Saudi Arabia is making its negative stance toward IS and other extremist groups clear. In Arab News, there’s a report about the sentencing of a cleric who preached support as well as provided monetary support for jihadists. He received a five-year jail sentence and travel ban.
Riyadh’s special criminal court has sentenced a Saudi preacher to five years in prison for praising and supporting terrorist groups, such as the Islamic State (IS), during an Eid sermon at a local mosque in Riyadh in August 2013.
The defendant was also slapped with a five-year travel ban. The defendant was convicted of using Friday sermons to provoke and encourage dissidence, while glorifying terrorist groups and extremist ideas propagated by Al-Qaeda terrorists.
He was also convicted of financially supporting terrorism with more than SR1 million and harboring wanted terrorists. The defendant had previously received a letter from the Ministry of Islamic Affairs ordering him to stop delivering sermons at the mosque.
Saudi Gazette reports on the disquiet following the discovery of pro-ISIS graffiti on the walls of schools in eastern Riyadh. The article suggests that this is vandalism, but also that there is concern that the group’s appeal to young men is something to watch.
IS slogan found on school walls in Riyadh
Saudi Gazette report
RIYADH — The residents of Al-Naseem neighborhood, east Riyadh, were shocked when they saw the slogans of Islamic State (IS) on the walls of some schools, Al-Hayat daily reported.
A number of residents who spoke on condition of anonymity said they suspect that a group of young men were behind it.
The young men did not look religious but used to stay up till late on the streets near the schools, the residents said.
Sulaiman Al-Battah, sociologist, blamed social media for publishing inaccurate news reports and deviant ideas.
An interesting paper (5-page PDF) on how ISIS, Al-Qaeda and its spin-offs, and other extremist groups make use of social media to promote their messages and to recruit new members. The report is from the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Response to Terrorism.
The innovative ways that foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq are leveraging social media and mobile apps to recruit aspirational supporters in the West reveal what is actually a paradigm shift occurring within the global jihadist movement, away from the organization-centric model advanced by Al-Qaida, to a movement unhindered by organizational structures. Counterterrorism policy and practice must rethink the way it approaches countering online radicalization.
An article in Arab News points to the lamentable waste of energy — particularly electricity — by Saudis. While Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s top energy producers, it is also one of its top consumers. Saudis are using as much natural gas as they are producing, the piece says. It is also using petroleum at a higher-than-sustainable rate. Most of the energy used is in the form of electricity to run desalination plants, domestic use, and industrial use. Transportation and industry use petroleum and its byproducts. According to the article, Saudis use, per capita, the equivalent of 40 barrels of oil per year.
Solar energy production is needed to help fill the demand, as well as finding new sources from which to import natural gas.
Energy waste costs local economy SR135bn annually
JUBAIL: SULTAN AL-SUGHAI
Although the Kingdom has the largest oil reserves in the world and occupies the fifth place in terms of natural gas reserves, yet according to a report by oil specialist the Kingdom faces many challenges as a result of a number of different factors, including its need to meet the requirements of development.
Oil and gas being non-renewable resources, the Kingdom requires the ideal utilization of these resources to diversify the economic base, provide new sources of income and achieve sustainable progression.
According to the report issued by the Kuwaiti Diplomatic Center, the Kingdom’s annual rate of energy consumption exceeded 5 percent while the economic growth rate reached 4 percent.
The total of energy consumption accumulated to what equals 3.8 million oil barrels per day considering the apparent disparity in consumption rates during different seasons of the year.
Statistics show that rate of consumption will reach 8.4 million oil barrels if the issue is not dealt with properly.
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.