How to Feed Extremism?

barrakAbdul-Rahman al-Barrak is a cleric who can be described as “extreme” but that I guess would be a nice way to put it. Earlier this week he released a fatwa against two columnists in Al Riyadh newspaper saying they should be tried for apostasy for their “heretical articles” and put to death if they don’t repent. Abullah bin Bejad and Yousef Abal-Khail, the two writers, are understandably terrified. Bin Bejad asked the government to protect him, and Abal-Khail said if this was allowed to pass, “it will be chaos.”

This incident is disturbing and sickening, but it is nothing new for extremists in this country to try to intimidate and terrorize those who have different views of religion, society or any other matter in life. They have done it in the past with intellectuals like Turky Al Hamad and others, and luckily no one got killed, at least till now.

However, what is more worrying to me is the fact that the likes of Abdul-Rahman al-Barrak and Nasser al-Omar are still able to get away with fatawa like this one. Al-Barrak in his most recent fatwa said the government should hold the newspapers and publishers to account, when in fact he is the one whom the government should hold to account for his calls to hate and violence.

Moreover, I believe that the official religious establishment, as the highest religious authority in the country, should take a clear position on this issue, and if they are not willing to do that because, as I may expect, some of them might agree with the fatwa, those who belong to the establishment and disagree with the fatwa should denounce and reject it.

I can imagine that neither the government nor the official religious establishment would speak out on this issue, but if they fail to address this properly then they should stop whining about extremism and how terrorists are simply a “misguided group.” It is this kind of dangerous messages that feed extremism and donate fuel to terrorists to continue their lethal destructive acts. Keeping silent and later blaming “external influences” for what happens here will be a hard sell, and hey, I got some news for you, we are not stupid. No more.

20 thoughts on “How to Feed Extremism?

  1. This extreme sensitivity to our so-called stanch beliefs is becoming an epidemic now. The slightest remark that can be construed ( or misconstrued ) as an offence, calls for severe action and reciprocation in return. This is not exactly the sort of approach that has the potential to cause world peace.

  2. I do agree these extremist should defiantly be controlled, however we should not cease their existence or in other words forcefully silence them. After all in a free world you can choose to be anything you want… ;)

    Micheal, “to our so-called”, our! Who are you? This is not about the west!! It’s a shame that a person who writes as well as you do is so self-centered.

    SaudiJeans, you are right “We are not stupid. No more.” but you are still ugly… lol couldn’t help it :D

  3. Thank you saudiJeans for informing us about this matter.. i think the likes of Al Barrak days are coming to an end (for our sake i hope so anyhow!) but i think the more these issue are brought to light the more people are aware of the ‘extremist’ like of Al Barrak and the so called religious establishment that represent “barbaric” views such as these…

  4. members of religious establishments, clerics and self acclaimed mutawa’een represent a group of tribal-oriented networks that promote their own interpretation of religion which in many cases serve particular socio-, religio-, tribal-, and class-oriented purposes.. this can be evident to the close observer of their discourse and attitude.. their influence has infiltrated many governmental ministries and other governing bodies from the Ministry of Health to the Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice.. prominent religious figures have a prestige to maintain among their tribes, followers and admirers.. therefore, in my belief, i highly doubt that al-barrak will withdraw his fatwa mainly because a withdrawal will not only represent a perceived religious defeat but he also has a virtuous image to maintain..

  5. you have stated in a forthright manner things which the thoughtful know to be true, but which many are unprepared to say.

    in america, a couple of centuries ago, there was a brave man named thomas paine who said what others were thinking and who had the strength of character to give voice to the voiceless. you remind me of him.

  6. Hi, I have been reading you blog for a while now, and this one got me thinking, aren’t you ever worried that someone might try to do something to you?

  7. Dude, how are you to talk about Sheik Nasser Al Omar, and Abdulrahman Al Barrak like that?

    Freedom of speech is ok, but the are lines which journalists have to respect!!

    When it comes to religious matters, people like Abullah bin Bejad and Yousef Abal-Khail HAVE to understand that!

    WHEN YOU GET SICK YOU GO TO A DOCTOR NOT A MECHANIC!!! Dunc, in religious matters we go to scholars not nobodies like dropout unsuccessful writers!!

    why can they write about other important issues?

  8. Moe,
    I was thinking your exact thought, but laughing at how people who produce such farwa’s are very old mentality and in a disconnect with the outside world: internet to be sure. So, younger generation who might be blindedly in faith of the older ones, but (eg.) have knowledge of the internet would simply inherit the views and upgrade the tools.
    One way to hold a blogger accountable, and make a fatwa on him, is to have the younger ones go the cleric and whisper this and that this and that, until the cleric (trusty of his followers) makes a judgement based on their gossip(!)

