Following the San Bernardino shootings in California earlier this month, where a Muslim couple killed 14 people and injured 21, there has been an increased rhetoric from western media and western politicians against the perceived source of fundamentalism that propels people on the path towards extremism and violence.
The San Bernardino couple purportedly walked into a conference centre, where the husband’s company was holding a party, and opened fire with assault rifles and hand guns. The criticism reached unprecedented levels when it was discovered that the woman, Tashfeen Malik, had spent a considerable amount of her childhood in Saudi Arabia before moving on to marry an American national who happened to be of Pakistani origin.
The preliminary charges that she was in touch with Daesh (the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) were dismissed by the FBI, who found no evidence that the couple were part of an organised cell or had any contact with overseas terror groups. FBI Director James Comey categorically stated that “there was no evidence that the couple were part of a terrorist cell”. He added that investigators believed that the pair was inspired by Daesh, but the attack was not conducted under the group’s direction. Although the couple often discussed their goal of “jihad and martyrdom” in private emails and correspondence to each other, they posted no such feelings on social media.
Daesh, not willing to miss an opportunity for increased publicity, quickly came to the duo’s praise, calling them “martyrs and followers of [Daesh]” on their official propaganda channel. Columnists and TV anchors then shifted the focus to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Even Europeans got into the fray. German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel launched a stinging attack on Saudi Arabia. In an interview with a German newspaper, Gabriel said: “We need Saudi Arabia to solve the regional conflicts, but we must at the same time make clear that the time to look away is past.”
The Saudis on their part responded by insisting that, “Like Germany, we are also a part of the anti-[Daesh] coalition, fighting side by side against terror”. But such words did not go far to soothe ruffled feathers.
This was followed by the formation of an all-Islamic military alliance of 34 countries to fight terrorism. In a press conference at a military base in Riyadh, the Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Minister of Defence, Mohammad Bin Salman, explained: “The formation of the Islamic military alliance emanates from the Islamic world’s keenness to fight terrorism and be a partner of the world in the fight against this scourge. Today, every Islamic country is fighting terrorism individually. The coordination of efforts is very important. Through this operations room, means and efforts will be developed for fighting terrorism all over the Islamic world.”
Prince Mohammad added that the nerve centre of the alliance will be established in Riyadh to coordinate and support efforts to fight terrorism in all countries and parts of the Islamic world, noting that each country would contribute moral support, arms and personnel according to its capabilities. “We have a number of countries suffering from terrorism, including Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. It requires very strong efforts to fight terrorism. We will chase down terrorist organisations whatever their classification may be.”
Turkey, a Nato member and a part of this alliance, supported the new coalition with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu calling it the “best response to those who are trying to associate terror with Islam. We believe that this effort by Muslim countries is a step in the right direction,” he said.
It is unquestionably a proper response to all those who seek to target any Islamic country as a breeding ground for terrorists. Saudi Arabia has been actively cracking down on terror cells for many years. It has now taken the bull by its horns and the performance of this new anti-terror force should silence all critics.
Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi socio-political commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. You can follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@talmaeena