Outrage Over Assassination Attempt Against Prince Muhammad bin Naif

Saudis Grateful Prince Unharmed, Want Crackdown on Deviant Groups

By Siraj Wahab
Published in Arab News on August 29, 2009

Shock, disgust and dismay are the responses from people across Saudi Arabia to the attempted Thursday-night assassination of Prince Muhammad bin Naif, assistant interior minister for security affairs. The would-be killer and wanted terrorist had told authorities he would surrender to the prince at a Ramadan gathering in Jeddah. Instead his body was rigged with explosives, which detonated as he arrived. The prince received only minor injuries. Compounding people’s disdain for the attack was that it occurred 100 km from Makkah during the holy month of Ramadan.

“This is against everything that Islam teaches us. Our religion teaches us to be benevolent; it teaches us not to resort to violence. This is forbidden, haram and absolutely unjustified,” said Lama Al-Sharif, a Jeddah-based student of international relations. “Yes, there is frustration among a section of people regarding how our foreign policy is being executed and how our country is being administered, but what happened on Thursday night is deplorable and utterly un-Islamic. It means everybody will have to double up their efforts to wean the extremists away from the path of destruction.”

Prominent Eastern Province businessman Abdulrazzak Al-Turki said he was happy that Prince Mohammed survived the assassination attempt but unhappy that is was such a close call.

“There needs to be a thorough investigation as to how a bomber could go undetected up to the minister,” Al-Turki said. “This is a serious breach of security ... Such acts of violence are against Islam, and I would tell the youth of our country to focus on their bright future — to concentrate on their studies and education. This is a global village, and we are part of it. Let us chart a bright future by ignoring those who advocate the ideology of hate and violence. Our country’s leadership needs the best and the brightest to lead us into future with pride.”

The government has been generous in its attempts to encourage those who have fallen victim to deviant teachings to return to reason, allowing many to return to society after intense religious instruction. Some people are contending it is time for a tougher approach.

“All the efforts that the government was taking to bring those people who had gone astray have been nullified,” said Waleed Al-Humaidi, director of human resources at a Riyadh-based company. “The government had gone the extra mile in talking to these people and integrating them back into society. These rehabilitation efforts were sometimes criticized by foreign governments, but our government persisted and met with a lot of success, as well. But this man and those behind him have betrayed the trust of our leaders. He has caused immense harm to the process of rehabilitation and reconciliation."

“They cannot digest the fact that the government was succeeding in weaning away the youths who had taken the wrong path,” said Al-Humaidi. “From the reports that have appeared in newspapers, anybody with a blemished record could just report to the government, and the government was taking a sympathetic view of those guys trying to bring them back into the mainstream. In many cases, the government provided them with jobs. In this context, this attack was highly disappointing.”

He said such acts prove the deviants have no association to Islam. “They now have no religion. They have no idea about the sanctity of the holy month,” said Al-Humaidi. “They are completely brainwashed, and the strings of their lives are being pulled by somebody far removed from society.”

Others noted that there are very few people across the Kingdom with such extremist philosophies. “They do not represent the majority of us. Since 9/11, we have turned over a new leaf,” said Dammam newspaper columnist Tarek Al-Shehi. “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah with his vision and sagacity has taken this nation forward of the path of progress and reconciliation. The leadership has responded favorably to suggestions from our academics and the ulema. Dialogue has been given preference to suppression. All this has helped us to come out of the dark shadows that 9/11 had cast on our country.”

Al-Shehi said the incident might prove to be the last straw for the deviant groups. “Obviously nobody expected this to go down well for this tiny minority of extremists, which is driven by hate. This will prove to be the proverbial last nail in their coffin. People are revolted by what they did on Thursday night.”

“This indicates that the government's policy of isolating the extremists and terrorists is succeeding and that there is panic in the terror camp,” said Dammam journalist Muhammad Al-Harbi. “This attack was just to show that they are still around; however, this will only steel the resolve of the government and the Saudi people to weed out terrorism from our society.”