Father of Hate: How detained Saudi cleric Safar Al-Hawali promoted anti-Western ideas

Safar Al-Hawali, above, and fatwas from his book “Muslims and Western Civilization”.
Updated 29 April 2019
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Father of Hate: How detained Saudi cleric Safar Al-Hawali promoted anti-Western ideas

  • In Safar Al-Hawali, extremism lurks behind a genial facade
  • In his book, he supports terrorist acts regardless of the effects on Muslim communities

JEDDAH: Through his 3,000-page book “Muslims and Western Civilization,” published in 2018, detained Saudi cleric Safar Al-Hawali aimed to revive ideologies from his days with the Islamic Awakening movement, and to criticize the government for striving toward moderation and modernity.

The movement incited hate toward other religions, called for jihad in Afghanistan and other occupied Muslim lands, and opposed the Saudi government allowing US troops to be based in the Arabian Peninsula during Operation Desert Storm in 1991.

Al-Hawali calls for jihad to be a main focus in daily education. His book’s circulation led to his arrest on July 12, 2018.

The radical cleric rose to fame in the 1990s as one of the leaders of the Islamic Awakening alongside preacher Salman Al-Odah.

While the latter was a firebrand, Al-Hawali used his calm and collected demeanor, and his position as an academic, to call on his followers to perform jihad in occupied Muslim lands.

He was arrested for refusing to atone and stop his hate preaching in 1994, and was released after serving his five-year sentence. But his extremist views and fatwas (religious edicts) were still available on his website.

Born and raised in the Saudi city of Al-Baha, Al-Hawali received his bachelor’s degree in Islamic law from the Islamic University of Madinah, and his master’s and Ph.D. in Islamic theology from Umm Al-Qura University in Makkah.

Alongside Al-Odah and other Awakening Movement leaders, he preached against the foreign military presence in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm in 1991, which liberated Kuwait from Iraqi occupation. The outspoken clerics incited hate toward the West and called for jihad. 

After a joint commission in 1994, led by Grand Mufti Abdulaziz ibn Baz, found the movement’s hateful rhetoric a danger to Saudi society, the government disbanded the movement.

Following his release from prison, Al-Hawali questioned the public’s negative views on Al-Qaeda, its late leader Osama bin Laden and jihad, most notably on Saudi Channel 1.

In the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks on the US, the detained cleric criticized Western media for exaggerating the involvement of Al-Qaeda, and even claimed on Saudi TV that he had no proof of its existence.

A fiery blasts rocks the World Trade Center after it was hit by two airplanes September 11, 2001 in New York City. This is frame 6 out of a sequence of 6.
(Peter C. Brandt/Getty Images/AFP)

“Americans created an entirely imaginary organization and supported it to attack their own country and other places, not only Muslim countries,” he said.

He refused to recognize the existence of Al-Qaeda, and addressed Bin Laden as “sheikh.” When the TV presenter asked why he addressed bin Laden in such a respectful manner, Al-Hawali said: “He is innocent until proven guilty.”

Time and again, Al-Hawali pointed to the West as the enemy, writing in his book: “The West is waging a vicious crusade against us and colonizing our lives.” In the book, he supports terrorist acts regardless of the effects on Muslim communities.

Al-Hawali believes that Muslims have a religious duty to support jihadists, saying: “There is no solution to any crisis or an exit from the dark tunnel except through asceticism and the revival of jihad in this nation.”

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In a lecture titled “Answering Those who Altered the Religion of Jesus Christ,” he urged teachers to devote time in their classes to sowing enmity toward Jews and Christians.

He criticized the Saudi government for investing in the entertainment sector, believing that the duty of Muslims is to prepare for jihad with the government’s support.

“According to officials in Saudi Arabia, they (the government) will spend $65 billion, or more than SR200 billion, on opening cinemas. Would it not be better to spend these billions on preparation for jihad?” the detained cleric wrote.

He has called for the revival of suicide attacks, calling them “martyrdom operations” that “intimidate the enemy” and “display the courage of Muslims.”

He wrote: “Jihadists should be honored, not imprisoned, and if they do something wrong, they should be corrected.”


Saudi Arabia seeks to bridge cultural gaps with South Korea

Updated 15 min 42 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia seeks to bridge cultural gaps with South Korea

  • Seoul welcomed historical visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the country in 21 years
  • A grand cultural exhibition, part of Saudi's global cultural campaign titled “Bridges to Seoul,” to held for Koreans

SEOUL: A unique cultural festival filled with the music and dance of Saudi Arabia were attracting South Korean visitors at the heart of Seoul Thursday.
The festival is Saudi Arabia’s global cultural campaign titled “Bridges to Seoul” organized by the King Abdualaziz Center for World Culture marking the historical visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the country in 21 years.
“This Saudi Arabian cultural exhibition is the first in Asia,” Kim Hee-joo, a staffer for Ithra, told Arab News. “This main objective of this campaign is to promote Saudi Arabian cultures in South Korea, many of whose people are still unfamiliar with Saudi cultures despite the close relationship between the two governments.”
The exhibition, which runs from June 24 to July 3, is being held at the convention center of Grand Hilton Seoul. The exhibition offers an opportunity for South Koreans to experience the richness of Saudi culture and heritage.
Visitors can to try on Saudi costumes and accessories  for photo sessions and get their Saudi Arabian names written in Arabic script.
“We’re happy to share Saudi cultures with South Koreans. This is a great opportunity for introducing our cultures to South Koreans and bridging cultural gaps between the two countries,” said Muhammed alduhaim at the photo costume booth.
South Korean visitors were enjoying the exhibition with great interest.
“When you talk about Saudi Arabia here, many people including me just think of desert extremely hot weather and something like that,” Choi Bok-nam, 55, said. “However, I’m impressed to see beautiful flower and get to know Saudi’s weather conditions vary after seeing pictures displayed here. I want to travel to Saudi next time.”
For some elder men, who had been in Saudi Arabia for work, the exhibition offered a chance to reminiscent of the old days in Saudi.
“I had worked at Saudi Arabia as an engineer for a year about 30 years ago,” Lim Joo-hwan, 64, said. “This event makes me reminisce about the days in Saudi, and actually I’ve learned new aspects of Saudi cultures here though I lived there just for a year.”
Joo Duk-choon, 76, was fascinated by Taif roses and products made from the local flower.
“I had little knowledge of Saudi Arabia. I thought Saudi was just an oil-rich nation.” he said.
Hanan, 29, from Saudi Arabia said there still need to be communications programs to spread Saudi cultures to South Korea.
“I think South Koreans don’t know about Saudi Arabia as much as Saudi Arabians know about Korea,” said Hannah, who have studied at a Korean university for international studies. “Young generation in Saudi Arabia know much about Korean hallyu (the Korean wave of pop culture), dramas, cultures, but I feel Saudi Arabia doesn’t enough media and stories they can tell to South Koreans.”
She hoped the crown prince’s latest visit to South Korea would be a turning point for getting ever closer between the people of Saudi Arabia and South Korea.
“I feel like the crown prince has made a lot of changes in Saudi, especially for women, media and culture, so I think it’s changing a lot,” she added.
Prince Mohammed spearheads the Vision 2030 economic reform plan aimed at diversifying the Kingdom’s oil dependent economic structure to other industry fields, such as culture and tourism as well as information and communications technology and new sources of energy like hydrogen.