Saudi-Japanese relations continue to evolve and grow, says former ambassador

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Faisal Trad, Former Saudi ambassador to Japan
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A general view of Osaka city. Japan was one of the first nations to publicly support for Saudi Vision 2030, offering to share its expertise in a number of fields to help achieve it. As a result, the Japan–Saudi Vision 2030 was developed, and the countries now working in close cooperation. (AFP)
Updated 01 July 2019
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Saudi-Japanese relations continue to evolve and grow, says former ambassador

  • The Kingdom and Japan have benefited greatly as a result of their strong relationship, says Faisal Trad

RIYADH: The friendly relationship between Saudi Arabia and Japan has a long and mutually beneficial history, and is set to grow and evolve as the nations work even more closely together to realize the objectives of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, according to a former Saudi ambassador to Japan.
In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Faisal Trad said that formal diplomatic relations between the nations date back to 1955.
“But communications started a long time ago, in the 19th century when Japanese pilgrims visited Makkah,” he added. “Then in 1938, King Abdul Aziz received an invitation to attend the opening of the grand mosque in Tokyo. The Saudi ambassador to the UK at that time, Hafiz Wahba, represented him.
“The Saudi-Japanese relationship is the ideal bilateral relationship because it is based on the five UN principles for peaceful coexistence, and because both countries have a deep culture, history and heritage.”
Japan was one of the first nations to publicly support for Saudi Vision 2030, offering to share its expertise in a number of fields to help achieve it. As a result, the Japan–Saudi Vision 2030 was developed, and the countries now working in close cooperation.
“Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman paid an official visit to Japan in September 2016 and met Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, where they decided to set up the joint Saudi–Japan Vision 2030 group, announcing a new era of partnership between the two countries,” said Trad.
The former envoy, who also served as the Saudi delegate to the UN, recalls many highlights of his time as ambassador to Japan.
“In 2005, both countries celebrated the 50th anniversary of their great diplomatic relationship,” he said. “During my time of service as the ambassador of Saudi Arabia to Japan, from 2004 to 2009, I was honored to receive his royal highness the late Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz for an important visit in 2006. Back then, both countries issued the Tokyo Declaration, which put Saudi Arabia and Japan on the right track to upgrading their relationship to the strategic level.

FASTFACT

• Formal diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Japan date back to 1955. ‘But communications started a long time ago, in the 19th century when Japanese pilgrims visited Makkah,’ Faisal Trad says.

• ‘The Saudi-Japanese relationship is the ideal bilateral relationship because it is based on the five UN principles for peaceful coexistence, and because both countries have a deep culture, history and heritage,’ he says.

• In 2005, both countries celebrated the 50th anniversary of their great diplomatic relationship.

• Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman paid an official visit to Japan in September 2016 and met Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, where they decided to set up the joint Saudi–Japan Vision 2030 group, announcing a new era of partnership between the two countries.

“A year later, in 2007, I was honored to arrange a visit by the prime minister of Japan at that time, Shinzo Abe, to Saudi Arabia. It was a very successful visit during which the Riyadh Declaration was issued, which took the relationship to higher levels of technical, scientific, cultural and economic cooperation.”
There have also been a number of cultural exchanges between the countries. In 2006 for example, Trad welcomed 200 Saudis who had come to study at Japanese universities.
“I was lucky enough to see my son among these ambitious students,” he added. “The Saudi culture mission opened later, in 2010, and I believe we had about 600 students studying there.”
Trad said that the Kingdom and Japan have developed strong diplomatic relations since establishing their first political ties, and each has benefited greatly as a result.
“Both countries have gained mutual benefits, since Saudi Arabia is well known for being the largest and most stable oil supplier to Japan, and Japan is one of the largest customers for Saudi Arabia,” said Trad. “Furthermore, strong mutual ties were developed through projects, technologies, trade and transfer of products.”
Bilateral relations are now evolving into a diversified strategic partnership, he said.
“Today, understanding both countries’ cultures is an essential factor in deepening and boosting bilateral relations and establishing a solid strategic partnership,” added Trad.


