The terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia strike at the heart of Islam. The evil men who perpetrated these outrageous acts struck just as Ramadan was ending and the whole Muslim world was preparing to celebrate Eid Al Fitr.

The Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah is where Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) is buried and is the holiest city in Islam after Makkah. The terrorists also let off bombs in a Shiite mosque in Qatif and in Jeddah as well. These terrorists are well aware of the full horror of their dastardly acts and while it is a serious mistake to ascribe any detailed motives to such horrific crimes, it is quite clear that these extremists are seeking to foment hatred and sectarianism within Islam.

Therefore, it is time for the entire Muslim world to stand together and reject this deviance from the religion. An emergency meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) needs to be convened at which the entire Muslim community should come together, despite their many smaller differences, to reiterate their unity in the face of this horror.

‘In solidarity with our brothers’

The UAE has strongly condemned the attacks and Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, has said that the UAE “stands in solidarity with our brothers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in their fight against the crimes of terrorism, whose goals are to spread fear, takfir (branding others as infidels) and incite strife”.

Shaikh Abdullah stressed that this deviant and extremist ideology has nothing to do with Islam or with Muslims’ traditions and history, their civilised and human values and security and stability.

The way forward can be found in three lines of action, which require cooperation, coordination and diligence from all over the Muslim world.

The first will be to continue military and security action to end the terrorists’ control of any territory and eliminate any active cells that are conspiring to create further mayhem.

The second is to stop any support that the terrorists are receiving from sympathisers, which includes money, but also arms and safe havens.

One way in which some good can be done is by stopping the continued flow of hatred and bile that comes from some TV channels and online sites that promote violence and hatred to the exclusion of all else. Such sites help build the inner fires that lead people to reject the healthy and invigorating message of Islam and choose to enter a narrow and vicious world of anger and hatred.

Winning hearts and minds

The third and most important line of action is to work hard to develop programmes that win the hearts and minds of those Muslims who might be tempted to follow the self-destructive path of terror.

This kind of work needs to focus on a wide range of social and political activities, which may take years to bear fruit. For example, it is essential to reorder the curriculums in schools so that open-minded thinking and innovation take the place of narrow-minded prejudice and hatred.

Only a small part of fighting terrorism is about putting people in jail and enforcing the law. A much larger part is about encouraging members of the community, particularly young people, to embrace their home societies and be eager to work within their communities to follow their ambitions and find happiness.

A powerful lead

All Muslim governments and leading Islamic institutions should enunciate their horror at what has happened. They have done so in the past, but in the context of this latest outrage they need to speak up again and give a powerful lead to the entire Muslim community on the need to come together and reject this horror.

It needs to make it clear that this assault on the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah is a grave offence and reveals the perpetrators to have no shred of rationale in their thinking.

The only good thing is that there is an opportunity for the Muslim world to lead a renewed attack on the terrorists. Despite the misery caused by this attack on one of Islam’s holiest sites, there must be a response based on hope, which can come from the entire Muslim world uniting to reject this deviant group of people and their bloodthirsty crimes.