‘Our goal is to eradicate the ideology that inspired the 9/11 attacks’

Dr. Mansour Al-Shammari, secretary-general of the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology (Etidal). (Supplied)
Dr. Mansour Al-Shammari, secretary-general of the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology (Etidal). (Supplied)
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Updated 14 September 2021

‘Our goal is to eradicate the ideology that inspired the 9/11 attacks’

Dr. Mansour Al-Shammari, secretary-general of the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology (Etidal). (Supplied)
  • Dr. Mansour Al-Shammari, secretary-general of Etidal or the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology, spoke to Arab News
  • He said Saudi Arabia is working sincerely to expose the ugly ideology used to justify the 9/11 terror attacks

JEDDAH:The perpetrators of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks harmed Muslims worldwide through the perversion of their faith, Dr. Mansour Al-Shammari, secretary-general of the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology (Etidal), said.

In an exclusive interview with Arab News in Riyadh to mark the 20th anniversary of the attacks, Al-Shammari said that Saudi Arabia has acted decisively to combat and eradicate the ideology that inspired the deadly strikes.

“The many measures that resulted from the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. were an attempt to confront Al-Qaeda’s nihilism, horrific violence and distortion of religious texts,” Al-Shammari said.

Etidal, which translates as “moderation” in Arabic, was inaugurated by King Salman in May 2017, alongside then US President Donald Trump and other leaders who attended the Arab Islamic American Summit in Riyadh.




Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology (Etidal). (Supplied)

The organization aims to help people and governments to confront the common enemies of humanity, fight extremist ideology, spread tolerance and moderation, and promote opportunities for world peace.

“The significance of this year’s commemoration of the Sept. 11 attacks lies in the recognition of the futility of violence rooted in nihilism, and the fact that the courage required to stop it is greater and more noble than what is required to practice it. Curbing the misinterpretation of religious teachings and understanding religious texts in their proper context marks the beginning of true awareness,” Al-Shammari said.

Q. The 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks comes amid a new crisis in Afghanistan. How do you view the coincidence?

A. The events of Sept. 11 constituted a painful attack on the civilizational values of nearly 2 billion Muslims, as terrorists latched on to their sacred religious texts and used them opportunistically to justify a heinous crime that claimed the lives of thousands of innocent people, including Muslims.

The present age has witnessed other cases of extreme violence besides the 9/11 attacks. Terrorists usually do not have a strategy for victory because they do not fight to protect life. On the contrary, they fight against the protection of life, both among themselves and with others. That is why the perpetrators of terrorist attacks fade into irrelevance over time, having wasted their lives through acts of pointless violence.

Terrorist violence is thus different from the measured violence of wars, through which regular armies seek to claim tangible victories on the battlefield, usually based on a rational calculation of gains and losses.




Julie Sweeney Roth, whose husband Brian Sweeney died when United Airlines flight 175 hit the World Trade Center, attends the National 9/11 Memorial during the ceremony commemorating the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. (AFP)

The violent misinterpretation of their religious texts by the terrorists created a distorted, negative image of Muslims that entered the public imagination, and thus amounted to a vicious attack on their faith.

The measures taken after the terrorist attacks are an attempt to confront two new phenomena: Nihilistic violence and perversion of faith. Afghanistan has become a victim of both the phenomena. The country has turned into a testbed for a hellish war machine that cannot end without a conclusive victory of one side. Radical armed groups have transformed Afghanistan into a field for a lost battle where everyone fights everyone.

We can say that the importance of this year’s commemoration of the Sept. 11 attacks lies in recognizing the futility of nihilistic violence. The courage required to stop it is greater and more noble than what is required to practice it. In addition, defining religious texts and interpreting them in their proper, contemporary context marks the beginning of achieving a measure of political maturity.

If we succeed in wiping out mindless nihilism and debunking deviant ideas, maybe then we can leave the painful legacy of the Sept. 11 disaster behind us. 

Q. Did Al-Qaeda’s attacks on the World Trade Center towers in New York City have a symbolic meaning? 

A. First of all, it should be noted that the catastrophic events of Sept. 11 did not come from nowhere, as tensions had remained throughout the world since the end of the Second World War. We know that the war in Afghanistan was part of this general state of tension. Just as religious ideology was used to mobilize fighters, Marxist ideology played the same role simultaneously in many East Asian and Latin American countries.

However, after the fall of the Soviet Union, the world order shifted toward unipolarity in terms of international relations. It did so within the framework of a globalized economic system, which sought to impose a coherent and unified development model across the world, giving absolute priority to multinational companies.




