Saudi Arabia has arrested eight men who had been working to recruit young Saudis to join up with ISIS, Al Arabiya TV reports. It might well serve the Saudi government if, when they are tried, it relax its rules about not naming names and fully publicize its efforts to eradicate extremism within the country.
The Saudi interior ministry said Tuesday it detained eight individuals for trying to recruit youth into “extremist groups abroad.” Al Arabiya News channel that the recruits were for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
“Security authorities conducted on Monday an operation that led to the arrest of eight citizens who were involved in recruiting youth to join extremist groups abroad,” an interior ministry statement carried by the country’s Saudi Press Agency said.
Saudi Arabia has taken a tough stance against militant groups in the kingdom and has made arrests of cells with links to extremist elements in different Arab countries.
Asharq Alawsat reports that similar arrests have been made in Jordan:
A piece in the Arabic daily Okaz — here translated by its sister paper Saudi Gazette — calls attention to the widely disparate verdicts given out by Saudi courts. Three crimes, ranging from ‘celebrating Valentine’s Day’ to child rape, with support for terrorism in between, led to sentences ranging from one to 15 years, but not as you might expect, given the severity of the crimes.
This is nonsense, the writer says. Worse than the injustice meted out to the perpetrators, it calls the entire legal system into disrepute. The problem was supposed to be addressed starting 12 years ago, when the Council of Ministers called for documenting cases and verdicts and to make them known across the land. It hasn’t happened, clearly. And until it is done and until uniformity is required across the courts, the parody of law will just continue.
Confusing court rulings
Mishal Al-Sudairy | Okaz
I LEAVE it to the discretion of the reader to make their own mind up about three court verdicts issued by judges in different areas of the Kingdom.
These rulings, in my mind, amount to nothing more than black comedy.
The first judge was in Buraidah, Qassim province. He sentenced three young men who celebrated Valentine’s Day to prison terms from eight to 15 years. He also ruled that each of them be given 800 lashes.
The second judge was in Riyadh. He sentenced four defendants from four to 34 months in prison and banned them from traveling abroad after they served their prison terms. They were convicted of issuing forged passports to Saudi citizens to enable them to go out and join the fighting in Syria and Iraq.
The third judge was in Taif. He sentenced an Afghan expatriate to one year in prison, fined him SR1,000 and gave him 50 lashes. The man was convicted of dragging children out of their homes to sodomize them. He was also filming them.
Saudi Gazette reports that members of Saudi Arabia’s Shoura Council — the quasi-parliament — are dissatisfied with their lack of political power. The issue at hand is the Saudi budget. The Council is permitted to review it, but cannot make changes; at most, it can offer recommendations.
This is insufficient, several members say. The Council needs to be able to supervise and to legislate.
They are, indeed, correct, but I don’t see it happening any time soon.
Shoura members dismiss budget debate as pointless
Saudi Gazette report
RIYADH — A number of Shoura Council members have objected to calls by some of their colleagues to discuss the general budget before it is approved by the government.
They told Al-Watan newspaper that it was pointless to present the general budget to the council since it has no powers to make amendments.
Abdullah Al-Shuwaihat, one of the members, said rather than focusing on the issue of tabling the general budget, the focus should be on giving the council more powers to enable it to perform its legislative and supervisory role.
He said he regretted the council has no powers to be a real parliament representing the people and supervising the performance of executive bodies.
Saudi Arabia’s Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice is crying “Foul!” over a video clip that has been appearing on various social media sites. The clip purports to show a member of the Commission uttering threats against blackmailers and homosexuals while presenting himself as a member of the vice police. His is not a part of the Commission but an imposter, authorities say, and they are determined to find out who he is and to punish him.
It is not terribly difficult to make fake news. Some allege that “Pallywood” is a manifestation of this, but we have all seen mock news articles. Unfortunately, some of these get taken up by reputable media — with less than wonderful fact-checking — and become part of “what we all know.”
The Saudi Gazette article here quotes a Shoura Council member as saying that social media sites should not be shut down as they are not the problem. The problem is with those who would abuse it.
Haia distances itself from viral video
Saudi Gazette report
DAMMAM — The Presidency for the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (the Haia) said the man who recently appeared in a video clip beside one of the Haia’s vehicles and launched a wave of threats against homosexuals and those who blackmail young women is not one of its personnel.
The Haia described the man as an impostor, Al-Hayat daily said.
The Haia, through its spokesman Turki Al-Shelayyil, also said it will investigate and punish the person who arranged for the man to shoot video clips next to the Haia’s vehicle. If he is convicted of impersonation, he will be imprisoned for 10 years or be fined or both.
The video clip elicited a response from the commission’s presidency as it contained words and insinuations that violate the regulations and policies of the Haia, specifically the principle of “promoting virtue and preventing vice”.
In the video, a man whose appearance indicates that he is a Haia member stands next to a vehicle belonging to the commission. He subsequently makes numerous threats, something that prompted the commission to find out his true identity so appropriate action can be taken against him.
