Kuwait and Saudi Arabia: Who is the target?

The Arab world is living through a difficult time in its history

Mohammed Fahad al-Harthi

Published: Updated:

The Arab world is living through a difficult time in its history. Mosques are bombed during prayer; there is terrible sectarian polarization; terrorists misuse the name of Islam and call themselves a state. Some Arab lands have unfortunately become failed states and terrorism seems to be everywhere. Last Friday, there were tragedies in countries on three continents — in Kuwait, Tunisia and France. People wonder what can possibly be done and what is next.

The concept of nation states in the Arab world is weak because the understanding of citizenship is weak. Arab regimes that rose to power after independence did not succeed in instilling the idea of citizenship and consequently, they gave too much attention to the top of the political pyramid and forgot other people. They failed to realize that glorifying leaders and parties and placing a great emphasis on security would lead people to believe they were just numbers rather than citizens of a nation state.

The tragedies should push us all to be alert to the upbringing, thoughts and paths of our children

Mohammed Fahad al-Harthi

In a way, the media also contributed to glorifying leaders and maintaining the power of various regimes. The West, meanwhile, dealt with this situation in an opportunistic way. So long as its interests were met, the West chose to be blind and ignore both violations and corruption.

Human rights scarecrow

Even the human rights scarecrow was employed according to need. So when these regimes fell, Iraq was divided into three parts, Syria was split into cantons, Libya became two parts, eastern and western, and Yemen became an open field where regional bodies could exercise their power. This loosely structured internal system with only a basic educational level and no sense of belonging left citizens vulnerable to terrorist propaganda and groups as they were attracted by false promises and illusions. Poverty made people desperate and fortunes were spent on fake heroes, making them easy prey.

On the other hand, in the Gulf states, things were different. They were blessed with enormous oil wealth and political stability. The Shiites have always been a part of the Gulf’s unified and coherent social fabric in spite of ISIS’ attempts to create sectarian divisions from within. Gulf communities, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in particular, showed a great image of national unity after the recent terrorist bombings. Shiites and Sunnis showed their sense of belonging and citizenship. The funerals of the martyrs and the public mourning showed the depth of the feeling of national unity.

The puzzling question, however, is why young people are being lured into committing such terrorist attacks. Blocking the source of extremist thought is not enough; we must also look at the social structure in addition to people’s lifestyles if we are going to produce confident youth, immune to polarization. It is important to reform our youth as we consider the change that has happened in the world and the information revolution that has brought with it new parameters. For example, we can no longer say that previous generations were immune to extremism and terror. The environment has changed.


Intelligent communities practice self-criticism from time to time and look for solutions. Developing education and awarding scholarships is an important step in the new generation’s development and thinking. Young men and women must develop their personalities, be given confidence and use arts and hobbies to empower them so that they can resist terrorism.

The Gulf states are being targeted. With so much in common, a unified approach can have international influence. Last Friday’s events were surely tragedies but they should lead us all to careful thought and logical reasoning. The tragedies should push us all to be alert to the upbringing, thoughts and paths of our children. We should know what our children are doing and whose influence they may have fallen under.

This requires a review of old methods as well as open, clear and transparent discussion of issues. It will not be easy to solve the problem and we must use different ways from those which, as Albert Einstein observed, caused the problem in the first place. This will require change from the bottom of the pyramid instead of from the top.

This article was first published in Arab News on July 1, 2015.


Mohammed Fahad al-Harthi is the editor-in-chief of Sayidaty and al-Jamila magazines. A prominent journalist who worked with Asharq al-Awsat in London and Arab News in KSA, al-Harthi later moved on to establish al-Eqtisadiah newspaper in KSA, in which he rose the position of Editorial Manager. He was appointed editor-in-chief for Arajol magazine in 1997. He won the Gulf Excellence award in 1992. You can follow him on Twitter here: @mfalharthi

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.