17Largely ignored as a supposed backwater in the domestic context of Saudi Arabia for many decades, 19 Najran in the late 1990s attracted increased attention. Its proximity to Yemen and the unification of the Yemen Arab Republic North Yemen and the People´s Democratic Republic of Yemen South Yemen in 1990, followed by Saudi Yemeni border negotiations in 1997, gave new impetus to address the fate of tens of thousands of South Yemenis who had taken refuge in Najran. Ismailis vehemently object to the preferred official solution of naturalizing and settling these Yemenis who are Sunni in Najran, thereby altering the demographic make up of the majority Ismaili region. 10 Askar Halwan Al Enazy, "´The International Boundary Treaty´ Treaty of Jeddah Concluded between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Yemeni Republic on June 12, 2000," The American Journal of International Law, vol. 96, no. 161, January 2002.
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Because traditional Islamic law calls for the execution of apostates, some have used takfir to justify attacks on the Saudi state. In recent years, these attacks have raised fears that the chaos in some of the world’s conflict zones is being brought home to Saudi Arabia by radicalized jihadists. The Saudi government thus finds itself in the awkward position of needing to defend the principle of jihad to its citizens while discouraging them from actually taking up arms. One step it has taken is simply to talk to those who have proved to be most vulnerable to the temptations of jihad, the captured militants themselves. As Jilani put it to me, “The kingdom of Saudi Arabia has the confidence to fight thoughts with thoughts. ”Jilani and his colleagues are not just fighting a war of ideas.