Fighting hate speech

Fighting hate speech

Collective awareness about incitement is present among the general public. Those who realize the threats of the rhetoric of hatred and incitement, and who are repelled by it, are aware that it is a tool that divides society and triggers disputes. However, being aware of harmful effects of such rhetoric is not enough to prevent deterioration.
Last week’s horrible explosion in the village of Al-Qadeeh in eastern Saudi Arabia, which killed over 20 worshippers and injured more than 100, sparked controversy regarding whose responsibility is it to address incitement. It also raised questions about how harmful incitement actually is.
The planners of the attack on the mosque are the members of the so-called Islamic State (IS). Why did they do it? They committed the crime due to extremist calls and activities that have not ended despite all attempts.
Saudi youth who join terrorist groups inside Saudi Arabia and in Syria, Iraq and Yemen are the product of religious extremist propaganda and activity. We are talking about thousands, not a few dozen. Some parties’ justifications that extremism is an international issue, and that thousands more from other countries are involved, are not acceptable.
We hope the explosion in Al-Qadeeh, and previously in Al-Dalwah, and the murdering of security personnel in Riyadh, are not the start of a new planned campaign of violence.
A decade or so ago, the government and some cultural institutions had launched a massive awareness campaign against extremists, and those preaching extremism were pursued and jailed. As Al-Qaeda was defeated, some thought danger had receded, and we got occupied with other issues. However, considering the presence of huge organizations such as IS, these explosions may be the tip of the iceberg.
What is new is that the region is full of wars that are mostly being won by extremists, such as in Syria, Iraq and Libya. Besides that, the general means of addressing people have become outside the authority of public and private institutions.
Social networking websites have emerged. There are millions of users on Twitter, Facebook and other websites, the state cannot shut down all platforms to control hate speech. IS today directly communicates with people. The government’s responsibility here increases if it wants to protect its society from divisions and violence.
The state, on the basis of its current concept, is responsible for guaranteeing civil peace. This does not only require raising the level of protection, but also fighting the source of danger, which in this case is intellectual.
Threats will increase as long as incitement goes on, and as long as takfiri groups are present. This includes the phenomenon of populist advocates of extremism, who due to Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are competing with each other.
They believe that additional extremism and hostility will bring more angry and scared people to their ranks. When the state lays down laws that criminalize incitement, it protects society and its presence as well.
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view