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Saudi Paper: IS Like A 'Bloodsucking Bug'

Some Saudi commentators fear that IS will destabilize domestic society.

Some Saudi commentators fear that IS will destabilize domestic society.

As Saudi pilots help target the Islamic State in Syria as part of the U.S.-led coalition, back home Saudis are nervous about the domestic threat posed by the militant group.

Saudi foreign fighters have played an active role in the Syrian conflict, and according to analysts could be the largest foreign national group that has traveled to Syria. (It is not known exactly how many Saudi foreign fighters are with IS.)

The Saudi government has declared IS and Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist groups and issued a decree stating that Saudis who fight in foreign conflicts face between three and 20 years in prison.

Saudi op-ed writers on October 9 argued that the real threat from IS is from within, and asked what Saudis can and should do to combat extremism.

Hossein Alsenan, writing in "Al-Sharq," asks whether Saudis are ready to repel the “next trend after the Islamic State.”

Alsenan compared IS to a bloodsucking bug, and argues that the extremist group will inevitably spawn offspring that will try to survive and live on the "body of the nation."

According to Alsenan, IS is not a phenomenon that emerged overnight, like a "space creature that suddenly fell to Earth." Rather, it is the result of the accumulation, over many years, of extremist interpretations of Islam. Members of extremist movements have been able to spread their extremist views very quickly via satellite and electronic media, he argues. Riding this wave were individuals from other political orientations who did not care about Islam or Muslims, and who wanted to make gains for their factions and exploit the public.

One of the things that Saudis must do, Alsenan argues, is to "call a spade a spade" and admit that while the goal of religious extremism is murder and bloodshed, its origins are in ideas, and Saudis must understand the ideas that lead to the emergence of terrorist movements.

Alsenan argues that Saudis should strive to create an environment of moderation to protect youth from intolerance and extremism.

Nawar Fakhry Ezzi, writing in the "Saudi Gazette," offers a similar view, warning that even after IS is destroyed, its ideology "could be resurrected if there is fertile ground for it to grow." Military action is not enough, she argues: what is needed is a war on "poverty, unemployment, injustice, and intolerance."

While Muslim countries, including Saudi Arabia, are taking "serious action" against IS, recruitment to the Islamic State is still ongoing.

"It is a source of great sadness," Ezzi writes of IS in Iraq and Syria, "that the cities that manifested the greatness of the Islamic civilization, will also stand as witnesses to the greatest shame of Islamic history depicted by IS."

-- Joanna Paraszczuk

About This Blog

"Under The Black Flag" provides news, opinion, and analysis about the impact of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Syria, Iraq, and beyond. It focuses not only on the fight against terrorist groups in the Middle East, but also on the implications for the region and the world. The blog's primary author, James Miller, closely covered the first three years of the Arab Spring, with a focus on Syria, and is now the managing editor of The Interpreter, where he covers Russia's foreign and domestic policy and the Kremlin's wars in Syria and Ukraine. Follow him on Twitter: @Millermena