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Takfir Ideology, They Say

The case for overthrow of an existing Muslim government is always based on its not being Islamic enough. New Duranty reports on the 172 arrests in Saudi Arabia:

...General Turki said the investigation was an continuing operation in the kingdom’s battle against an entrenched ideology that promotes terrorism and seeks to recruit young people. The official statement repeatedly referred to “takfir ideology,” a view that effectively allows one Muslim to declare another Muslim an apostate, or nonbeliever, and then kill him.

“We have never actually said we have reached an end,” General Turki said in an interview. “We always confirm that security forces’ efforts are not enough. Not unless you really tackle the ideology that is inspiring these people in order to be involved in these activities.”

The Saudi leadership was forced to address the rise of radical, violent Islamic thinking within its borders after the 9/11 attacks, where 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi.

But the kingdom has had its own history of violence and at one time — after the seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca by militants in 1979 — found security in supporting some of the most radical Sunni Muslim religious voices. At the time, Saudi officials were also concerned about the Islamic revolution in Iran, which brought a Shiite government to power.

But in recent years, the ideology promoted by Al Qaeda has called for bringing down the royal family, saying it is un-Islamic. Security was stepped up markedly here after the American Consulate in Jidda was attacked and a housing complex for foreigners was bombed.

In recent months there has been a failed attempt to blow up an oil installation, the murder of three French citizens and the beheading of a state security officer, all actions that the authorities here link to the struggle with the most radical ideology. Officials have decided that in addition to relying on the security forces, they will try to “re-educate” those suspected of terrorist links.

The approach has led to a joke going around Riyadh that says the best way to get a job and a new house is to join Al Qaeda — and then repent to the government. General Turki said that when officials change the minds of those caught, the prisoners also end up as useful informers.

“If they change their view, they work against the ideology, they help you, they tell you things,” he said. “They tell you how you can improve your actions to prevent the continuation of the ideology.”

The case announced Friday showed just how much of a challenge the government faced. The number of people was large, officials acknowledged, and came just six months after another 136 people were arrested in a similar sweep and charged with plotting similar crimes, the general said...

“Al Qaeda is no longer an organized structure,” said Mr. Qassim, the retired judge. “It became an ideology and a system of work. This is Al Qaeda now.”