Terrorist incidents in Saudi Arabia are more or less becoming everyday news. Every time I hope and pray that it ends, it only seems to get worse.
April alone witnessed at least six terrorist incidents that started on the evening of April 12 in Riyadh’s Al-Faiha district. Terrorists barged into a villa and took refuge there. Police surrounded them and a shootout took place. One officer was killed and one terrorist was gunned down, but only after the carnage left a neighborhood in tatters: walls riddled with bullets, cars peppered with bullet holes, glass and blood on the asphalt. A day later, terrorists killed four policemen on the Riyadh-Qasim highway after stealing a police car. On the same day authorities discovered two GMC trucks packed with explosives ready for a major terrorist attack.
On April 19, terror suspects driving two other GMC trucks full of explosive content fail to stop at a checkpoint in Ramah, some 90 km from Riyadh, and police give chase. The men abandon their vehicles and manage to escape in a third truck. Authorities later find out that the two trucks were also rigged with enough explosive to wipe out an entire neighborhood. And who can forget April 21, when a suicide bomber blew himself up along with the bomb-laden truck he was driving just outside the traffic police department, taking the lives of six people — including a child — and injuring 150 others?
On Saturday, five Westerners were killed in Yanbu in cold blood, and eyewitnesses say the body one of them was dragged in the street by a jeep the terrorists were driving.
Suicide bombings, GMC trucks packed with explosive, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades; to me it sounds more like the streets of Kabul or Fallujah, not Riyadh, Jeddah or Yanbu.
Each time I recall the terrorist incidents over the past year I remember what a Saudi official told a group of guests in a foreign embassy gathering: “This is just a black cloud that will pass in time,” he said. That was a year ago, even before the Nov. 8 Muhaya compound bombings and the mess we are seeing today.
I wish I could see that same person again today to ask him what the weather forecast was for next year. More black clouds and showers of truck bombs and rocket propelled grenades?
One explanation to why all of this is happening was brought up by the editor in chief of Al-Riyadh newspaper, Turki Al-Sudairi, on a program about determining the roots of the terrorist acts.
He said that the people carrying out these attacks shared the ideology of the Juhaiman movement that seized the Grand Mosque in the 70s. They had an ideology of accusing others of being infidels and giving themselves a free hand to kill them, be it Westerners — who, according to them, ought to be kicked out of the Arabian Peninsula — or the Muslim believer who does not follow their path. They disappeared in the ’80s and ’90s from the public eye and have again emerged with their destructive ideology. The question Al-Sudairi forgot to bring up was: What are we Saudis going to do about it?
If we as a nation decline to look at the root causes, as we have for the past two decades, it will only be a matter of time before another group of people with the same ideology spring up.
Have we helped create these monsters? Our education system, which does not stress tolerance of other faiths — let alone tolerance of followers of other Islamic schools of thoughts — is one thing that needs to be re-evaluated from top to bottom.
Saudi culture itself and the fact that the majority of us do not accept other lifestyles and impose our own on other people is another. And the fact that from fourth to 12th grade we do not teach our children that there are other civilizations in the world and that we are part of the global community and only stress the Islamic empires over and over is also worth re-evaluating. And last, but certainly not least, the religious climate in the country must change, a matter which was stated by our own minister of Islamic affairs but remained a mere statement without implementation.
The journey of a thousand miles starts with a step. Are we going to wait another 30 years to see the consequences of waiting?