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

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.”

From deserts to ice, new driving adventures await Saudis

Updated 27 November 2020

From deserts to ice, new driving adventures await Saudis

  • Collaboration will have thrill-seekers venturing out to wilderness of Finland, which offers unique ‘cool’ experience

JEDDAH: From sand to ice, new driving experiences await Saudi adventure buffs in the icy tundras and thick forests of Finland’s Lapland region.
Many Saudis and Gulf residents have had an uncanny love for the desert sands spanning generations, often venturing out to the seclusion of the deserts to unwind and enjoy the calm and quiet.
There are fertile lands for motor adventures, and one collaboration between a Saudi and a Finn will have Saudis desert drifters venturing out to the northernmost region of Finland, where temperatures can easily drop to -40 degrees — the frozen subarctic wilderness of Lapland, which offers a unique thrill on the ice.

Janne Honkanen, founder of Octola Lodge and Private Wilderness, and Saudi rally driver Rakan Al-Rashed, spoke to Arab News about this unique collaboration, where adventurers can experience the ultimate thrill of ice driving offered by Al-Rashed and enjoy a proper Finnish winter exclusive to Octola.
The two met at one of Al-Rashed’s arctic rally races a few years ago, and their friendship grew stronger over the years during Al-Rashed’s frequent visits to Lapland, where Honkanen was just beginning to build the lodge resort on the empty land in early 2017.
“It was a huge piece of land in the wilderness and we began to think that a day will come when we’ll collaborate and do something together,” said Honkanen. “I thought it was crazy for Rakan to do what he’s doing, racing on the ice and snow, and it hit me that we could offer that in the lodge for guests to experience, and what better way than with the help of a rally racer in person.”
Some of Honkanen’s frequented guests at Octola were Arabs and adventure seekers that would dare head to one of the coldest places on Earth to experience some of the unique features of the land.

Visitors can enjoy the majestic northern lights, the relaxed activity of reindeer herding, or join Al-Rashed in the thrill of riding in a car fit for speed over the ice and snow.
This might not seem like an average Arctic experience, said Al-Rashed, who began his career in 2011 racing on the ice. He said Lapland provides one of the best driving experiences anyone could wish for. “The driving experience is unparalleled. You have such vast lands and frozen lakes that can allow you to really test your skills and driving abilities safely and without any trouble.”
He also believes there is little difference between the sandy and icy terrain. “It’s simply a matter of adapting,” he said.
“I’ve always been interested in racing and cars and my start was on the ice. Taking the discipline of the desert, I began training in Finland during summers and winters in various conditions, and I learned how to apply it on the snow and ice,” he told Arab News. “That’s what makes the environment quite unique.”

With more reindeer than people in Lapland, it is an adventure seeker’s playground. From custom-built snowmobiles to private ice tracks and more than 70 different experiences, the ice racing experience is one that is catered to everyone’s taste.
There are over 300 hectares of private wilderness and different driving routes and tracks, as well as the chance to provide guests with custom tracks built to their specifications to add to the unique experience.
Al-Rashed’s rally experience serves as an integral part of the ice driving experience at Octola, as he introduces guests to the theory behind driving on ice, takes them through the stages based on his own experience and has them test trial their skills in the safety of a car under his supervision, or, if they feel brave enough, on their own.