CAIRO Ñ Arab security chiefs have agreed that any counter-insurgency
campaign must include significant restrictions on Islamic clerics and
Security chiefs of Arab League members have examined proposed
limitations on Islamic courses and sermons during a counter-terrorism
conference in Tunis. The conference was held this week in wake of Islamic
suicide strikes in Rabat, Morocco and Riyad, Saudi Arabia
. Both of the
attacks have been
attributed to Al Qaida.
Mohammed Bin Al Kuman, secretary-general of the Arab League Interior
Ministers Council, urged security chiefs to reach agreement on regulations
that would govern the teaching and promulgation of Islam. Al Kuman told the
conference that Arab countries require more than ever clerics who can
distinguish between what he termed terrorism and the fight for
"This conference is being convened under the continuing influence of the
terrorism bombings that took place in Riyad and Casablanca and is
representative of the monstrous extent of their activities and the disdain
of those who planned and implemented [the attacks] in religious education
and morality," Kuman said.
The Arab League official said the success of the war against terrorism
in Morocco and Saudi Arabia has been largely based on the efforts of the
security agencies of those two countries in rooting out radical clerics who
promulgate a distorted version of Islam. He said the Arab and Islamic media
have a huge role to play in condemning Islamic terrorism and those who
In both open
and closed sessions, the officials have determined a link between Islamic
attacks and a clergy that promotes jihad, or holy war, in mosques, schools
and other institutions.
A range of Arab regimes have launched crackdowns on Islamic clerics and
institutions deemed as supporting insurgency attacks. So far this year,
crackdowns by security services have been reported in Algeria, Jordan,
Mauritania, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Yemen.
The conference included panels that discussed such issues as insurgency
sleeper cells and the need to improve intelligence exchange. The Kuwaiti
envoy to the conference, Abdullah Al Issa, urged league members to cooperate
and coordinate in the effort to expose Al Qaida sleeper cells in the Middle
East. Al Issa, a senior Interior Ministry official, said the discussion on
sleeper cells was the most important part of the conference.
The conference also discussed the need to compensate victims of
insurgency attacks. The conference did not include Iraq, whose regime was
overthrown by the United States in April.
Unlike previous conferences, the Tunis parley did not contain serious
differences regarding the threat of Islamic insurgency. Even Lebanon, which
along with Syria has termed insurgency attacks against Israel as those being
conducted by freedom fighters, agreed that the number one threat in the Arab
world is what Beirut termed Islamic terrorism.
Simon Haddad, head of the Lebanese delegation, told the conference that
terrorism constitutes the most frightening trend in the international
community. Haddad said the terrorist threat does not distinguish between
nations and called for a collective effort to combat the phenomenon.
Hadad said a definition is required to distinguish between terrorism and
what he termed legitimate national liberation. He did not elaborate.