Place of Residence:
Between Al-Baha, Riyadh and Makkah in Saudi Arabia
Cleric, president of the Global Anti-Aggression Campaign, member of the Committee for the Defense of Legitimate Rights
Detained in Saudi Arabia in July 2018
Official website, books and Twitter account
Detained Saudi cleric Safar Al-Hawali, who once questioned the existence of Al-Qaeda, has returned into the limelight with a controversial 3,000-page book in which he calls for jihad to be included in the education system, criticizes Saudi Arabia’s efforts toward moderation and modernity, and calls for an increase in suicide attacks.
Born to the Hawala tribe in Al-Baha, southwest Saudi Arabia, he 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.
For years, Al-Hawali, alongside infamous preacher Salman Al-Odah, preached anti-Semitic and anti-Western ideas as leaders of the Islamic Awakening movement.
In 1993, a joint commission spearheaded by Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz ibn Baz found the movement’s rhetoric a danger to Saudi society, and issued a warning in an attempt to halt its leaders’ sermons.
But Al-Hawali continued to preach, and was arrested in 1994 and sentenced to five years in prison for promoting terrorist ideology in his sermons.
After his release in 1999, he parted ways with Al-Odah and had very little presence in the media, but he occasionally appeared on Saudi Channel 1, where his views on topics such as terrorism drew attention.
In an interview on Saudi TV after the 9/11 attacks, Al-Hawali criticized Western media for exaggerating the involvement of Al-Qaeda, and even said he had no proof of its existence.
“Americans created an entirely imaginary organization and supported it to attack their own country and other places, not only Muslim countries,” he said.
He addressed the late Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden as “sheikh” on the show. When the presenter asked why he addressed Bin Laden in such a respectful manner, Al-Hawali replied: “He is innocent until proven guilty.”
In 2001, just days after the 9/11 attacks, he wrote an open letter to then-US President George W. Bush in which he criticized America’s foreign policy and its definition of terrorism.
Following the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, the detained Saudi cleric supported jihad against America. In November 2004, he and 26 other Islamic scholars issued an open letter to the Iraqi people, urging them to “unite, cooperate, resist the occupiers and stop the internal feuds.” But Islamist attacks against Westerners in Saudi Arabia drew condemnation from Al-Hawali.
He disseminated his religious, social and political views through a number of books. His latest one, “Muslims and Western Civilization,” expands on some of his long-held views on jihad and religion, among a host of other topics.
“The jihadists should be honored, not imprisoned, and if they do something wrong, they should be corrected,” he wrote. Al-Hawali was arrested on July 12, 2018, soon after circulating a draft of his book.
On jihad, terrorism and Daesh
In “Muslims and Western Civilization,” Al-Hawali supports the acts of terrorists and terrorist groups, regardless of the fact that many of these atrocities affect Muslim communities.
He contends 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.”
He criticized Saudi government spending on the entertainment sector, believing that the duty of Muslims is to prepare and be ready for jihad, with the government’s support.
“According to officials in Saudi Arabia, they (the government) will spend $65 billion, or more than SAR200 billion, on opening cinemas. Would it not be better to spend these billions on preparation for jihad?” he wrote.
In the same book, he asked: “How could you have relations with the Prime Minister of Iraq (at the time Haidar Abadi, a Shiite), and not with the Islamic State (Daesh)?”
Al-Hawali believes that Muslims have a religious duty to support jihad, and calls for reviving suicide attacks, calling them “martyrdom operations” that “intimidate the enemy” and “display the courage of Muslims.”
On other religions
In a sermon titled “Jews are Behind the Call for Convergence between Religions,” published on his website, Al-Hawali declared that Jews deserved Hitler’s atrocities and that those who encourage rapprochement with them are none other than Jews.
In a lecture titled “Answering Those who Altered the Religion of Jesus Christ,” Al-Hawali called on teachers to devote time in their classes to sowing enmity toward Jews and Christians. He believes that this must be incorporated into school curriculums from a young age.
“Muslim women shouldn’t serve in hospitals, airplanes or any other place,” Al-Hawali wrote. “They should not, under any circumstances, be encouraged to wear make-up in any shape or form.”
The only profession he approves of is midwifery, but says three months training would suffice to help mothers deliver their children.
- Saudi preacher has been a vigorous opponent of the influence of modern ideas in the Islamic world
- Al-Omar said prohibiting girls from marrying before the age of 18 could “lead to many evils”
Through his 3,000-page book “Muslims and Western Civilization,”published in 2018, detained Saudi cleric Safar Al-Hawali aimed to reviveideologies from his days with the Islamic Awakening movement, and tocriticize the government for striving toward moderation and modernity.
The movement incited hate toward other religions, called for jihad inAfghanistan and other occupied Muslim lands, and opposed the Saudigovernment allowing US troops to be based in the Arabian Peninsuladuring 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 collecteddemeanor, and his position as an academic, to call on his followers toperform jihad in occupied Muslim lands.
He was arrested for refusing to atone and stop his hate preaching in1994, and was released after serving his five-year sentence. But hisextremist views and fatwas (religious edicts) were still available onhis website.
Born and raised in the Saudi city of Al-Baha, Al-Hawali received hisbachelor’s degree in Islamic law from the Islamic University of Madinah,and his master’s and Ph.D. in Islamic theology from Umm Al-QuraUniversity in Makkah.
Alongside Al-Odah and other Awakening Movement leaders, he preachedagainst the foreign military presence in Saudi Arabia during OperationDesert Storm in 1991, which liberated Kuwait from Iraqi occupation. Theoutspoken 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, thegovernment disbanded the movement.
Following his release from prison, Al-Hawali questioned the public’snegative 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 clericcriticized Western media for exaggerating the involvement of Al-Qaeda,and even claimed on Saudi TV that he had no proof of its existence.
“Americans created an entirely imaginary organization and supported itto attack their own country and other places, not only Muslimcountries,” he said.
He refused to recognize the existence of Al-Qaeda, and addressed BinLaden as “sheikh.” When the TV presenter asked why he addressed binLaden in such a respectful manner, Al-Hawali said: “He is innocent untilproven guilty.”
Time and again, Al-Hawali pointed to the West as the enemy, writing inhis book: “The West is waging a vicious crusade against us andcolonizing our lives.” In the book, he supports terrorist actsregardless of the effects on Muslim communities.
Al-Hawali believes that Muslims have a religious duty to supportjihadists, saying: “There is no solution to any crisis or an exit fromthe dark tunnel except through asceticism and the revival of jihad inthis nation.”
In a lecture titled “Answering Those who Altered the Religion of JesusChrist,” he urged teachers to devote time in their classes to sowingenmity toward Jews and Christians.
He criticized the Saudi government for investing in the entertainmentsector, believing that the duty of Muslims is to prepare for jihad withthe government’s support.
“According to officials in Saudi Arabia, they (the government) willspend $65 billion, or more than SR200 billion, on opening cinemas. Wouldit not be better to spend these billions on preparation for jihad?” thedetained cleric wrote.
He has called for the revival of suicide attacks, calling them“martyrdom operations” that “intimidate the enemy” and “display thecourage of Muslims.”
He wrote: “Jihadists should be honored, not imprisoned, and if they do something wrong, they should be corrected.”