Saudi preacher Awad Al-Qarni: Justifier of terror

Updated 23 July 2019
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Saudi preacher Awad Al-Qarni: Justifier of terror

  • Saudi critic of Western culture laid the groundwork that turned young Muslims into violent extremists
  • Claimed modern literary works could lead to belief in falsehoods that aim to destroy Islamic teachings

For years Awad Al-Qarni, this week’s preacher of hate, used TV interviews to glorify terrorism, spread conspiracy theories and launch tirades against the West.

His radical views and dogmatic interpretation of religion was criticized in the Saudi press, on social media and by scholars.

But that did not shake his many firm convictions, one of which was that the fight against terrorism was “fabricated” by the West to colonize the East and destroy its way of life.

Born in 1957 and raised in Balqarn governorate in Saudi Arabia’s southwestern Asir region, Al-Qarni went on to serve as a professor at Imam Muhammad ibn Saud Islamic University.

There, long before the emergence of social media, he managed to misguide a large number of followers with his politically charged rhetoric delivered via mosque sermons and after-school programs for youths in the city of Abha.

“Despite the West’s claims of peace since the founding of the League of Nations, and subsequently the UN, the Security Council and organizations everywhere, humanity hasn’t suffered from war, destruction, colonialism, enslavement, confiscation of wealth, intervention in the affairs of nations and peoples, control over their capabilities and wealth, and the overthrow of their regimes and governments, as they suffered in the time of the domination of the West and the time of the Security Council,” Al-Qarni told the anchor of the program “Al-Malaf” on Al-Majd satellite TV channel in January 2017.


CONSPIRACY THEORIES OF AL-QARNI

The “war on terror”

• “It is one of the tools of the West through which it establishes a new era of colonialism, domination, exploitation and enslavement of peoples as much as it can, without a doubt.”

• “We’re living the biggest lie history has ever known. Many Third World leaders understood these facts and talked about them. Many realized them but few talked about them, like (Nelson) Mandela, (Fidel) Castro, Ahmadu Bello in Nigeria and King Faisal. Therefore, they were assassinated or there were attempts to assassinate them, or they became prisoners or fugitives.”

 

9/11

• “It’s in the West’s interest for (terrorism) to continue. This terrorism doesn’t pose an existential threat to the West and its countries. Three-thousand Americans were killed in a certain operation. All the accumulated evidence proves that the operation was premeditated, fabricated and calculated. ... In a nutshell, it’s in the West’s interest for terrorism to continue in Islamic countries so it can exploit and utilize it.”

 

Modernism

• “One of the ideas that has plagued the nation ... is an intellectual doctrine that seeks to destroy everything that is inherited, eliminate everything that is old and revolt against ethics, values and beliefs. This doctrine is called by its preachers and servants of its idols modernism.”


In Al-Qarni’s view, the war on terror is “one of the tools of the West through which it establishes a new era of colonialism, domination, exploitation and enslavement of peoples as much as it can, without a doubt.”

Qainan Al-Ghamdi, a Saudi political analyst, told Arab News that Al-Qarni’s arguments reflect the thinking of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose followers believe that the “West will stop meddling in the affairs of the Middle East only when it’s burned by terrorism.

“They’re certain that any campaign against terrorism threatens their plans and projects.”

That is why these preachers of hate instigated young men to go to warzones in the Middle East, Al-Ghamdi said.

“They did all that they could, through persuasion and offers of financial support, to get young men to travel to warzones and get themselves killed,” he added.

“They think that through this process, the region will end up being only for (the Brotherhood’s followers), so they can achieve their goal of seizing political power.”

Al-Qarni’s vehement opposition to the anti-terror campaign is unsurprising given that he considers Western culture and thought as racist, and based on the rejection or enslavement of the other.