Etidal, which translates as “moderation” in Arabic, was inaugurated by King Salman in May 2017, alongside then US President Donald Trump and other leaders. (AFP/File Photo)

This shifted the focus of the terrorists to economic targets, which explains why Al-Qaeda chose the two World Trade Center towers for attack.

Suicide operations began to aim to disrupt the trade and tourism sectors by creating a sense of insecurity. This transformation coincided with a revolution in the media industry in the form of satellite television channels that provided, intentionally or unintentionally, free propaganda for Al-Qaeda’s terrorists, turning them into international figures at the least possible cost.

Q. How do you view terrorism today, 20 years after Sept. 11?

A. There has been a shift from terrorism on the ground to “networked terrorism.” This shift mirrors the history of the transformations of organizations over the past 20 years.

We are specifically aware of how difficult it is to track these changes, which is why we at Etidal are working on updating our strategy on the basis of the distinctions between these transformations. We consider them to be more than just formal distinctions.




A young boy looks at the faces of firefighters killed in the September 11th terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center site. (AFP/File Photo)

This is why we have enormous interest in the different manifestations of digital terrorism and continuously seek to forge international partnerships. We are aware that the digital transition constitutes an end to localized terrorism and extremism because social media networks have erased all physical borders between terrorist and extremist organizations and their sympathizers.

Q. What projects does Etidal undertake?

A. Our perception is built on the following: The origin of every form of terrorism is an extremist ideology, which is why every form of terrorism is necessarily a form of extremism. However, not every form of extremism is terrorism. So, we focus specifically on combating extremist ideologies instead of terrorism as such.

We seek to act proactively to prevent terrorists from developing ways to attract and recruit sympathizers using extremist propaganda. Our initiatives put us in confrontation with extremists without directly clashing with them on the ground. We can say that we disrupt the tools of brainwashing by monitoring, following up on and cutting out the false religious underpinning of radicalism before it can ensnare gullible sympathizers.

John Abizaid, US ambassador to Saudi Arabia, who is an expert in countering terrorism physically and ideologically, once said that, militarily, destroying a bridge or a building is much easier than undermining an idea. In fact, this is exactly the challenge we at Etidal deal with, by seeking to win the war of ideas.

However, we are also aware of the daunting scale of the challenge. The Sept. 11 attacks have become a painful memory, but the image stuck in the minds of people is that of the catastrophic collapse of the famous towers, accompanied by great human tragedies besides the deaths of thousands of people at the hands of terrorists.




Family member grieve at the National 9/11 Memorial during the ceremony commemorating the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. (AFP)

In Saudi Arabia, we are working with utmost seriousness through Etidal to expose the ugliness of the ideology that was used to justify the 9/11 attacks, and to combat such ideas in every way possible.

We also think that the non-recurrence of similar terrorist outrages in the future depends on the success of our efforts to debunk the extremist ideology that underpins terrorism, or at least to curtail it and weaken its ability to mislead and attract people.


Who’s Who: Abdullah bin Kadasa, executive director of communications and PR at Saudi Tourism Ministry

Who’s Who: Abdullah bin Kadasa, executive director of communications and PR at Saudi Tourism Ministry
Updated 15 sec ago

Who’s Who: Abdullah bin Kadasa, executive director of communications and PR at Saudi Tourism Ministry

Who’s Who: Abdullah bin Kadasa, executive director of communications and PR at Saudi Tourism Ministry

Abdullah bin Mansour bin Kadasa was appointed executive director of communications and public relations at the executive office of Tourism Minister Ahmed Al-Khateeb in September 2021.

Bin Kadasa is an international communications and media professional and advisor, who has been responsible for a number of ground-breaking strategies and leadership of strategic communications plans and media campaigns.

He was previously an advisor and general manager at the General Administration of Corporate Communication at the Ministry of Finance between April 2020 until May 2021. He worked closely with the executive leadership there to develop the ministry’s corporate mission statement.

Bin Kadasa served as general director of the Media and Strategic Communications General Directorate at the Saudi Development & Reconstruction Program for Yemen between June 2018 until March 2020, managing a large team across SDRPY’s provincial offices and ensuring that its activities were aligned with the Kingdom’s communication strategy and foreign policy priorities regarding Yemen.

He is the co-founder of Deem Communications Technology Co., where he was CEO from August 2016 to June 2018. He worked as a faculty member at the Media and Communication College of Al-Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud University between August 2014 and June 2018, and before that served as the director of the Marketing & Communications Directorate at the Arabian Printing and Publishing House from May 2013 to July 2014.

