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October 4, 2007
Saudi Cleric Issues Edict Against Foreign Jihad
Counterterrorism Blog is reporting that the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia - the leading Wahhabi cleric in the Kingdom - has issued a surprising edict that forbids Saudis from participating in Jihad outside the country:
Earlier this week, Sheikh Abdel-Aziz Al-Asheikh – the most senior Wahhabi cleric in Saudi Arabia -- released a rather surprising religious edict. In this fatwa, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia instructed Saudis not to leave the Kingdom to participate in jihad – a statement directed primarily at those considering going to Iraq. Al-Asheikh said that he decided to speak up, “after it was clear that over several years Saudis have been leaving for jihad” and that “our youth…became tools carrying out heinous acts.” Perhaps even most significantly, Al-Asheikh also addressed potential donors, urging them to “be careful about where [their money is] spent so it does not damage young Muslims.” ... It has been the worst kept secret in the world that Saudi Arabia is one of the leading financiers of terrorism in the world today. Their funding of the religious schools in Pakistan supply a ready stream of jihadists to the Taliban and al-Qaeda while individual Saudis have funded terrorist groups around the world.
If the Saudis are determined to change this perception, they must provide a far greater window into their efforts to combat terrorism – and terrorist financing specifically. Only when they demonstrate publicly that that they recognize the problems they are facing, and that they are taking steps to address these issues can they overcome these suspicions. The Grand Mufti’s fatwa is an important step forward in both respects, but there remains a long way to go.
Part of the problem has been the Royal Family's policy of trying to buy off the terrorists by allowing them to be financed as long as they don't target the Kingdom or the government. There are signs that this myopia with regards to terrorists has been changing in recent years as the government has begun to crackdown on cells that set up shop in Saudi Arabia.
But the religious edict is significant in that it recognizes that Saudi youth have been susceptible to committing acts that go against the teachings of Islam and that keeping them home will prevent them from being exploited by those who are violating the Koran.
Now if the Saudis could only stop the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq, a real dent might be made in recruitment for the insurgents there. But as long as the Sunnis are threatened by Iraqi Shias with genocide, the Saudis are unlikely to stop trying to assist their religious brethren across the border.