Special Dispatch Series – No. 1335
|October 26, 2006||No.1335|
In an article in the Saudi daily Al-Riyadh, columnist Fares bin Hazam reports that both preachers in mosques and online propaganda are inciting young Muslims to wage jihad.  An interview with a young Muslim who went to fight in Afghanistan, also in Al-Riyadh, provides first-hand testimony confirming this claim.
The following are excerpts from the article and the interview:
Bin Hazam writes in his article: “The business with Afghanistan will never end as long as the ‘duty of jihad’ continues to live in [our] society, in mosques, in Friday [sermons], and on the Internet…
“After the fall of the Taliban and the subsequent Guantanamo crisis… there was increasing talk about the need to investigate our youth’s growing [inclination] towards jihad, and about the need to search for the reasons that motivate them to go to Afghanistan and to other countries…
“The call to investigate these reasons is despicable; it is a tasteless joke. [One might think] that the reasons are unknown, that we are not aware of our situation [and need to conduct an] investigation in order to discover why [our young people] went forth and are still going forth [to wage jihad]… The reasons are obvious. Many of us know them, and there is no need for a scientific study or for any other [kind of study] to reveal them…
“Since the causes are known, do we lack courage to deal with [this problem]? [I believe that] we do. Our lack of courage has been apparent ever since we invented the excuse of ‘external [influences],’ and began to toy with it and wave it at every opportunity. I do not know where these [external influences] come from, since it was we who sent our young men [to Afghanistan] in the first place, before we ever heard of [these influences] that allegedly come [from outside].
“Some preachers, [namely] those who fear the censor, deceive him by being implicit in their incitement to [wage] jihad in Iraq or Afghanistan. They speak in their sermons about the merits of jihad without mentioning a particular region. They speak in general terms that can be applied to any location, even to our [own] country. During the prayer, the details start to pour in thick and fast: first, [a call to wage jihad] in Palestine, [which serve as] a smokescreen, and then [calls for jihad] in Afghanistan, Iraq and Chechnya, and finally… the call ‘oh Allah, grant them victory everywhere!’ ‘Everywhere’ includes our [own] country… and we say ‘amen’ after the preacher calls [upon Allah] to help the mujahideen in our [own] country…”
Saudi Released From Guantanamo: Fatwas Prompted Me to Join the Jihad
Sa’d Ibrahim Al-Bidna, a young Saudi, traveled to Afghanistan with the aim of joining the jihad. He was arrested two months later, and spent four years and eight months at Guantanamo. In an interview with Al-Riyadh, he said that it was fatwas posted on the Internet that motivated him to wage jihad.
Al-Riyadh: “Tell us of your journey, from [the time] you left Saudi Arabia until your return.”
Al-Bidna: “I started this exhausting journey when I left Saudi Arabia on my own, motivated by youthful enthusiasm to [wage] jihad for the sake of Allah in Afghanistan. I traveled to Afghanistan through Syria and Iran. [When I arrived], war was being waged against the Taliban and things were not clear to me. So I decided to leave Afghanistan for Pakistan, and from there to return to Saudi Arabia. But [when I reached] Pakistan, I was arrested and turned over to the American forces. [They] imprisoned me in Guantanamo, [where I remained] until the Saudi authorities intervened and brought me back to Saudi Arabia after years of suffering…”
Al-Riyadh: “Tell us about the beginning of your journey and the reasons [that motivated you] to set out for Afghanistan.”
Al-Bidna: “Many may find it difficult to believe, but I was not very devout, though I did pray regularly. But enthusiasm and zeal filled the hearts of many young people, and unfortunately, I followed certain fatwas that were posted on the Internet. [These fatwas] call upon young people to wage jihad in certain regions. They tempt them [by describing] the great reward [they will receive], the status of the martyrs in Paradise and the virgins that await them [there]. These fatwas have great influence on young people who have no awareness or knowledge [that enables them] to examine them and verify their validity.”
In Afghanistan, I Saw Muslims Fighting Muslims, and That is Why I Left
Al-Riyadh: “When you came to Afghanistan, did you find the notion of jihad to be as you had imagined it…?”
Al-Bidna: “When I arrived, the war against the Taliban was at its height. There were constant bombardments and things were not clear to me, especially since I was only there for two months. This is not enough time to understand how things really are. But what concerned me the most was that Muslims were fighting each other, and that is why I left [and went to] Pakistan – for in jihad, a Muslim must never fight his Muslim brother.”
Al-Riyadh: “Based on your experience, did you feel that there was no real jihad in Afghanistan?”
Al-Bidna: “The [brief] period I spent there did not enable me see the full picture, and I did not have the knowledge to distinguish real jihad from other actions that are [only] called jihad. But I did see that there were devout people there. Some of them were young men who came [to Afghanistan] out of youthful enthusiasm and [due to their] scant religious knowledge, or were influenced by certain fatwas published by various religious scholars, or [were influenced by] by false images, which were not free of exaggeration, of the situation in Afghanistan. This was the kind of thing that prompted me to set out without informing or asking my family, and without considering the concept of legitimate jihad, its conditions and its rules.”
Al-Riyadh: “Today, do you feel that you were wrong to set out [to Afghanistan], obeying some irresponsible fatwas?”
Al-Bidna: “Of course. I [now] understand that I was wrong. I should have asked the leaders for permission to set out [and wage jihad], or religious scholars known for their knowledge and piety, of which there are many in our country…”
Al-Riyadh: “Before you left for Afghanistan, was there anyone who urged you and encouraged you to go?”
Al-Bidna: “I did not belong to any group or organization, especially since I was not devout before I left. But there were obviously some fatwas that called [for jihad] and were posted on certain websites. [They] influenced many young men, both devout and [non-devout]…”
Had I Received Proper Guidance Before I Left for Afghanistan, I Would Not Have Gone
Al-Riyadh: “After returning [to Saudi Arabia], did you meet with the counseling committees? What changed in your way of thinking?”
Al-Bidna: “My views began to change when I saw the real picture and understood my error, [even] before I was captured. When I returned to Saudi Arabia, we [i.e. the prisoners released from Guantanamo] met with sheikhs and religious scholars who taught us a great deal, and who enlightened us on the tolerant directives of Islam. Had I [known all this] before I left, I would not have gone. The discussions with the religious scholars and sheikhs gave us the ability to distinguish truth from error, and set us on the right path.”
Al-Riyadh: “From your experience, are there specific reasons that cause young people to adopt deviant views and carry out terrorist actions?”
Al-Bidna: “Of course there are specific reasons [that motivate] young people, especially unemployment, the desire for self-fulfillment, and [having] free time. I, for example, finished [only] elementary school, and sat around without a job for many years prior to leaving for Afghanistan. Such things can cause young people to go astray, especially when there are [people] who feed them erroneous notions…”
Al-Riyadh: “Do you think that a fatwa posted online can prompt a young person to wage jihad, when he does not know for sure whether the fatwa is valid?”
Al-Bidna: “There is no doubt that the problem lies in the youth’s enthusiasm [coupled with] scant knowledge. That’s what happened with me. I did not think to verify the validity of these fatwas or to consult with anyone, and [consequently] made a big mistake…”
 Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), October 10, 2006.