Bin Kadasa worked as a journalist at Dar Al-Hayat newspaper from April 2009 to June 2013 and as an interactive communication and television production coordinator at Al Baraheen International Company from 2005 to 2009.

He received his Masters in International Media from the School of Communication/International Service at the American University at Washington DC. He also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication from the Department of Mass Communication at King Saud University, and international diplomas from prestigious universities including the University of London, the University of California at Irvine, and Duke University.


Attempt to smuggle Captagon pills into Saudi Arabia thwarted

Attempt to smuggle Captagon pills into Saudi Arabia thwarted
Updated 22 October 2021

Attempt to smuggle Captagon pills into Saudi Arabia thwarted

Attempt to smuggle Captagon pills into Saudi Arabia thwarted
  • More than 5.2 million pills were found hidden in a consignment at Al-Haditha crossing on Friday
  • Port authorities said the pills were found “crushed” and hidden in a consignment of “carbonate powder” bags

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority has prevented an attempt to smuggle Captagon amphetamine pills.

More than 5.2 million pills were found hidden in a consignment at Al-Haditha crossing on Friday.

Port authorities said that after an inspection of a suspicious truck and its cargo, the pills were found “crushed” and hidden in a consignment of “carbonate powder” bags.

One person was arrested by the General Directorate of Narcotics Control. The Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority confirmed that it is continuing to tighten control over the Kingdom’s imports and combat smuggling attempts.


Saudi Arabia announces one more COVID-19 death in record low

Saudi Arabia announces one more COVID-19 death in record low
Updated 22 October 2021

Saudi Arabia announces one more COVID-19 death in record low

Saudi Arabia announces one more COVID-19 death in record low
  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 537,208
  • A total of 8,774 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced one death from COVID-19 and 51 new infections on Friday.

Of the new cases, 13 were recorded in Riyadh, 11 in Jeddah, three in Makkah, two in Qatif, two in Dhahran, two in AlUla, and two in Hafar Al-Batin. Several other cities recorded one new case each.

The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 537,208 after 59 more patients recovered from the virus.

A total of 8,774 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far.

Over 45 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine have been administered in the Kingdom to date.


Who’s Who: Abdulrahman Al-Nimari, chief information security officer at KSA’s Rock Solid Group

Who’s Who: Abdulrahman Al-Nimari, chief information security officer at KSA’s Rock Solid Group
Updated 22 October 2021

Who’s Who: Abdulrahman Al-Nimari, chief information security officer at KSA’s Rock Solid Group

Who’s Who: Abdulrahman Al-Nimari, chief information security officer at KSA’s Rock Solid Group

Abdulrahman Al-Nimari has been the chief information security officer at Rock Solid Group since August.

A cybersecurity expert and regular conference speaker, he has more than 25 years of experience in the information technology and cybersecurity sectors.

At RSG, he is responsible for developing and implementing a strategic, long-term information security strategy and roadmap to ensure that data assets are adequately protected.

He has been an independent cybersecurity architect and consultant since 2019.

From September 2017 to June 2019, he was lead cybersecurity systems architect for ManTech International Corp. where he was in charge of developing security strategies and utilizing new technologies to enhance security capabilities and implement improvements.

Between March and August 2017, he held the position of chief enterprise security architect at Security Matterz.

Al-Nimari was technical manager and senior security consultant at Riyadh Business Machines from August 2013 to February 2017, and an IT manager at the Ministry of Education between January 2008 and July 2013.

During his time with the ministry, he also worked as cybersecurity team leader on a major education system project and was a network and system administrator and supervisor.

He gained a bachelor’s degree in English from Umm Al-Qura University.

Al-Nimari has headed numerous cybersecurity initiatives and projects for government and private-sector bodies.

He pointed out that all members of society had a duty to be aware about cybersecurity. “It is our role to participate in protecting the cyberspace of our beloved Saudi Arabia,” he said.


Saudi FM discusses Iran nuclear talks with EU envoy — statement

Saudi FM discusses Iran nuclear talks with EU envoy — statement
Updated 22 October 2021

Saudi FM discusses Iran nuclear talks with EU envoy — statement

Saudi FM discusses Iran nuclear talks with EU envoy — statement

CAIRO: Saudi foreign minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud discussed the Iran nuclear talks with the European Union envoy coordinating talks on reviving the Iran nuclear deal, Enrique Mora, the Saudi Foreign ministry said on Thursday.
“They discussed developments regarding the Iranian nuclear program talks, and international efforts to ensure that Iran does not violate international agreements and treaties in this regard,” it added in a statement.