though part of many civilizations including the European one, is a religion not a civilization on its own. He also forgets that civilizations, even at the height of rivalry, don’t wage war; political movements and states do.
While it is important to understand what we are dealing with, it is even more important not to misunderstand the challenge.
To circumvent the hurdle of labeling the Da’esh-style terror as “Islamic,” something that runs counter to political correctness and could attract cries of Islamophobia, some Western officials and commentators build their analysis on the “sectarian” aspect of the phenomenon.
Thus, we are bombarded within seminars, essays and speeches seeking to explain, and at times explain away, the horrors of ISIS and similar groups as part of sectarian Sunni–Shi’ite feuds dating back to 15 centuries ago.
However, the “sectarian” analysis is equally defective.