It is time to fight extremism

It is time to fight extremism

It is time to fight extremism
For many Saudis the idea of extremism in Saudi Arabia disappeared when the Ministry of Interior crushed Al-Qaeda nearly a decade ago. We have a tendency to rationalize that extremist behavior is restricted to faux sheikhs who lack the education and authority yet manage to gain a Twitter following to espouse deviant ideology that help send naïve young men to fight illegal wars.
But some men who should know better and who many people look to for guidance and strength abuse their positions of authority and engage in extremist behavior. It’s those men who lay the groundwork that lead to extremism and violence. Indeed, some people in position of authority act violently and set an example for the younger generation.
A case in point is an incident involving a social club supervisor in a village in Jazan. The leader decided to allocate specific area for women to pray Eid following the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him). The Sunnah allows the entire family, including grandparents and women, who had just given birth or who are in their menstrual cycle to attend prayer. Menstruating women, for example, do not pray but attend the gathering with the family.
However, the local imam objected to the gathering, claiming it was bida’h, or innovation in religious matters. As families arrived for the prayer shortly after Fajr, the imam drove up in his car and used the car as if he was “drifting,” a type of controlled speeding and swerving while using the accelerator and handbrake, to break up the gathering. Families quickly dispersed, running away as the iman drove recklessly through the area. He then used his car to smash partitions. It’s shocking that an imam is not educated in the Sunnah that allows women to attend Eid prayer. Without question this is extremism and lack of religious education.
I can’t help but think that it wasn’t the imam’s lack of religious knowledge, but his bruised ego and inflated sense of superiority over the people he was supposed to give religious guidance. An unrelated incident, but nonetheless indicative of extremism, occurred recently when the head of the Haia transferred a commission member to another office following some incident or problem with the member’s performance. Some Haia members allegedly staged a work stoppage to protest the reassignment, according to Al Hayat newspaper. These men interfered with an administrative decision to intimidate their supervisors.  
In both of these incidents, religious men misused their authority. They abandoned their sacred duty to honor, respect and remain loyal to the community they serve and the individuals that employ them.
They indirectly send a message to young and impressionable Saudis that intimidation and violence in the name of religion is acceptable behavior.
We as Saudis accept such behavior because we fear being branded as bad Muslims while at the same time lament young men going to Syria or other troubled countries to fight illegal wars. The reality is we allow some people in authority to act on emotion rather than Sunnah and Hadith, sending the wrong message. If we can’t stop the extremists who convey negative signals through their acts, how can we control the young men who are determined to fight in foreign countries?

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