Arab Liberals, Secularists Are Facing Jiha

March 18, 2010

The Extremists Urge Jihad against All Those Who Oppose Their Views, Calling Them "Muslims in Name Only"

"Two weeks ago [Sheikh Nasser bin Suleiman Al-'Omar] delivered a fervent address to an audience of his followers and supporters, one all too similar to an inflammatory religious sermon. The renowned sheikh is considered one of the [great] Muslim preachers. He is among the prominent leaders of the Islamic awakening movement, holds the titles 'sheikh' and 'doctor,' and runs the religious Al-Moslim website []. [In his address] he urged the impassioned youth [present] to raise a jihad against the secularists and liberals in their own countries instead of joining the jihad in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sheikh Dr. [Al-'Omar] said, 'Young people come to me, yearning to set out for Afghanistan or Iraq to join the jihad for the sake of Allah. I tell them: 'Although these countries are indeed lands of jihad... do not go there to wage jihad.' And so what will these youths, so impassioned by his jihadi sermon, do now...? How will they vent this [yearning]?

"[Don't worry, for] the sheikh does not leave his followers in suspense. He wastes no time in directing them to a superior alternative, which he calls 'the greatest jihad,' saying: 'Jihad is right here before you: jihad against the secularists and liberals, who are Muslims in name only.' [In response to the question of] how the youth are to carry out this jihad against the secularists and liberals, Sheikh Dr. [Al-'Omar] replies: 'Each according to his strength and ability'. Which is to say that all possibilities are open to the youth, from jihad through the written word to a jihad of invective, diatribe, and accusations of treason, and also jihad by the sword.

"[As for the identity of] these secularists and liberals, these Muslims in name only, whom Sheikh Dr. [Al-'Omar] refers to in his address, they are any - especially those outside of Saudi Arabia - who stand opposed to the sheikh and his ideological, political, and social platform. They are the intellectuals, philosophers, members of the media, and the free-thinking authors who challenge the allegations of the extremists. They are those who call for conciliatory religious discourse among [Muslims] and with the outside world. Those who encourage openness towards contemporary cultures, defend general freedoms, and support women's rights, including [their right to attain] positions or leadership... They are those who demand changes in religious curricula, a renewal of religious discourse, and the moderation of [preaching] in mosques in order to prevent them from becoming political stages for campaigns of incitement against anyone who is different. They are those who stand against the religious violence that has spread throughout the region, and who challenge flawed religious concepts... In the sheikh's opinion, all of these people are Muslims in name only, against whom it is permissible to carry out jihad."

"Silence in the Face of... [This] Incitement Nullifies All the Efforts... to Propagate a Culture of Dialogue and Human Rights"

"Sheikh Dr. [Al-'Omar's] address is an instigation of violence... It is reminiscent of bin Laden's claims against Arab thinkers and liberals four years ago, when he described them as mocking religion and incited the youth against them. [The sheikh's address] constitutes the same [sort of] incitement which can still be heard on some of the television networks, whether expressed by program-hosts or by guests, who sympathize with this same narrow-minded idea and encourage the basest aspects of Arab mentality. They fervently attack the liberal Arabs, and claim that they are [foreign] agents and traitors because they support a Western agenda and consistently criticize backward and fanatical elements of Arabic culture.

"The danger of this call to jihad against secularists and liberals is not limited to merely strengthening this violent ideological infrastructure, or to reinforcing a culture of extremism in the hearts of [already] agitated youth, or to disseminating sentiments of hatred and factionalism among members of the same society. The great danger intrinsic [to this call to jihad] lies in leading additional youth astray, and entangling them in harmful activities and foolish acts against those who disagree with the views of their sheikhs...

"Silence in the face of these fanatical messages of incitement nullifies all the efforts being made by governments of the region to propagate a culture of dialogue and human rights and to inure youth against extremist ideas. Therefore, it behooves all intellectuals, members of the media, and enlightened religious scholars to join forces in putting an end to this rampant ideology by challenging it, refuting it, and subduing it. There can be no jihad between countrymen, regardless of how different their political or religious views may be. There is no difference between statements which legitimize the murder of authors, intellectuals, or artists by accusing them of heresy or apostatasy, and words of incitement which invoke jihad against them for being Muslims in name only. Both encourage hatred between members of the same society and legitimize violence against a specific sector within it."

