New law is a major blow to terrorism
Saudi Arabia’s new anti-terrorism laws have drawn praise by the Arab media and many Middle East foreign policy experts.
To be clear, Saudi Arabia needs tougher anti-terror laws as it attempts to rein in the impact of destructive forces such as Al-Nusra Front in Syria and the Muslim Brotherhood etc.
The move comes as no surprise since Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah has always exerted efforts to combat terrorism outside the country. Saudi Arabia’s financial contribution to the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Center is the best evidence of the Kingdom’s efforts against extremism.
Declaring the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization will become an effective means to prosecute individuals who plot and execute violent attacks against innocents.
Saudi Justice Minister Muhammed Al-Eissa told the Arabic-language daily Asharq Al-Awsat that the royal decree “is based on protecting national security” and that extremists have been “extremely harmful to public tranquility and the state has no choice but to seek to confront this.”
Before the new law is fully enforced, the Ministry of Interior is giving Saudis fighting in Syria an escape hatch to “rethink their position and return immediately home” within 15 days. Once the grade period ends, Saudis could face three to 20 years in prison if found guilty of engaging in terrorist or extremist activities.
The so-called Arab Spring has forced Saudi Arabia into a position to shore up its defense against extremism. Optimism at the dawn of the Egyptian revolution has since turned to despair with sectarian fighting in Libya, the outrageous behavior of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the seemingly endless civil war in Syria.
The uncertainty of militant groups fighting alongside rebels against the Syrian regime is a cause for legitimate concern that Saudi Arabia must be protected. The new laws provide the necessary tools to control Saudis wishing to join the civil war and stem the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hezbollah within our own borders.
Particularly gratifying is the fact that Saudi preachers have been put on notice to prevent and discourage young men from going to war, which is a direct violation of the teachings of Islam. In fact, Tawfiq Al-Sudairi, the undersecretary in the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Endowment, Da’wa and Guidance, announced recently that “some preachers suspected of collaborating with these groups and ideologies have been arrested, while others were fired,” according to Asharq Al-Awsat.
The practicality of prosecuting members of Al-Nusra Front, the Brotherhood and Hezbollah remains to be seen.
While Saudi authorities are capable of gathering evidence of Saudis crossing borders to join Al-Nusra, it’s going to be challenge to tie individuals to the much larger and more secretive Brotherhood and Hezbollah. Unless there is documented evidence of past associations with the Brotherhood, for example, it’s going to be difficult linking individuals — who don’t walk around with Muslim Brotherhood identification cards in their pockets — to an organization that officially does not exist in Saudi Arabia.
The “public order” of Saudi society has always been the cornerstone in Saudi law to ensure the safety of its citizens. Yet our judicial system has a tendency to use the catchall phrase of protecting the “peace and tranquility” of Saudi society and apply it to any undesirable behavior. That’s why the Ministry of Justice is overhauling the judicial system and working to codify our laws.
The next stop should be to announce the specifics of the new laws and how they will be applied to individuals accused of extremism.