As the scourge of terrorism continues to spread its bloody war across our world and the blame game has begun,​ ​Saudi Arabia finds itself once again used as a target by politicians like Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and former Liberal leader Lord Ashdown who wrongly suggest that in some way we support radical extremism. I prefer to believe this is due to misunderstanding, not malice. The contrary is an insult to our government, our people, and our faith.

These criminals of Daesh do not belong to any religion I recognise. They have violated the messages of peace that are at the centre of the Islamic faith and they are abusing Islam with their own twisted political and criminal ideologies. Attacks similar to those in Paris have hit Arab and Muslim capitals as well claiming the lives of hundreds of ordinary men, women and children.

The onus lies with us all to trace the root causes of this evil. Neither the governments of the West nor the governments of the Middle East can do this alone. In our interconnected world we must act together to defeat terrorism. We need to intensify intelligence cooperation in order to thwart future attacks.

The kingdom knows the reality of terrorism intimately. We have been fighting it for decades and have developed a consistent strategy against terrorist methods. We have blacklisted Daesh and other extreme religious groups as terrorist organisations. We’ve criminalised the participation and affiliation to these organisations at home and abroad. We have passed laws and warned our citizens that they will be arrested and prosecuted if they attempt to join, or to take part in any of the violent conflicts raging in any region. Those found guilty of acts of terrorism, against our people, face the possibility of capital punishment. We have set up undercover counter-terrorism operations, which are working to protect our citizens and our allies from these horrendous organisations. Stringent laws, which have been scrutinised by international authorities, have been brought in to stop funding of any kind to suspect terrorism organisations from private individuals or societies.

We have done and will do everything we can to stop the spread of this corrosive poison in our country and region and encourage all other governments to do the same.

Let us look at the facts. Since 1995, Saudi Arabia has declared al-Qaeda a terrorist organisation and sought to eradicate it. The kingdom stood against Saddam Hussein. The kingdom stood against the extremists in Iraq and Syria and the kingdom has been calling, ever since the Syrian civil war began, for nations to step in and support a moderate opposition to Assad, warning that a radical opposition would soon emerge and make us all regret our inaction. And regret torments us all today.

A successful end to this war on terror will only come about when the lessons we have learned are implemented: hard (military) and soft (educational) measures must be employed; the causal issues that inspire terrorists must be addressed, starting with the Palestinian
; and lasting political and economic stability must be achieved in the nations that have been rocked by the Arab upheavals. Only then do we stand a chance of preventing disillusioned and disaffected young men and women from falling prey to the terrorist recruiters.

Today, more than ever, it is crucial to understand these efforts in order to build fruitful cooperation, so that we can together defeat this evil organisation. Mistrust, misunderstanding and deliberate misrepresentation of Saudi Arabia’s role and policy priorities can only upset the delicate act of balancing domestic and international counter-terrorism efforts with the promotion of stability and security in the wider Arab and Islamic world and, as a result, empower the radicals menacing our region and the international community.

It is precisely for these reasons that Daesh vehemently opposes Saudi Arabia and everything that it stands for. The leaders of Daesh and other extremist groups know well the extent to which Saudi Arabia is effective in fighting them both physically and ideologically. Despite this Daesh continues to attack us in a desperate attempt to foment political instability and civil discord in the kingdom. This year 52 people have died in the kingdom in a spate of suicide bombings and terrorist attacks. In response there has been a further crackdown on suspected terrorist cells. Our security forces are vigilant in defence of the freedom and security of our people. This is a key responsibility and a priority. This is why anyone found guilty of terrorism in our courts, faces the most serious consequences.”

In a recent interview the Kingdom’s Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said: “The [Daesh] terrorists are telling me that I am not a Muslim. And the world is telling me I am a terrorist.” These accusations are lobbed at Saudi Arabia on a daily basis; they are not helpful at a time when we should be working together. It is imperative that mutual efforts to better understand the security architecture of the Middle East are made. We know that it is Saudi Arabia’s responsibility to better present its policies and realities to the world, but it is the responsibility of politicians in the West from all political parties to listen.

On the counter-terrorism front, Saudi Arabia’s cooperation with the United Nations and its western allies has borne fruit in recent years. Earlier this month, Ban Ki Moon lauded Saudi Arabia’s support for UN counter-terrorism efforts and, last week 10 Downing Street rejected allegations by Lord Ashdown implying that Saudi Arabia is complicit in supporting violent ideologies by reiterating the importance of the UK’s relationship with Saudi Arabia in the fight against terrorism.

In the same vein, Foreign Office Under-Secretary Tobias Ellwood stated that, “Saudi Arabia was one of the first countries to participate in air strikes against Isil in Syria, and the King and religious establishment continue to publicly condemn Isil, and to emphasise that Isil do not in any way represent the teachings of Islamic Faith.”

On the issue of terrorist financing, he added that the kingdom “has a comprehensive set of laws in place to prevent terrorist financing, which it enforces vigorously.”

Vital cooperation on counter-terrorism has undoubtedly made the world a safer place over the past years. However, the common mischaracterisation of Saudi Arabia’s role in the war on terror, perhaps deliberately and for political point-scoring, stands to impede cooperation going forward.

In an increasingly unstable world where terrorist threats are on the rise internationally, it is imperative that we reach an understanding of one another and of the efforts each of us are making in the international war against terrorism. Our collective security is at stake. Today more than ever, fact distortion that serves party politics (with all due respect) must take the back seat.


Mohammed bin Nawaf Al Saud is the Saudi Ambassador to London