Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

'I’d Better Stay Quiet'

'I’d Better Stay Quiet'

Friday, 22 April, 2022 - 11:00
Tariq Al-Homayed
Saudi journalist and writer, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper

Last Sunday, I wrote about the lie of an axis of “resistance” and “confrontation” in an article entitled From Mashaal to Nasrallah. It is a longstanding lie whose credibility fluctuates like stock prices, except that this fluctuation is propelled by the fortunes of constant campaigning and attempts at manipulating public opinion, which is as volatile as the weather.

The most powerful weapon yielded by those pushing the “resistance and confrontation” lie is character or moral assassination, which has become a popular tool for slandering and discrediting people. The term moral assassination will be used from here on out in order to avert confusing the concept with physical liquidation and murder.

It can be used against anyone who tries to shed light on the threat of extremism or Iran’s foreign agents and exposes those who are trying to destroy our countries. This is nothing new. It has been used for a long time. Below are a few examples that happened within living memory and continue to form part of the public debate to the present day.

The time of the false “jihad” in Afghanistan, Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait and his campaign to “expel the polytheists from the Arabian Peninsula” are two early examples. They were followed by the terrorism of Al-Qaeda, the US invasion of Iraq, and the “misadventurous” Lebanon War of 2006.

Most recently, we saw wars waged by belligerents who trade in blood, which I always called “tin rocket” wars; then ISIS and the big lie of the so-called Arab Spring emerged, and too many other developments to mention here unfolded. What all those events have in common is an effort to confuse the public through the deployment of the most dangerous weapon available to the belligerents, moral assassination at every level, committed in print, on podiums, and now on social media, which has become the most popular platform from which to execute rivals.

In an article for the Al-Watan newspaper entitled The Intellectual Versus Extremism, the studious Saudi researcher Mr. Khaled al-Adaad writes that, “the intellectual has a role to play in eliminating extremism, and this role is often not heavily relied upon in the case of Saudi Arabia.”

The reason for this, he claims, is that, “the Saudi intellectual has been morally assassinated in his society, which sees intellectuals as antithetical to religion, customs, and traditions. In the Saudi consciousness, the intellectual’s role is to change society and reshape its identity, an impression which extremists of all forms have sought to promote.” On that note, I will tell a story I can never forget.

One day I met the late writer Ali Salem, may God have mercy on his soul, in Cairo to ask him to write an article for the newspaper, on the last page, or what we called “the front page 2,” when I was editor in chief. I asked him, one of the most prominent supporters of the peace process who had been on board since Anwar Sadat’s era, how he dealt with the campaigns against him- how he managed to stay standing and do great work despite the viciousness.

Ali Salem told me: “Moral assassination is more dangerous that firing a bullet.” He added that it is a bullet used in a dangerous manner, evolving until it becomes something like a pistol with a silencer.

He explained the most advanced version of moral assassination available at the time, saying: “You would be sitting with a group of people when a man comes over, and a member of the group says: ‘I’d better stay quiet.’ Everyone stops talking. Neither did the moral assassin explain nor did those in attendance pose questions, and the reasonable man is thus morally assassinated without a single claim about him being made.”

And so, the “bullets of moral assassination” keep flying to this day. Indeed they are fired more heavily than ever before in the grand exclusionary arena that is social media in the service of “resistance and confrontation” and extremists seeking to recalibrate their position after having pretended to be tolerant… the story goes on and on…

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