Pursuing ISIS and appeasing intellect

Society has been discussing extremism for 20 years now, and demanded fighting it for years

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

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“What do you expect from your children? To become pianists?!” This is how one Twitter user commented on Saudi condemnation of twin brothers murdering their parents because they considered them infidels.

The murder shocked a society that sanctifies family ties and puts parents before anyone else. What happened to our children? Everyone is asking this since attacks on relatives in the name of religion have increased.

All these crimes are linked to the ideology of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which is communicated via the internet. Society was greatly shocked, but in the past it used to consider such incidents an exception, or describe the criminal children as mentally unstable. Official statements settled with describing them as “astray.”


Shocking incidents continued to occur until we realized that those promoting ISIS’s ideology, and before it al-Qaeda’s, succeeded in infiltrating difficult social circles, such as women’s societies in Saudi Arabia.

Many families were shocked when their daughters or wives fled to Yemen or Syria. Many women were caught at airports trying to flee. Saudi courts tried women who were arrested for involvement in terror acts – some succeeded in traveling and accompanying fighters in Iraq and Syria.

Marketing moderate Islam is more important than pursuing ISIS supporters who find fertile soil in closed societies

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

ISIS’s ideology found its way into a closed society, and called on sons to kill their parents because they were not performing their religious duties right. It called on military men to rebel against their leaders by convincing them that the government is infidel. Even the mufti, the country’s top cleric, was listed as a target.

How did they succeed in making a young man think of killing his parents for religious reasons, or convince a woman who thinks driving and leaving the house is prohibited to fight in Syria? This is a natural result of extremist intellect that works in the shadows.

Society has been discussing extremism for 20 years now, and demanded fighting it for years, but why has it failed? We must differentiate between two activities: fighting extremist intellect linked to terrorism (which has greatly succeeded), and fighting extremist intellect in general (which has greatly failed).


There are no more calls for jihad in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Chechnya and elsewhere due to security crackdowns. The collection of funds to support extremist organizations or groups embracing them has stopped, as have donations to these groups due to strict official supervision.

This is why a Saudi extremist tweeted: “I hope our clerics open bank accounts in Kuwait and inform people of the accounts’ information [so they can transfer money] since Kuwait is better than the country of the two holy mosques or the kingdom of humanity!”

His comment shows how extremists are angry due to the siege imposed on their practices, which are crimes punishable by law in Saudi Arabia. Kuwait, however, was late in pursuing suspicious donations, and is still delinquent in fighting extremist groups that collect funds and call for jihad.

Three categories are being pursued, and not just in Saudi Arabia: instigators, donors and volunteers to fight. This pursuit has greatly succeeded after amending systems, criminalizing such acts and establishing specialized courts to try and punish those violating these new laws. News of these trials is reported almost every day.

What remains is general extremist intellect, which says nothing about jihad and donations but speaks of sanctifying preachers, makes people hate life, makes Muslims feel disobedient and guilty, attempts to incite them against each other, and makes hating others a condition of faith.


It is impossible to issue laws and punishments against bad morals. However, it is possible to support a project that is an alternative to extremism, such as enlightening, moderate and tolerant Islam, so it becomes the only one followed and taught in the state and society. Without restoring the hijacked religion of Islam, it will be easy for ISIS to recruit children and old men as long as their ideologies have been based on extremist thoughts.

Marketing moderate Islam is more important than pursuing ISIS supporters who find fertile soil in closed societies. They have managed to brainwash children and turn them against their parents, and to brainwash employees against their own state.

The only cure is to adopt moderation, without which there will come a time when prisons will not be able to accommodate all murderers and extremists, and when penalties will not deter them or protect their families, societies, country and the world from their evil acts.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on June 29, 2016.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed

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