“It runs in their (Westerners’) blood, no matter how they try to deny it. There’s no doubt that there are a number of thinkers, philosophers, reformers and some social strata who tried to be human … But the mainstream of Western thought and culture, represented or served by politicians who try to win them over, is a racist and exclusionary thought that seeks to eliminate others,” Al-Qarni said.

“Their dealings with the Red Indians, the indigenous peoples of Australia and New Zealand, the African and Muslim peoples are clear.”

In his 1998 book “Modernism in the Balance of Islam: Islamic Perspectives in Literary Modernism,” Al-Qarni identifies modernity as an imminent threat to Muslims.

“One of the ideas that has plagued the nation … is the intellectual doctrine that seeks to destroy everything that is inherited, eliminate everything that is old and revolt against ethics, values and beliefs,” he wrote. 

This doctrine, he said, is called “modernism by its preachers and servants.”

From Al-Qarni’s perspective, “modernism” is an idea that creates great and irreparable damage, and should therefore be resisted.

“Modernism is a subversive idea. The modernists present a destructive vision of the lives of people that includes all its aspects,” he wrote.

“The term ‘modernism’ is an invasion that must be confronted. The basis of modernism is reason and rationality that reject everything that the mind does not perceive.”

As a corollary, Al-Qarni said, modern literary works could lead mankind to believe in falsehoods that aim to destroy Islamic teachings.

Three years after his polemic against modernity was published, Al-Qaeda carried out the Sept. 11 attacks against the US, which left nearly 3,000 people dead and 6,000 injured, and caused damage estimated at $10 billion.

Al-Qarni said the attacks were “fabricated” — the West was exploiting terrorism in Islamic countries for its interest.

In another interview on Al-Majd TV, Al-Qarni declared that the West wanted terrorism to remain, especially because “it doesn’t threaten” Western countries.

“It’s in the West’s interest for (terrorism) to continue. This terrorism doesn’t pose an existential threat to the West and its countries,” he said.

“Three-thousand Americans were killed in a certain operation (9/11). All the accumulated evidence proves that the operation was premeditated, fabricated and calculated.”

Al-Qarni is of the view that terrorist attacks inside the Kingdom are a way for them to claim their ‘right’ to establish control over the country.  Power is their goal.

Al-Qarni asserted that it was not he who was making the claim. “Noam Chomsky said this, and recently a Western scientific engineering institute said the (twin) towers were toppled by a controlled explosion,” Al-Qarni said, falsely attributing the conspiracy theory to the American linguist and social critic.

“It’s in the West’s interest for terrorism to continue in Islamic countries so it can exploit and utilize it.”

Al-Ghamdi said such views are unsurprising given that Al-Qarni believes that acts of violent extremism by Muslims, whether in Saudi Arabia or abroad, are not really terrorism.

“Al-Qarni is of the view that terrorist attacks inside the Kingdom are a way for them to claim their ‘right’ to establish control over the country. Power is their goal,” he said. 

Al-Ghamdi added that Al-Qarni’s antipathy toward the Saudi legal system, among other institutions, is rooted in the Brotherhood’s political philosophy.

“Even though they don’t publicly say it, followers of the Brotherhood don’t recognize the Saudi judiciary,” Al-Ghamdi said.

“Their deviant thoughts and hate-filled views are in sharp contrast to our country’s fair and unbiased laws and regulations.”

In March 2017, Al-Qarni was fined SR100,000 ($27,000) and banned from writing by Riyadh’s Specialized Criminal Court, which handles terrorism cases.

He was convicted for spreading content on Twitter that “could jeopardize public order and provoke public opinion.” However, his political commentary became even more outrageous and provocative. 

In September 2017, along with fellow hate preachers Salman Al-Odah and Ali Al-Omari, Al-Qarni was arrested.

Among other accusations, evidence was presented showing that Al-Qarni was funding the Brotherhood and other extremist jihadist groups in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.