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.