By Magdi Abdelhadi
BBC World Service Arab affairs analyst
A leading Saudi journalist has caused a stir by launching a scathing attack on Muslim clerics who justify the killing of innocent civilians in the name of jihad, or holy war.
The article was provoked by reflections on the tragic Russian school siege
In an editorial on the hostage crisis in Beslan, Abdelrahman al-Rashid, the managing director of the satellite channel al-Arabiyya, wrote: "It is a certain fact that not all Muslims are terrorists, but it is equally certain, and exceptionally painful, that almost all terrorists are Muslims."
He laid the blame for Islamist violence around the world on radical Muslim clerics, whom he accused of hijacking what is essentially a peace-loving and tolerant faith.
Mr Rashid's article, which appeared on Saturday in al-Sharq al-Awsat, singled out the controversial and influential Egyptian cleric, Yousef al-Qaradawi, whose views are aired regularly on the Qatari satellite channel, al-Jazeera.
"A man of his advanced age incites young men to kill civilians, while his two daughters are studying under the protection of British security in the "infidel" United Kingdom," Mr Rashid wrote. The implication is that Mr Al-Qaradawi is a hypocrite.
Calling for reform
Mr Rashid's views are not new or unique. Several Arab writers have been calling on Arab societies to examine themselves and stop blaming external forces for their misfortunes.
But coming this time from a journalist as prominent as Mr Rashid they are likely to infuriate an Islamic public that is firmly convinced that that it is Muslims who are the victims of what many see as state-sponsored violence, whether it is in Chechnya, the occupied Palestinian territories, or in Algeria.
Mr Rashid's comments employ what has become a standard defence of the Muslim faith, namely, that the problem is not Islam itself, but a small number of Muslims.
That may very well be true as far as the number of Islamic militants go. But this analysis does not address the fact that radical clerics, like Mr Qaradwi, remain widely popular.
The problem of Islamist violence appears to go well beyond the views of a small, albeit influential, minority.
Other liberal critics of Arab societies go further than Mr Rashid.
They blame what they see as a predominantly literalist interpretation of Islamic tradition and the Koran.
They have also called for a radical reform of religious education and for curbing the power of the religious establishment across the Arab world.