By Mohammed Fahad Al-Harthi
3 February 2016
Terrorism is an international issue which demands our careful attention. It has steadily shown how degraded and violent it can be. The attack on a mosque in Al-Ahsa a few days ago is an illustration of extreme terrorist ideology, of which anybody can be a victim. Terrorism cannot be justified by any religion and the mosque attack shows that some of those who claim to be Muslim are false and deceitful.
This evil is spreading its venom to its surroundings, regardless of religion or nationality. The sign of this is the targeting of places of worship which should be safe sanctuaries. There has been a great deal of talk about fighting terrorism both militarily and intellectually. On the one hand, Saudi security forces have prevented attacks by arresting members of terrorist cells that were planning deadly operations. On the other, there has also been a welcome intellectual effort to counter extremist ideology on many different levels.
Scholars and intellectuals work to expose the dangers of terrorism and its ideological errors. Grand Mufti Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh has denounced the savage act in Al-Ahsa, describing it as “shameful” and “an act of corruption on earth.” He added that such crimes aim to spread division and dissension in the nation by instilling fear in the hearts of Muslims.
Many scholars and other devout Muslims believe that only misled people and non-believers would carry out such bloody terrorist acts. The question, however, still remains: How can a man willingly blow himself up and kill others at the same time? What kind of brainwashing could lead anyone, young or old, to such depravity? If we are to blame depressing economic conditions, then history is full of those who suffered similar conditions without resorting to such acts. Thus, we need a psychological analysis of terrorism. How can anyone kill his own mother or relative and yet claim that they are fighting in the name of God? While security officials and intellectuals continue the struggle, there is a social aspect that has not been fully recognized.
Social change has existed in all societies throughout history and has had varying results which differ according to the community and time.
The change often generates new values, social structures and relationships. The present openness, due to globalization, the communication revolution as well as travel and study abroad, imposes variables formed in the internal structure of society. Sometimes upheavals occur due to the speed of change. Amid rapid change, the weakest links are those living on the sidelines of the change or those who are victims of the change itself. They are the most malleable, the most vulnerable.
Therefore, they resort to any means in an attempt to regain their lost balance. If anyone offers them anything, they confuse it with a perceived betrayal, mixing religious passion and superficial ideology and a general discontent with society.
While changes might have occurred randomly in earlier societies, social change nowadays is governed by will and vision. Leaving the helm of social change to chance is in itself a risk because the effects are likely to spin out of control. Change is, of course, inevitable; often we do not sense it as it occurs, but an accumulation of events and deeds makes the result clear and obvious later. The process of social change is continuous in communities, described by the author Joseph Davis as the shift in social organization, both in its structure and its relationships or functions.
Our societies have witnessed rapid changes but we may have not paid enough attention to the sociological aspects of social change in its different forms. Social theories say that change does not necessarily mean progress and development; change is not in and of itself synonymous with progress and development.
There is an important responsibility in the process or rather, the leadership, of social change. Change must occur in harmony with a political decision and a vision. Perhaps it will require decisions that lead the change and even impose it at certain times. This makes the change a deliberate process instead of one happening by chance.
Combating terrorism is a major project on many levels, including security as well as intellectual and social efforts. Perceiving social change as an element on a measurable threat of terrorism is important enough that we need to study its aspects and implications. Great societies, we have seen, take the initiative toward beneficial change and so they consequently lead.
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