Asharq Alawsat runs an interesting piece from the Associated Press on how a campaign of the war with IS is taking place in social media. Social media platforms like Twitter and YouTube are taking down the graphic images of the murder of American journalist James Foley. The platforms do not wish to be engaged — or to be used — as part of IS’s propaganda.
This raises issue itself, however. Not only is there a form of self-censorship going on (not that that is all bad), but publicizing that you will not publicize something is, in fact, publicizing it.
The article notes that IS is far more sophisticated in its use of media than were the Taliban in Afghanistan, who had a visceral dislike of media, particularly electronic media. The current group, perhaps aided by volunteers from the technologically-advanced West, are taking the conflict to new and wider levels.
Beirut, AP—The extremists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have turned their social media into a theater of horror, broadcasting a stream of battles, bombings and beheadings to a global audience.
The strategy is aimed at terrorizing opponents at home and winning recruits abroad. But there are increasing signs of pushback—both from companies swiftly censoring objectionable content and users determined not to let it go viral.
Public disgust with the group’s callous propaganda tactics was evident following their posting of the beheading video of American journalist James Foley—footage that spread rapidly when it appeared online late Tuesday.
The slickly edited video begins with scenes of Obama explaining his decision to order airstrikes in Iraq, before switching to Foley in an orange jumpsuit kneeling in the desert, a black-clad ISIS fighter by his side.
The fighter who beheads Foley is then seen holding another US journalist, Steven Sotloff, threatening to kill him next. “The life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision,” he says.
By Wednesday, many social media users were urging each other not to post the video as a form of protest.
Phillip Smyth, a University of Maryland researcher who tracks the social media activity of jihadists, has noted a modest but noteworthy rise in the speed with which rogue accounts are being removed from Twitter and terror-supporting pages are being pulled from Facebook.
“It’s happening,” he said. “I can tell you first-hand because I look at this stuff every day.”
In its ongoing efforts to reform its legal system, Saudi Arabia is opening the first of a set of specialized courts that will deal with less complicated legal issues that are overseen by judges with particular focus on those issues. At present, any matter can go before any judge. With a lack of codification of laws and reliant on the knowledge (and preferences) of individual judges, this can lead to unfair decisions as well as those that linger in the courts for inordinate lengths of time.
More specialized courts are planned to address labor and commerce as well as one to deal with seeing to the actual implementation of court decisions.
Justice Minister Muhammed Al-Issa has launched a system of fast disposal of legal cases at the Social Status Court (SSC) in Riyadh.
“The system of making decisions in a single sitting on cases that do not require detailed study has been implemented in the Social Status Court in Riyadh. The system will be extended to other courts gradually,” Al-Issa, who is also chairman of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC), said while inaugurating a system of special courts, including courts for commercial and labor disputes and courts for implementation of verdicts issued by other courts.
The new special courts will take away the existing huge burden on general courts as all cases will be classified according to their topics and then transferred to special independent courts, the minister said.
The move will also speed up the decision-making process in each court, as a court will look into issues of a particular category only, a local Arabic daily reported on Wednesday.
Saudi Arabia makes its condemnation of the Islamic State complete with a statement from Grand Mufti Sheikh Abudulaziz Aal-Alsheikh. The government has already placed the group on its list of terrorist organizations and has promised to punish those found supporting it. It has followed through on that promise by firing imams and jailing Saudis who return to the country after fighting alongside the group in Syria and Iraq. The country has also warned those who offer support — financial or other — to the extremist group.
Grand Mufti: IS is Islam’s ‘enemy No. 1’
Saudi Gazette report
RIYADH — Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Aal Alsheikh on Tuesday blasted Al-Qaeda and Islamic State militants as “enemy number one” of Islam.
“The ideas of extremism, radicalism and terrorism… have nothing to do with Islam and (their proponents) are the enemy number one of Islam,” the Kingdom’s top scholar said in a statement issued here on Tuesday.
He cited militants from the Islamic State, which has declared a “caliphate” straddling large parts of Iraq and Syria, and the international Al-Qaeda terror network.
“Muslims are the main victims of this extremism, as shown by crimes committed by the so-called Islamic State, Al-Qaeda and groups linked to them,” the grand mufti said, quoting a verse from the Holy Qur’an urging the “killing” of people who do deeds harmful to Islam, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said.
Alsheikh’s stance reflects the growing international hostility toward Islamic State militants, known for their brutality.
I don’t know whether there’s been a new rash of objectionable materials or that the volume of existing materials has reached a peak, but Saudi Arabia’s Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice is asking for the Ministry of Interior to make more arrests for blasphemy.
Saudi Gazette reports that the Commission is seeking to have more websites blocked and more action taken against those on social media who are “distorting” Islam in various ways. Pornography, of course, remains a big issue as the government, with its filters operated by the Communication & Information Technology Commission (CITC) can only do so much. A blocked site can change its address almost as quickly as the CITC can block them. Those Saudis with a modicum of computer savvy can find their way around the filters and blocks with ease.
