How Saudi Arabia can combat the sectarian divide

It is critical at this stage to support the nationwide awareness campaign to combat sectarianism and extremism.

By SAMAR FATANY
June 2, 2015 09:42
4 minute read.
Saudi King Salman

Saudi King Salman . (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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It is critical at this stage to support the nationwide awareness campaign to combat sectarianism and extremism. Our society is greatly divided and continues to be burdened with intolerance and ultra-conservatism. Our national security remains at risk.

Sectarianism, extremism, racism and intolerance have polluted the minds of our youth and have influenced the opinions of vulnerable people who do not have enough knowledge to distinguish right from wrong. Society continues to be divided into two camps: the ultra-conservatives who reject modernity, and the progressive individuals who wish to accelerate reforms.

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The government has waited too long to address the problem. Unfortunately, the inflammatory rhetoric in our media has also contributed to the spread of intolerance. Opinion leaders must now rise to the occasion and lead a constructive debate to influence change and unite the nation. The government should continue to take a strong stand against hardliners who attempt to impose their radical views on the whole of society.

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Radical Islamists in our society do not recognize any basic human rights and are keen to preserve the status quo of extremism and intolerance. The government should take immediate action to denounce all of those who distort the minds and ideas of young people and spread hatred against the followers of different religious sects. We must not allow such fanatic ideology to reshape the common religious mindset of our youth and threaten our national unity.

Meanwhile, Saudi political analysts stress the need for more educated and experienced lawmakers who are innovative and can come up with more constructive policies to reform the education sector. Social scientists conclude that some extremist teachers have misguided our youth with a jihadi militant ideology that has rejected other cultures and people who do not subscribe to their views. The government is called upon to scrutinize the performance of educators and the roles of officials in the field. Academic experts should be consulted to identify the shortcomings and failures in this important sector that determines the future of our youth.

Islamist militants and radical jihadists are a threat to all Muslims and are the real enemies of Islam. More and more militants from around the world have taken up arms to conquer Arab and Muslim lands. The silent majority of Muslims should not remain silent any longer; they need to stay vigilant to confront the enemy within and the evil instigators without who are out to destroy the peace and harmony of the Muslim world.

Saudi scholars of different sects and ideologies must promote the genuine message of Islamic tolerance. They need to come up with a stronger narrative to curb the spread of militant Islam and negate its anti-Islamic views.

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Sadly Shariah experts today remain greatly divided. It is heartbreaking to watch Muslims in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen today remain in conflict and continue a bloodbath that seems to have no end. These militants subscribe to a radical ideology and an agenda that is destructive and evil.

We must unite to face this threat, which is spreading all over the Muslim world. Al-Qaida, Islamic State, Boko Haram, al-Shabaab, the Taliban and other terrorist organizations create dissent and chaos wherever they go. Unfortunately, Muslim societies have failed to promote people with leadership qualities, who are charismatic, wise, competent and above all have the moral integrity to confront the threatening conflicts of our time.

Hopefully, the emergence of moderate Saudi voices in the Council of Senior Ulema (CSU) and the various imams who openly denounce the jihadist ideology and extremism can influence change and promote moderation, tolerance and peaceful coexistence. The impact of these rejectionist voices who have maintained an ultraconservative interpretation that divides the world into Muslim and non-Muslim and reject other sects within Islam remain a major threat in Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Muslim world.

Today, our country can no longer afford to rely on incompetent officials and legislators who are not progressive and lack the wisdom to enact laws that can serve our political, economic and social needs. Our laws are also weak because of poor implementation and wrong strategies. The rule of law is fundamental to justice and without it only chaos and ignorance will prevail. Religious strife must be eliminated before it does further harm and destroys the social fabric of our society. There is no time to waste; the danger is real, our homeland security is under threat.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on May 30, 2015.

The author is a chief broadcaster in the English section at Jeddah Broadcasting Station. Over the past 28 years, she has introduced many news, cultural and religious programs and has conducted several interviews with official delegations and prominent political personalities visiting the kingdom. Fatany has made significant contributions in the fields of public relations and social awareness in Saudi Arabia and has been involved in activities aiming at fighting extremism and enhancing women’s role in society. She has published three books: Saudi Perceptions & Western Misconceptions, Saudi Women Towards a New Era and Saudi Challenges & Reforms. This article originally appeared at Al-Arabiya.
  

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