The Sheikhs Should Urge Their Young Followers "to the Worthiest [kind of] Jihad: that of Development, Education, and Building, instead of... [Encouraging Them] to Destroy and Kill"

"Those who accuse others of heresy know that by now our society is sick and tired of their discourse, and therefore condemns their desecration of mosques and their use of mosques for political purposes and for [spreading] propaganda. This is why they have adopted a new tactic of accusing liberals of religious hypocrisy in order to justify jihad against them on jurisprudential grounds. It is sad and distressing that those who are in charge of preaching [in our society] have sunk to such a level of hatred for free thinkers, and are attempting to settle their score with them by using the term jihad against them.

"Hassan Salam wrote in the London paper Al-Hayat... that one of the dogmatic religious scholars in Saudi Arabia said: 'In the days of the Prophet, [the term] "Muslim in name only" related to one who made outward shows of being a Muslim, but was in his heart a non-believer. Later on, such a person was called an infidel, and today he is called secular. The secularists are the infidels and the Muslims in name only'.

"Calm yourselves, you preaching sheikhs. Why don't you act like the Prophet Muhammad, who knew which of his Companions were Muslims in name only, yet did not command to wage jihad against them, and even preferred to live alongside them and treat them with respect, leaving it to Allah to settle accounts with them. One who bears the message of Islam and champions its values, shouldn't he urge his young followers to the worthiest jihad, that of development, education, and building, instead of [urging them to] use their abilities to destroy and to kill? Why not compel them to value life and respect their fellowman? Why not exhort them to carry out spiritual jihad against the negative tendencies [of man]? Why not open their eyes to the challenges of the times... and teach them how to talk with and debate the opponents of [their] sheikhs in a courteous manner, by making good arguments...?"

The Extremists Feel Threatened by the Liberal Movement

"The preaching to jihad against liberals did not grow in a vacuum. It is obvious that the liberal movement grew increasingly active as the level of freedom of expression in Saudi society increased, [and thus] became a target for its ideological rivals.

"Now, in light of this inflammatory discourse targeting the Arab liberals, how can we protect them? How can they and their families feel safe? And how can we ensure that no naïve youth will dare do them harm or act in violence against them, thinking it a form of jihad permissible by shari'a?

"Both I and others have demanded in several articles to dry up the fountainhead of extremist culture and all its branches, and to make religious discourse more human by developing it, and by opening it to [other] cultures of the world and to the loftier goals of shari'a. I and many others interested in religious reform have demanded that [the preaching] in mosques be moderated, especially the Friday [sermons], and that it be forbidden to use [these sermons] for illegal purposes - as they are used nowadays to serve a narrow political agenda of private self-praising propaganda, and for disseminating extremist ideas and incitement against authors and intellectuals who oppose these preachers and against [their] books and publications.

"I have demanded that the monopoly these preachers hold over sermons in the mosques be broken. I also demanded that changes be made to the religious curricula, based as they are on one-sided thinking, on obscuring the human factor, and on a culture of learning by rote. Likewise, I called for the education system to be liberated from the control... of extremists. But these things necessitate a long-term strategy, and that is why I believe the time has come for Arab countries to adopt legislation which would outlaw incitement to hatred, and enable free-thinkers to sue any preacher in a mosque whose inciting sermon has caused them harm... Jordan is the only country that has dared to stand up and counter instigators of hate through laws which ban incitement and accusations of heresy. This is a step worthy of encouragement. Silence in the face of inflammatory speech is a grievous offense, but allowing instigators to preach in mosques is an even greater crime.

"The time has come to make it clear to all preachers in mosques that declaring jihad is tantamount to declaring war, something which rests in the authority of political rulers, rather than sheikhs. A sheikh, even if he is one of high rank, does not have the right to declare jihad, within the country or without. Therefore, there is no evading the need for legislation to deal with this issue, with the aim of preventing anarchy, protecting human dignity, and ensuring the stability and safety of society."

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