The Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, wrote a rather unusual article for last Tuesday's edition of the Saudi government daily newspaper Al-Watan. In it, he seeks public support for a Saudi "jihad" against terrorists -- presumably al Qaeda -- who have lately staged a series of deadly attacks in the kingdom, including one in Khobar last weekend in which 22 people, most of them foreigners, were killed.
Bandar, the dean of the Washington diplomatic corps, has been posted here for more than 20 years. The British- and American-educated prince (he holds a master's degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies) is a longtime friend of the Bush family and has easy access to the White House.
Excerpts from his article, as translated by the Washington-based Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI):
His Excellency Crown Prince [Abdullah] has declared war on terror and on the terrorists, and he is right in doing so. Likewise, many righteous senior officials in his government have reiterated His Excellency the Crown Prince's declaration. With all due modesty, and out of my trepidation for my beloved land, I express my opinion on this sensitive subject from thousands of kilometers away, from America. . . .
For 17 years, I . . . had the honor of serving my religion, my homeland, and my king, in the brave Saudi armed forces. Although I left military service 20 years ago, my memory still serves me in [expressing] an opinion and in engaging in military analysis, keeping in mind that I have left behind my military expertise and daily dealings with warfare.
War, ultimately, means tragedy, pain and sacrifice. The harder, faster, more determinedly and more aggressively a war is fought, the fewer the casualties. But basically this depends, except for the fact that success is in the hands of Allah, on whether there is general mobilization for war. I personally think that both the [Saudi] state and citizens have not yet reached that important, basic and necessary stage for [them to be able] to win the war. This means general mobilization for war in thought and in deed, as individuals and as a whole, in the media and in the culture -- a mobilization of all state institutions and the private sector towards this goal, and viewing everything in life based [on the premise that] we are at war. . . .
Victory in this war will come first and ultimately through trust in Allah. After that, it will be a result of conducting this war against those who are deviating [from the religion] -- . . . traitors to their faith, their families, and their land -- [the conducting] of a war in the full sense of the word.
War means war. It does not mean Boy Scout camp. It is a war that does not mean delicacy, but brutality. This is [a] war that cannot be conducted based on calling those who deviate [from the religion] good people who were careless, but based on [calling them] terrorists and aggressors with whom there can be no compromise.
Either we, as a state and as a people, are believers, and we are right -- and therefore fighting and killing the [terrorists] is a commandment aimed at defending our monotheistic religion and our dear people -- or they, Heaven forfend, are the believers, and we, as a state and as a people, are the mistaken ones, and they have the right to kill us -- women, children, elderly, and our guests.
If we [decide upon one] of the options, the picture will become clearer, and we will be divided into two parts: The first [includes those] who are with us, as a Muslim state ruling according to the law of Allah, and as a people believing in the law of Allah and in the way [Sunnah] of His Prophet. The second [includes] those who deviate from the religion. We, as a state and as a people, must insist that all choose between the truth, in which we believe, and the lie, which we think that those who deviate [from the religion] are advocating. In my opinion, with all due modesty and respect, our honorable clerics must call for the ruler to declare Jihad against these deviants, and give him [i.e., the ruler] complete support in this matter, and be determined about it, since whoever keeps silent [and refrains from speaking about] the truth is a mute Satan.
Personally, I think this crisis can be [either] easy or difficult. If we deal with the crisis [as] the founding and believing king Abdul Aziz did at the Battle of Al-Sabla [in 1929], against those who advocated the same ideology as these deviants, and, with Allah's help, we vanquish them, [then the crisis will be] easy. [But] if we deal [with them] hesitantly, in hope that [the terrorists] are Muslim youths who have been misled, and that the solution [to the crisis] is that we call upon them to follow the path of righteousness, in hope that they will come to their senses -- then we will lose this war, and this means that we will lose everything that this state and this people have accomplished over the past 600 years, and that we will enter a dark world whose end only Allah knows.
I personally do not think that these deviants are any stronger than [the deviants] who fought against the [Saudi] state at the Battle of Al-Sabla. Likewise, I am certain that the state today, Allah be praised, is much stronger than the state was in the period of the founding believing king, the late Abdul Aziz. Therefore, the outcome of this conflict [between the state and the terrorists] relies on the following question: Do we, as a state and as a people, think that our war is just, or not?
If the answer is yes, then we, as a state and as a people, will triumph, with Allah's help -- provided we declare a general mobilization in order to stand up to this war, because the problem is the deviants' victory over us [today], as a state and as a people, through excess, extremism, killing, factionalism between the [Islamic] schools of thought, declaring people to be apostate [takfir], and aggression against what Allah has sanctified: the soul, honor, and property.
We have a religious and national obligation not to be tempted into following those who have misled us, [trying] to persuade us that the flaw lies with us, as a state and a people, and that this terrorist phenomenon is the result of the cultural situation in which we are living, with its advantages and disadvantages. This is a word of truth that aims at lying.
[Today's] deviants did not appear for the first time in our era. They appeared already during the era of the [four] Righteous Caliphs. The deviants did not appear because [our] nation has connections with America or with Christians and Jews, or because of Israel's aggression against the Palestinian brethren, or because of events in Fallujah or Chechnya. They appeared for the first time during the era of the Companions of the Messenger of Allah. Similarly, [those who were] behind the Fitna [civil war following] the murder [of the Third Caliph] Uthman ibn 'Affan [in the 7th century] were neither Christians nor Jews. They were the sons of the Companions of the Prophet.
Enough blaming others when the reason lies within our own ranks! Enough demagoguery at this critical stage in our history! We must all, as a state and as a people, recognize the truth about these criminals. These criminals have disseminated corruption in the land, and it is incumbent upon us -- the rulers, the clerics, and the citizens -- to keep the word of Allah: 'The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive to spread corruption in the land is only this, that they should be murdered,' etc. [Koran 5:33]. Period!
We must not discuss or hesitate in this matter. We must all obey the honored directive of Allah, and kill those who spread corruption in the land. And in my opinion, anything else is against the word of the Lord of the Worlds.
May Allah protect our religion, our country, and our king. If we do not carry out this directive of our Lord, and if we do not declare a general mobilization -- we will lose this war on terrorism.