Following the April 15, 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, reports in the U.S. media claimed that Saudi nationals may have been involved in the attack. The New York Post 15266reported that a Saudi student, ‘Abd Al-Rahman Al-Harbi, who was wounded in the bombing, had been question on suspicion of involvement in the act. Subsequent reports mentioned another Saudi national, Noura Al-‘Ajaji, who is studying in the U.S. and was also wounded in the bombing.

The Saudi media responded to these reports with a flurry of articles that denied the involvement of Saudis in the bombing, especially that of the student Al-Harbi. Several papers published interviews with Al-Harbi and his father, in which they clarified that Al-Harbi’s questioning had been routine and that he was not a suspect.[1] The papers also cited the Saudi cultural attaché in the U.S., Muhammad Al-‘Issa, who said that U.S. authorities had assured him there was no indication that any Saudis were involved in the attack.[2]

The Saudi press also made considerable effort to emphasize that the kingdom had no connection to the Boston bombing, and that it condemns all acts of terrorism in the strongest possible terms. In fact, numerous articles were published which castigated the attack and terrorism in general. Some articles claimed that no matter what the nationality and religion of the perpetrators, they are terrorists and deviants who represent nobody but themselves. Others stressed that Saudi Arabia itself has been combating terrorism for years, and that the world has benefited from its expertise in this area. The headline of the April 14 issue of the London-based daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat quoted U.S. State Secretary John Kerry, who said at a Senate hearing that Saudi Arabia’s contribution and its war on terror have helped to thwart many plots.[3] One article focused on suicide bombings, calling them a deviation that is not sanctioned by the Islamic shari’a.

It should be noted that many articles also praised U.S. President Barack Obama for not hurrying to place the blame on anyone, unlike former president George W. Bush after 9/11.

In addition to the campaign in the Saudi press, there were condemnations by senior Saudi officials, chief among them King ‘Abdallah himself, who sent an official message to President Obama in which he said: “We condemn these shameful terrorist acts that are directed at innocent and defenseless people and are perpetrated by a criminal group that has undertaken to be the enemy of mankind as a whole. We stress that those who carried out this deed represent only themselves, and that no religion, morals or values could sanction it.”[4] 

This report reviews some of the articles published in the Saudi press in response to the Boston bombing which condemned this attack and terrorism in general.

Saudi Student Abd Al Rahman Al HarbiSaudi Student Abd Al Rahman Al Harbi

Islam Is Infected With Virus Of Terrorism

Dr. Muhammad Nahed Al-Kuwaiz, a columnist for the Saudi daily Al-Riyadh, wrote that the Muslims must acknowledge the existence of Islamic terrorism, which stems from an ideology of extremism and takfir (accusing others of heresy), and called to purge Islam of this ideology: “When one person carries out an attack we call him a terrorist or a retard or a psychopath. When two people carry out an attack we say they are both terrorists and lunatics. But when ten people carry out an attack we [start] wondering about their motives. So when hundreds of members of the same religion [carry out] bombings all over the place – in mosques, markets, hotels, [public] gathering places, planes, and [subway] tunnels – and are later identified as Muslims, we have no choice but to admit that this is Islamic terrorism.

“Some are angered by the equation drawn between Islam and terrorism, and argue that Islam is a religion of love. This is true of the real Islam, but today’s Islam is infected with the virus of zealotry, extremism, and terrorism – not just [the Islam] of the terrorists and murderers, but [the Islam] of those who sympathize with them and support them. We must admit that Islamic terrorism exists, and that the faith needs to be purged of the ideology of exclusion and takfir. Denying this reality will not bring change, but pitch us into total ruin.

“I will not [try to] anticipate the findings of the investigation of the Boston attack, because there are sufficient [examples]. Not long before the Boston attack, a suicide bomber blew himself up in a mosque in Pakistan, murdering dozens of worshipers, including children. Another blew himself up in Iraq, causing similar devastation. Tomorrow will bring with it more of this Islamic terrorism, since Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Syria [also] have Islamic suicide bombers who act out of extremist ideological inclinations… All this is done in the name of Islam by religious Muslims who believe they are close to Paradise and want to shorten their path there.

“Considering the ease with which young boys and girls are recruited to put on suicide vests and sacrifice themselves, [do we need] to ask why? Will we [not] find the answer in the sermons and religious curricula in Southeast Asian countries, or in the words of sheikhs who encourage strife in the media or on TV channels that purport to support peace?

“The important question is, when will Islam recover from the virus of terrorism?”[5]

Dr Muhammad Nahed Al Kuwaiz Dr. Muhammad Nahed Al-Kuwaiz (image: Al-Riyadh, Saudi Arabia)

Suicide Bombings – A Deviation From The Muslim Shari’a

Columnist Muhammad bin ‘Abd Al-Latif Aal Al-Sheikh attacked Islamists that support suicide attacks, on the grounds that these acts constitute bid’a (forbidden innovation) that have no basis in Islamic shari’a, and that the Koran explicitly forbids murder: “I do not believe that there is another innovation that was introduced by the [Saudi] Sahwa [Awakening] movement[6] and approved by some clerics without considering its implications… [as was done] with the innovation of suicide bombings, which they call istishhad (martyrdom-seeking). We must ask: If [suicide bombings] are permitted, as you say, and the suicide bomber’s sins are forgiven and he is considered a martyr, why didn’t the ancients know about them? This concept [of suicide attacks] is not mentioned in the [texts of] Islamic jurisprudence, despite the focus of [Islam’s] early generations on jihad, and even though [the early Muslims] yearned to die a martyr’s death in permissible ways…