Haia asks ministry to arrest blasphemers
Saudi Gazette report
RIYADH — The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (Haia) has asked the Ministry of Interior to arrest those who insult Almighty Allah or the Prophet (peace be upon him), Makkah daily reported.
The Haia said it is coordinating with the Communication and Information Technology Commission (CITC) to block pornographic websites and others that insult the Muslim faith.
The commission said this coordination resulted in a large number of websites being blocked.
The commission said it is preparing reports on a number of programs, applications and copies of the Holy Qur’an whose verses have been distorted. It is coordinating with the authorities to prevent the circulation of such material, the Haia said.
Asharq Alawsat reports that Saudi Arabia is fully backing a UN resolution that attacks the funding of ISIS and the Al-Nusra Front. The resolution names six individuals to be blacklisted, including two Saudi nationals. Both already appear on Saudi Arabia’s list of “most-wanted” criminals.
Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—Saudi Arabia committed to implementing a UN Security Resolution targeting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the Al-Nusra Front on Friday, after the measure blacklisted two Saudi nationals.
Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the UN, Abdullah Al-Maulamy, told Asharq Al-Awsat the Kingdom was always in agreement with the “international legitimacy” of the Council and its decrees, and that the latest resolution was being studied closely so that “decisions could be made in light of them.”
The Security Council unanimously adopted a UK-drafted resolution on Friday designed to attack the sources of funding for both groups, blacklisting six individuals believed to be associated with the groups and freezing their assets.
Two of the six individuals, Abdul-Mohsen Abdullah Ibrahim Al-Sharekh and Abdulrahman Mohamed Zafir Al-Dabidi Al-Jahani—both accused of links to the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front group currently active in Syria—were Saudi nationals.
Who represents the greatest threat to Muslims today? It’s not the US. It’s not Israel. It’s other Muslims, argues Azeem Ibrahim, of the US Army War College, at Al Arabiya TV.
Killing Muslims in the name of Islam is perverse. Religion is being used as a cloak for what is actually “ethnic, social, sectarian and/or tribal cleansing,” he says. Again, an article worth reading in full.
What is the greatest global threat to Muslims?
Dr. Azeem Ibrahim
Who is responsible for the greatest numbers of deaths against Muslims today? Who commits the worst atrocities against Muslims? It is not the West that claims the highest headcount nor is it Israel. The sad truth is that today Muslims kill the most Muslims around the world.
Since the beginning of the Arab Spring in late 2010, more than 100,000 have been killed. Many of these deaths were in Syria, where thousands more languish in prisons expecting similarly grim fates. And with the rise of ISIS and the threat that it poses to regional stability, many more are expected to die.
Most of the fighters are killing “infidels”. Most of the those dying are allegedly “infidels”. Almost always, that means that they are the wrong kind of Muslim to the other Muslim holding the gun. Whether they are fighters or civilians, the sin of those dying is in many cases simply being Sunni rather than Shiite, or Shiite rather than Sunni. And woe betides any smaller minorities caught in the middle.
Writing at Al Arabiya TV, Hisham Melhem finds the origin of extremist groups like ISIS to be in the Arab penchant for “conspiracy theories, delusions, self-deception, paranoia and xenophobia.” Undemocratic societies, where government seek to control the flow of information, leave vacuums which people will seek to fill. They end up filling them with nonsense, with anger, with paranoia.
It’s worth reading his column in full. He does a good job of pointing out the various zany theories that are rippling across not only the Arab world, but the world at large. And it’s scary.
Most people are averse to introspection, and rarely engage in self-criticism. Arabs are no different. However, the political culture that developed in the Arab World in the last 60 years, particularly in countries ruled by autocratic regimes, shifted blame from their catastrophic failures in governance to other external, sinister forces. For these countries, self-criticism has become next to impossible.
Over time, this legacy has created fertile terrain for conspiracy theories, delusions, self-deception, paranoia and xenophobia. If you read an Arab newspaper or many a website in the region, you will invariably encounter some of these symptoms. Admittedly, sometimes they can be entertaining, but in most cases they are downright ugly, reflecting deep pathologies of fear.
A Saudi imam has received an 8-year jail sentence, a travel ban of 10 years following his jail term, and is banned for life from preaching sermons, Saudi Gazette reports. The unnamed imam was convicted of spreading sedition and sowing sectarian dissent.
RIYADH — The Summary Court in Riyadh has sentenced a 52-year-old Saudi mosque imam to eight years and banned him from traveling outside for 10 years after serving his jail term. He was also prevented from delivering sermons for life. The court said in its verdict that the accused had shown disobedience to the country’s ruler, tried to seed sectarian dissension undermining the national unity and attacking renowned Muslim scholars. Both the defendant and the General Attorney objected to the ruling and have been asked to appeal within 30 days. He said the prison term would be counted from the day hewas arrested in 2011.