Detained hard-line Saudi cleric Awad Al-Qarni for years used TV interviews to spread conspiracy theories and extremist rhetoric against modernity.
Born in 1957 and raised in the village of Balqarn in Asir province, southwest Saudi Arabia, the former professor at Imam Muhammad ibn Saud Islamic University was arrested in September 2017 along with fellow extremist preachers Salman Al-Odah and Ali Al-Omari.
Al-Qarni had a large following even before the emergence of social media, having spread his rhetoric via mosque sermons and after-school programs for youths in the city of Abha.
He believes that the war on terror was “fabricated” by the West to colonize the region and destroy its way of life.
In his 1998 book “Modernism in the balance of Islam: Islamic perspectives in the literature of modernity,” Al-Qarni argued that modern works of literature lead mankind to believe in falsehoods that aim to destroy Islamic teachings, his own and that of likeminded clerics.
For years, he has been criticized in the local press, on social media and by scholars for his radical views and extreme interpretation of religion.
“Modernism,” he said, “has plagued the nation” and “seeks to … revolt against ethics, values and beliefs.” He added that “modernism is a subversive idea” and “an invasion that must be confronted.”
In an interview on the Al-Majd TV network, he called the war on terror a tool that the West “created to establish a new era of colonialism, domination, exploitation and enslavement of peoples as much as it can, without a doubt.”
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.”
Yet his political views on state matters became more prominent and provocative. His arrest in September 2017 came after it was found that he had received, along with Al-Odah, a sum of at least $20 million from the Qatari government.
Evidence was also found of Al-Qarni funding the Muslim Brotherhood and extremist jihadist groups in the Sinai Peninsula.
On the "War on Terror"
It (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.
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. This is one thing.
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. It’s not me who says this. Noam Chomsky said this, and recently a Western scientific engineering institute said the (twin) towers were toppled by a controlled explosion. In a nutshell, it’s in the West’s interest for terrorism to continue in Islamic countries so it can exploit and utilize it.
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.”