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Islamic fundamentalism on Saudi online communities . Yeslam Al-Saggaf Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics Charles Sturt University, Australia .

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islamic fundamentalism on saudi online communities

Islamic fundamentalism on Saudi online communities

Yeslam Al-Saggaf

Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics Charles Sturt University, Australia

Asia Pacific Computing and Philosophy Conference: November 2 - 4, 2007, Sasa International House, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand

the version of islam practised in saudi arabia
The version of Islam practised in Saudi Arabia
  • Often called ‘Wahhabism’
  • It emerged to wash out deviating aspects of modern religious practice such as portraits, gambling, music and dancing
  • Followers adopt an uncompromising approach, which is based on a literal interpretation of Islam
  • Agreement between Al Sawood (the ruling family) and Al Shiekh

Saudi Arabia


USSR invasion of Afghanistan

  • Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries wanted to librate Afghanistan
  • Emergence of terrorists (Mujahideen)
1991 gulf war
1991 Gulf War

The acceptance of US army angered Islamic fundamentalists

overview of the study
Overview of the study

Political Online Forums are

research methods
Research Methods

Focused or structured silent observation

Conducted over a period of three months (May-July 2007).

Thematic Content Analysis

Sample consisted of 2000 topics posted during May-June 2007

In-depth interviews

Followed a semi-structured format with open-ended questions

Conducted in Arabic (one face to face, 5-6 by phone, rest via MSN Messenger)

Sample consisted of 15 key informants

Selection depended on the availability of an email address in the key informant’s profile in forum

islamic fundamentalism
Islamic fundamentalism
  • Islamic fundamentalists are divided into several groups.
  • One of these is Jammys who support the Muslim scholars recognised by the government
  • 5.89% of all the topics posted to the forum during May-June 2007 were in favour of fundamentalism (in Sept 2004 the figure was 5.975%)
  • Islamic fundamentalists in the forum are the majority (80%-90%)
  • In 2004 only 1.625% of the topics were in favour of religious police; in 2007 the number has risen to 7%.
  • Two men arrested by the religious police were killed during interrogation
extremism and jihad
Extremism and Jihad
  • Extremists group (Takfiris) are those who disagree with the government scholars and try to destroy their image.
  • They express their disagreement and disapproval of things that are wrong (un Islamic according to them) by resolving to violence.
  • While Islamic fundamentalists may use their mouth to make their point, Islamic extremists use violence
  • “Takfiris are shallow and narrow in their thinking. They lack depth. Their goal is one: cause maximum damage to the Americans”
extremism and jihad cont
Extremism and Jihad (Cont.)
  • This group encourages Jihad even inside Saudi Arabia according to one of the key informants.
  • Between 1995-2005 more than 50 terrorist activities took place in Saudi Arabia
  • Top 26 Terrorists killed or captured, only 2 are on the run
extremism and jihad cont1
Extremism and Jihad (Cont.)
  • The number of topics, which favoured terrorists, has dropped from 0.813% to 0.38%
  • The number of the topics, which criticised terrorists, has also dropped from 8.222% to 2.68%%.
  • Many terrorists have disappeared from the forum as four interviewees have noted
    • Many of them have been put in jail
    • Many of them have been suspended from the forum because of their links to terrorism or because they often discuss the personality of the writer or attack him instead of engaging with his ideas.
    • Many of them are fighting the Americans in Iraq.
saudi liberals
Saudi liberals
  • In September 2004 the figure of the total forum content which was derogatory and belittling of liberals was 7.12%,
  • In this study the percentage is 7.69%
  • Liberals, like Jammys, are against Jihad and supportive of the Saudi government.
  • The general public and the government, however, don't not like them
    • One reason the government does not like them, according to one of the interviewees, is because liberals can serve as the cornerstone of a new government if the US invaded Saudi Arabia
    • One reason the public does not like them is because liberals support women driving cars, working along side men, and becoming more independent. They also want to see theatres, cinemas, and discos in the country.
  • Liberals are not given a chance to operate among the fundamentalist majority who hate them
  • Liberals are very active in the local press
freedom of expression online
Freedom of expression online
  • Although 700,000 people (Al Arabiya, 2004) visit Al-Saha Al-Siyasia everyday and hundreds of people (mainly Saudis) contribute to it, access to the forum is actually blocked
  • There is also censorship of content in the forum.
  • Topics that support the Takfiri ideology or the insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, or Bin Laden, or Saad Al-Fagiah (reformer), or criticise the high profile princes, or the Ministry of Interior or the religious police are often deleted according to several interviewees
  • Several interviewees have also mentioned during the interviews that they had been arrested by the Saudi Secret Service and some served jail sentences because of their writings on Al-Saha Al-Siyasia
  • In the past there were many voices operating in thew forum i.e. fundamentalists, liberals, reformers, extremists, government supporters and maybe a few Shiaa
  • Today mainly fundamentalists write in Al-Saha Al-Siyasia
  • The forum has lost many great writers who were more famous than some columnists in local newspapers
  • There is no dialogue, no deliberation, no diversity of opinion and no rational critical debating between members because those who disagree are not welcome in the forum
  • Fundamentalists are becoming stronger and louder; liberals are struggling; extremists, Shiaa, reformers and government critics are disappearing
  • Even though political online forums are the only media tool in the hands of the public they are blocked and content on them is censored
  • Those who talk about sensitive issues are arrested