Saudi views shifting on Islamic extremism

The following article is based on a series of reports by Al Arabiya News Channel on terrorism in Saudi Arabia.

Shounaz Meky - Al Arabiya News
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More voices are making themselves heard in Saudi Arabia, expressing their rejection of terrorism and violence by extremist groups in the name of Islam, Al Arabiya News Channel reported.

The report notes how Saudi perceptions of extremist groups has changed over the last 10 years.

Saudis rushed to denounce two recent suicide attacks against Shiite mosques in the kingdom that killed at least 25 people.

However, when there were terror attacks in 2003 and 2005, the report said Saudis were much more inclined to justify terrorism and sympathize with extremist groups than they are now.

Waheed Hamzah Hashem, associate professor of political science at King Abdulaziz University, told Al Arabiya News more Saudis from different educational and career backgrounds are voicing the rejection of extremism.

“More [Saudis] are becoming strongly opposed to any form of violence,” he said. “People increasingly hate any group that threatens the country’s stability.”

Hashem said the report’s findings correlate with surveys he had conducted with his students.

He said the results of his recent surveys showed an increase in negative perceptions of terrorism and calls for the government to eradicate it.

He said the results were very different to questionnaires had had personally conducted after terror attacks in 2003 and 2005, when his students showed “more sympathy” with extremists.

Al Arabiya’s report discussed how awareness has increased in Saudi society; prompting citizens to take part in helping authorities pursue suspects.

Some families of terror suspects sought the help of authorities to avoid the terrorism threat spinning out of control, it added.

Abdul Moneim Manshouh, head of the Sakina campaign to promote moderation, told Al Arabiya News Channel that Saudi families now feel socially responsible to protect their nation and “the minds of their sons” from extremism.

Manshouh said some families have reported their own sons to authorities after noticing a change in their behavior, programs or websites they follow, or even the way they talk or dress.

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