Establishing the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology – named “Etidal” or “moderation” – marks the beginning of institutionilzation of an approach to tackle ideology-based violence and terrorism.
Murders have been the eventual result of activities which have been either carried out by individuals or groups that are sometimes embraced by certain social categories. Sometimes these groups are well-structured within a hierarchal party.
They all normalize extremist ideology and transform it into a coherent system with general guidelines that are based on evidence. They also have arguments and justifications to respond to any criticism.
A difficult mission
Etidal’s task is complicated and difficult because it will not work on criticizing the terrorists but on critiquing the ideology of their founding fathers. The center will look into reference books and texts which have been surrounded with a halo of sanctity. Many have been afraid of looking into these texts and blowing the dust off them out of fear of being accused of atheism or heresy or apostasy.
Extremist ideology lies in the subconscious of a category in different societies – not just in Saudi Arabia but also in many Arab and Muslim countries and even in Muslim communities in Europe and America. This explains why hotbeds of terrorism are present in Europe. UAE’s foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed noted this when he criticized the adopted policies towards “fundamentalists” who come from Europe to take up arms and fight in conflict zones like Syria, Iraq and Libya.
Etidal’s tasks must not be limited to following up on what’s published on social media networks and efforts must be made toward critiquing the founding references of extremist ideologiesHassan Al Mustafa
It’s true that the absence of social justice, the lack of job opportunities, the increase in unemployment rates, despair and frustration and other economic, social and political factors in some countries are major reasons behind the emergence of the terrorism phenomenon.
Targeting ideological foundations
However the extremist ideology which a big number of preachers spread via satellite television channels, social media networks and lectures is what supports violence and helps it rise and transforms anger from a mere individual feeling into a violent act against other people!
Etidal’s tasks will be monitoring, analyzing and interacting via highly-advanced technologies. This is of great significance but these tasks must not be limited to following up on what’s published on social media networks but there must be bravery when critiquing the founding references of extremist ideology.
This reference must be disliked regardless of which Islamic sect or political or ideological movement it belongs to. Any selectivity while criticizing extremism will lead to tolerance with a certain type of violence at the expense of the violence opposing it.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Hassan AlMustafa is Saudi journalist with interest in middle east and Gulf politics. His writing focuses on social media, Arab youth affairs and Middle Eastern societal matters. His twitter handle is @halmustafa.