July 2, 2008

Saudi TV Airs Talk Show on Jihadist Websites’ Impact on Youth

Riyadh Al-Ikhbariyah Satellite TV in Arabic at 1830 gmt and Riyadh Saudi Television 1 at 1845 gmt on 1 July showed the first part of a new series of weekly programmes titled "Our Concerns." The series, which are produced by the Saudi Interior Ministry and presented by Abd-al-Rahman al-Husayn, deal with issues related to the impact of the Internet, especially Jihadist material, on Saudi youths' behaviour and actions.

The programme is a recorded talk show to which a group of Saudi young men were invited together with a panel experts, it includes: Shaykh Salih Bin-Awad al-Maghamisi, preacher and prayers leader at Medina's Quba Mosque; Abdallah al-Bulayhid, the father of a Saudi youth arrested in Iraq; Abu-Sa'ud, a Saudi youth who used the Internet as the main source of looking for extremist material; and Dr Fayiz al-Shihri, a researcher in Internet usage and editor-in- chief of 'Majallat al-Buhuth al-Amniyah [Security Research Magazine],' which belong to the Interior Ministry.

Once Presenter Al-Husayn highlighted the "massive" increase in Internet usage in the country over the past decade and the huge growth of extremist sites "from 12 in 1998 to over 5,000 sites today", and how to protect five million Saudi users from their influence, he invited few young Saudis in the studio to talk about their personal experiences with the Internet.

The first young man says he started using the Internet out of curiosity. However, he adds, due to boredom and monotony he became addicted, spending over eight hours daily perusing various websites. He also says the lack of free press in the country forced him to try to find what he is looking for on the Internet. The second young man says he uses the Internet daily, spending up eight hours a day in front of the screen as part of his daily entertainment. He adds that the lack of public outlets of entertainment, such as theatres and cinemas, have forced him kill time using and chatting on the Internet. The third young man says he uses the Internet for everything, i.e. reading Islamic material, communicating with other Muslims, and defending Islamic causes, especially in view of the recent attacks on Prophet Muhammad.

After that Presenter Al-Husayn turned to the panel. He asked Shaykh Salih whether people should turn to the Internet for their religious education. Shaykh Salih says "of course the use of the Internet is a personal matter (...) however, in principle the Internet should not be used by people as a source of fataws on religious matters." He also advised users to fear God when using the Internet.

Asked whether he could give a profile of people who are addicted to the Internet, Dr Al-Shihri says: Anyone who uses the Internet for more than "10 or 15 minutes a day" becomes addicted to it and personal life would be impacted by whatever material he reads. He adds "it not natural or right" for people to use the Internet for up to eight hour every day.

Talking about his own experience, Abu-Sa'ud, who is a young man already arrested for his association with extremism, says he joined an Internet forum out of curiosity, and that it was thanks to his forum that he started receiving, without elaborating, information about the jihad and the "Guantanamo prisoners." Pressed further to describe the material he was reading, Abu-Sa'ud says it was an "appalling" material because it attacked honourable clerics and incited, citing uncorroborated fatwas, young people to carry out acts of violence by telling them that the road to paradise is through the jihad.

The programme then showed clips of young people who were caught using the Internet to incite others carry out terrorist acts.

It showed someone identified, according to a caption, Abu-Azzam al-Ansari, a non-Saudi who was indicted of being behind the creation of "an electronic magazine specializing in the promotion of extremism". Al-Ansari says he started interested in the internet because he thought he needed more information about Islam and Muslims, as well as about the war in both Iraq and Afghanistan and the true figure of the US losses in these wars.

It then showed a woman, covered in black, only identified as Umm Usamah. The caption says she "was former activist in the women efforts to promote extremist groups -a non-Saudi who was arrested and then handed back to her family." Umm Usamah says the Internet was at home so it was very easily to get hooked on it, and that through the forums she met with many people who were, like herself, very enthusiastic about Jihad.

The third clip showed a Saudi national identified as Abu-Umar who says he used the Internet to find information about the jihad and read statements made by Usamah Bin-Ladin and Abd-al-Aziz Al-Miqrin which, he says, after a while he started to believe in them.

It was then the turn of Abdallah al-Bulayhid, whose son, Thamir, went to Iraq five years ago but was caught and still held in prison in Iraq. Al-Bulayhid recounts the story of how his son got involved, without his knowledge, with jihadist circles in the Saudi city of Khmis Mushayt, as well as the heartache his son's actions have caused his parents. He also talked how his son phoned him and wanted to come home because as soon as he reached Iraq he found there "no jihad" over there but only people who were prepared to use him as a commodity to further their personal and financial interests. He says those people were prepared to sell his son to the highest bidder, and that his son was sold for $250 10 days after his arrival in Iraq.

The programme concludes with Presenter Al-Husayn promising to show the second episode next week.

Originally published by Al-Ikhbariyah TV, Riyadh, in Arabic 1830 1 Jul 08.

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