    It is very sad that in a modern society, a cleric would still (think) and (say) such fatwas. I think one way to treat such fatwa’s made by old-school clerics is to have a group of (trust-worthy) as well as (gov’t officials) go to Mufti’s of that sort and enlighten them about the entire situation and acquire a contradictory fatwa from them. Meaning, tell them in more detail what the people they have asked to be terminated are, their contributions, and what wrong it is to say this and that about them. It is a sensitive balance, at this stage in SA especially, how to convince without upsetting, and lead in one direction (modernization) without it being so apparent and thus immediatly rejected by old schools.

    If such fatwa’s remain in the air, untreated, I’ll have to agree wtih Ahmed: 1) that means extremism is tolerated by the gov’t. or 2) the gov’t has some (not necessarily religious issues) with the people whom the muft’s were allowed to offend.

  9. I have been lurking here for close to two months now, and I just wanted to pop my head in to commend you for your bravery, and for letting the rest of the world know just what it means to live in a country where there is only one view of life, that which the state and religious leaders dictate it to be.

    living here in the US, one can get far too complacent at times. We are indeed fortunate that we live in a place where freedom of speech is protected, (even with the occasional burps from the extreme right wing political elements here.) and where one can express views against the government without the fear of being hauled off to be tortured, at least for the average guy on the street.

    I don’t believe that I am qualified to comment on the political situation in your country, but, I will continue to read with interest, and hopefully become more educated. My best to you, and keep up the fight for freedom of speech. I hope you won’t mind the occasional question, even if it seems a little naive at times.

  10. First of all cograts. to Saudi Jeans for having the courage to tackle ‘hot topics’ – it takes a lot of courage especially under oppressive circumstances.

    Lovely to see a strongly worded statement from King Abdullah on the matter of criticism – a not so thinly veiled ‘slap on the wrist’ to Al-Barrak. Neither the Kingdom nor Islam needs people spreading this type of hatred. Al-Barrak is entitled to his opinion but calling for the death of two journalists with who you do not agree is simply wrong. Progress in the Kingdom is slow – but it is continuing – mostly because as was stated earlier – as a people the Saudis are ‘not stupid’.

  11. to mr nighttime:
    barak obama’s firing of his long-time pastor jeremiah wright is a clear indicator of the direction of the possible future government of the united states.. a country where media and so-called free speech are also controlled by (personal) interest no matter who governs.. and whats discussed under the rubric of socio-political critique or freedom of speech will always be manipulized by controllers of the political arena in almost everywhere in the world which makes the notion of free speech very difficult to operationalize.. that is why the relationship between “free” and “speech” will always remain a pernicious dichotomy and so long as the likes of jeremiah wright and dr sami al-arian (for example) are selectively penalized for their beliefs by upholders of the discriminatory and dogmatic status quo..

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  13. I like all what you are all saying… this is truly the best rational group of people I ever found on the Net, strangely this is found only in English and not in Arabic!!?
    Are we trying to convince our selves or the western world that we are doing something about it? We need to do more… Well, this is not the place to do it, Go there, use Arabic, write using the language they understand… although it is not a simple task… do not fear when they threat because this is their only answer to contradictions of our life or our role and our relation with other humans, I tried myself and found out that the mentality is way to hard to change only by myself, this is after all these years of brainwashing from our clerks and religious institutions. You should see how many Blogs are there in Arabic that advertise hatred and Extremism mantling with the minds of our young generation, they already created confused weak young people that couldn’t stand against dangers of this century.

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  15. Terrorist shmerrorist. Please. They don’t care about that. They only pretend. “Terrorism” is just a fashionable word right now. It is code for “distract people from everything they SHOULD be paying attention to.”
    Not that there aren’t extremist, as you have demonstrated. It’s just that I don’t think the government is truly committed to eradicating them.

  16. Reem, I just happened to read your comment and I’d like to make a small note: Barack Obama did not fire reverend Wright. It is not even in his power to do so. And any way, reverend Wright is retired.
    What Senator Obama has done, is reject the controversial statements made by the reverend. Which is completely understandable. He’s not going to win the election by agreeing with Jeremiah Wright’s “God damn America.”, even if he agrees with it, and I’m sure he doesn’t.
    Sen Obama gave a great speech on the matter, btw:


  17. Having been to Saudi Arabia myself a few times, i completely now understand your situations there. I trust the new younger generation will make things straight at some point in time and help with reform and other problems as such. Honestly the best part of Saudi Arabia are the people of Saudi Arabia, people who’s life and image are seriously affected by the likes of Al-Barrak.

  18. The extremist media has concealed the real extremists. For example israel can slaughter the civilian population in Gaza. But the Palestinian children fighting back with stones are extremists and terrorists. The American view is that people can explode bombs for promoting the american defined democracy, but not for Shariah laws. Indeed we live in paradoxical world. The so called Saudi scholars will support any group that issues one side condemnation of terrorism, but the same scholars will remain silent on the Anglo-US terrorism in Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen. What the West does simple modern day oil piracy. Muslims want a world that is free from all types of terrorism coming from individuals, groups, political parties and STATES. The Saudi scholars call for the stopping of the actions of the non-State actors while they justify State terrorism carried out through illegal invasion and disproportionate slaughter of civilians. Call for a nuclear free world not just a nuclear free Iran.

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