Some time back, at a wedding reception word quickly filtered out that a clash in progress between the police and suspected militants in east Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Soon the focus of conversation revolved around such incidents, particularly since this one ensued long after a blast in a Riyadh compound — a city that has had its share of violence and destruction of human life. And the anger that resulted was evident.
‘Tariq, you really should write more against these terrorists,’ fronted one of the guests. ‘You have the means of getting your word out to a large audience, and it is time that we send a clear message to these miscreants that we’re not buying their ideology.’
Murmuring of condemnation
‘Saleh, I have brought up this issue in my columns several times. It is not just only for me, but for all of you who feel this way to do the same as well in your own way,’ was my reply.
‘Tariq. Look around you. Who do you see? Doctors, businessmen, and researchers. That’s what you see. And in the course of our day, unlike you, we have limited interaction with people. Just look around you. Listen to the murmuring of condemnation against such actions. Do you see a single approving face?’
‘Let these people with toxic ideology know that those of us who make up for the bulk of our society are repulsed by their actions. Let our voices be heard! Get the message out that the ‘Saudi silent majority is sickened by their acts, and will not be swayed by their twisted messages of violence against the innocent,’ Saleh continued. ‘Nor will they find a haven in the hereafter. Their twisted interpretations of religion guarantee them a slot there,’ fumed Saleh.
Halfway through our conversation, we were joined by Karim, a paediatrician. Nodding vigorously, he took off where Saleh ended. ‘Yes Tariq, we are fed up. Repulsed by these acts carried out in the name of our noble faith.
And perhaps more resolved to fight them back. In my practice, I have recently started out handing a ‘No to Terrorism’ flyer. It is a small step, and perhaps a limited one, but I had to do something.’
‘Good for you, Karim’ I replied encouragingly. ‘Small steps now lead to larger strides in the future. Each one of you has a responsibility within your means to fight the ideology of terrorism against the innocent — wherever it may be. Within or outside your borders. I have learnt in life to only act upon that which you can control. No one can control what is outside their sphere but yes, we can control our relationships and take care of the others around the world and everything else will fall into place.’
Twisted religious ideologies
In recent years there have risen public cries of alarm from all quarters that may have silently suffered through acts of religious ignorance. From twisted religious ideologies being spewed and dubious individuals masquerading as learnt clergy, to the fostering of blind and xenophobic hatred within some quarters, all have been put on notice. Extremism and terrorism will no longer be tolerated.
I am glad that these terrorists have woken the sleepy psyche within Saudi Arabia. A psyche of tolerance to others — be they Christians, Jews, Buddhists, or whatever. A consciousness of living peacefully with people from other nationalities and faiths, a commitment to preserve and protect their security, and a rejection of blind hatred and intolerance.
And I am glad the government will not rest until it weeds these bad guys out and delivers them their dues in the appropriate manner.
And I am glad that the authorities will simply not just stop at that. I am glad the message sent out by the Saudi Crown Prince was crystal clear. We will not tolerate the perpetrators or those who secretly sympathise with such forms of extremism or silently support these dastardly acts.
‘Perhaps today’s silent majority will indeed become tomorrow’s vocal majority. And then your voices shall be heard.’
Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi sociopolitical commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Twitter: @talmaeena