Saudi anti-terror initiatives welcomed at King Faisal Center forum

Saudi anti-terror initiatives welcomed at King Faisal Center forum
Prince Turki Al-Faisal, chairman of the board of trustees of the King Faisal Center for Islamic Research and Studies (KFCIRS), addresses participants at the Riyadh Forum on Countering Extremism and Fighting Terrorism in Riyadh on Sunday.
Updated 24 May 2017

Saudi anti-terror initiatives welcomed at King Faisal Center forum

Saudi anti-terror initiatives welcomed at King Faisal Center forum

RIYADH: Speakers at the Riyadh Forum on Countering Extremism and Fighting Terrorism welcomed Saudi initiatives to create global awareness to fight terror and extremism.
The forum, organized concurrently with the visit to Saudi Arabia by US President Donald Trump, was sponsored by the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC), and arranged by the King Faisal Center for Islamic Research and Studies (KFCRIS).
The theme of the forum, held under the patronage of King Salman, was “The nature of extremism and the future of terrorism.”
Delivering his welcome address, Saud Al-Sarhan, secretary-general of the KFCRIS, said the forum comes at a time when the global order is under greater assault than perhaps any other time since the end of World War II.
“Great power rivalries have returned to the international arena, while the rise of populist and ethno-nationalist movements continue to drive for radical changes,” he said.
“These changes are brought into sharp relief by terrorist actors... Extremists groups have proliferated across the Middle East in the last six years, posing a threat that is not just particularly acute and concentrated, but… extends far beyond the region.”
In his inaugural address, Prince Turki Al-Faisal, chairman of the board of trustees of the KFCRIS, said: “Saudi Arabia has taken the lead in the fight against terrorism, and this forum will serve to understand the roots of extremism so we can counter it with one voice.
“Terrorism has nothing to do with Islam. In fact, extremists have defamed true Islam and have no religious grounds to stand on.”
The first session of the forum was moderated by Shoura Council member Hoda Al-Helaissi, and was attended by former US Defense Secretary Ash Carter and former Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini.
The panel focused on the need for the Kingdom to take the lead in the fight against extremism and terrorism, and praised the establishment of the IMCTC as a very positive step in that direction.
The participants felt that the world must harness Saudi expertise in ideology, communications, counterterrorism financing and military operations to eradicate terrorism.
“The ideology of Islam has nothing to do with this war. These extremists are criminals trafficking in oil, arms, drugs and migrants,” Frattini said.
“To defeat this ideology, we must further integrate our intelligence capabilities worldwide, and the IMCTC is exactly a step in that direction. The IMCTC must expand its scope and membership to ensure success.”
Frattini said the time has come for Saudi Arabia to lead the fight against terror. There must be a Muslim network to eradicate this menace, he said, adding that countries such as Pakistan, Indonesia and Malaysia must be roped in to form this network.
Prof. Peter Neumann, special representative of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), said: “Very few people in Europe get radicalized over the Internet. It is a means to getting their message out, but recruitment happens offline, with someone they grew up with and have known most of their lives.”
As an example, Neumann said most terrorists radicalized from Norway not only came from the same city but the same street where they grew up and went to school together.
The panel members were Neumann; Shiraz Maher of Kings College London; George Salama, head of policy and government relations for Twitter MENA; and Sumaya Fatani, researcher at the KFCRIS.
The panel focused on the need to address not only online efforts in radicalization and recruitment, but offline factors that enable terrorists to recruit.
“Twitter recently announced they suspended over 600,000 accounts of terrorists on our platform. We are working with government and non-government to be transparent in the closing of accounts, but there is no technology that can solve this problem,” Salama said.
“To counter violent extremism, we must start at the foundation, by giving our children a sense of belonging and community. This starts with parents and schools so they are not attracted to online and offline propaganda.”
Fatani said: “Daesh has developed propaganda strategically targeted at women, both online and offline, giving them a feeling of inclusion as they may feel like outcasts in society. Face-to-face recruitment gives them a sense of duty and obligation.”
During the afternoon session, Khalid Al-Khalifa, deputy chairman of the board of trustees of the Isa Cultural Center in Manama, said terror has taken root in several countries in the region, and there must be strong political support from all states to criminalize terror.
Carter said: “Saudi Arabia is a very important partner to the US in stopping the spread of extremism and countering forces in the region that support terrorism. We must use our partners in the region to enable local forces to defeat Daesh on the ground and develop political and economic solutions as quickly as possible.”
The IMCTC “has a legitimacy that no Western country can have. They will be the best option to address directly the claims by extremists of a connection to true Islam and counter that narrative,” he added.
“The IMCTC can, and will, lead the way in ideological, economic and political rebuilding, and developing initiatives that will create a secure environment for people to thrive.”
The KFCRIS, established in 1983, brings together researchers and institutions to sustain, produce and disseminate academic work, and to enrich cultural and intellectual life in the Kingdom.
It is regarded as a bridge through which to maintain contact and establish communication with the rest of the world.
The KFCRIS produces in-depth analyzes on contemporary political issues, Saudi studies, North African and Arab Maghreb studies, Iranian and Asian studies, energy studies, and studies on the Arabic language and modernity.
It has developed cooperation with prestigious institutions of scientific research in various countries. It has forged strong links with many scholars worldwide.