“Those who take an objective look at the [religious] proofs presented [by the Islamists] will find that, from the start, there was an intention to permit these deadly attacks by all means. This, because they serve the Islamist movements and achieve their ends, and despite the fact that [Koranic] verses and explicit hadiths totally forbid murder…”

Later in his article, Aal Al-Sheikh rebuffed two arguments presented by Islamists to sanction suicide bombings. He concluded by mentioning some of the greatest Wahhabi clerics, who are revered by all circles in Saudi Arabia: “It only remains for me to mention [the position of] Sheikh ‘Abd Al-‘Aziz Ibn Bazz, as well as Sheikh [Muhammad Nasser Al-Din] Al-Albani and Sheikh Saleh Al-Fawzan, and of course Sheikh Muhammad bin Uthaymin. All of them, without exception, forbade these attacks and considered the suicide bomber as one doomed to eternal hell…”[7]

Muhammad bin Abd Al-Latif Aal Al-Sheikh
Muhammad bin ‘Abd Al-Latif Aal Al-Sheikh (image:
‘Okaz, Saudi Arabia)

The Perpetrators Of The Boston Attacks – A Deviant Group, Regardless Of Their Sect Or Nationality

Jasser ‘Abd Al-‘Aziz Al-Jasser, a columnist for the Saudi daily Al-Jazirah, wrote: “No matter who perpetrated the terrorist act in Boston and who was behind it, the public must condemn and oppose such terrorist acts that target innocent people – regardless of [the terrorists’] citizenship and nationality…

“Everyone was just as amazed as the Americans at the return of these irresponsible acts, perpetrated by insane groups that lack even a shred of moral commitment or civilized [values]… No matter what the citizenship, nationality or sect of the terrorists, they must not be seen as belonging to that [country, sect or nation]. They are a deviant group that has discarded normal thinking and cannot be seen as exhibiting normal human behavior. They are a deviant group that is hostile to humanity as a whole…”[8]

World Countries Have Benefited From Saudi Arabia’s Expertise In Combating Terrorism

The April 19, 2013 editorial of the Saudi daily Al-Madina stressed that Saudi Arabia has done and is still doing a great deal to combat terrorism, and that many of the world’s countries have benefited from its expertise in this domain. It added: “The entire international community was impressed with the Saudi efforts [in combating terrorism] because [this country] has adopted a comprehensive security strategy that emphasizes the Munasaha [project][9] and the ideological campaign [against extremism], as well as security measures [on the ground]. The kingdom works to combat terrorism on many levels – local, regional and international – by tightening its security cooperation with friendly countries and drying up the extremist groups’ sources of funding and support.” As an example of the international community’s appreciation of these measures, the editorial cited U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who said that Saudi Arabia provides the U.S. with valuable assistance in the war on terror. In light of this, the daily added, “one must reject the attempts of the Zionist propaganda apparatuses to accuse the kingdom of perpetrating terrorism – [attempts that are] intended to sabotage Saudi-U.S. relations.”[10]       

We Hope The Perpetrator Is Not Saudi

Badriyya Al-Bishr, a columnist for the London-based Saudi daily Al-Hayat, wrote: “We have over 100,000 [students] on a government [stipend] and thousands of others learning at their own expense [in American universities]. Any involvement of a Saudi national in this terror attack, God forbid, will threaten them and cause them to be placed under surveillance… Worse, they will be viewed with hostility and will not be allowed to renew their visas. Do our sons merit such treatment? Of course not. All religions [hold that] ‘no man is punished for the sins of another’ [Koran 6, 164]. However, if one of our sons is involved in terrorism and violence we feel responsible, as happened after 9/11. Then we were confronted with a difficult question: What caused our sons to perpetrate this act? We sifted through documents and books and said for the first time: extremist streams had abducted our sons, invented enemies for them, and caused them to hate life – until they were left with no goal but self-sacrifice that could be achieved only through the murder of others…

“We Muslims paid a steep price after 9/11, and today we and our sons anticipate a new future, now that King ‘Abdallah bin ‘Abd Al-‘Aziz has opened for [our sons] the path of real jihad: the jihad of life and knowledge in universities that will train them to do good for the benefit of their society, so that they return to us as doctors, engineers and technology [experts], and so our country becomes associated with scientific achievement rather than terror. The Boston bombing fills us with fear, and makes us hope that the perpetrator is not Saudi.”[11]

Badriyya Al-Bishr
Badriyya Al-Bishr
(image: Al-Hayat, Saudi Arabia)


[1] ‘Okaz (Saudi Arabia), April 18, 2013;, April 17, 2013; Al-Hayat (London), April 19, 2013;, April 17, 2013.

[2] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), April 17, 2013.

[3] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), April 18, 2013.

[4] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), April 17, 2013.

[5] Al Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), April 18, 2013.

[6] An Islamist movement that operated in Saudi Arabia from the 1960s and whose influence peaked in the 1980s and 1990s. It was influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood and was among the most dominant forces opposing the Saudi regime.

[7] Al-Jazirah (Saudi Arabia), April 18, 2013.

[8] Al-Jazirah (Saudi Arabia), April 17, 2013.

[9] A counseling and guidance program for security prisoners established by the Saudi Interior Ministry in 2003 with the intent of encouraging these prisoners to renounce their extremist beliefs.

[10] Al-Madina (Saudi Arabia), April 19, 2013.

[11] Al-Hayat (London), April 17, 2013.


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