Six years after the bloody events of September 11, and approximately four years after the terrorist operations in Saudi Arabia and the Arab and Islamic worlds, not to mention combating terrorism in over 190 states, and three years following the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq, Sheikh Salman al Ouda appeared on his television program on the ‘MBC’ channel and absolved himself before God from the leader of Al Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden, and all his deeds.
To clarify; I have no previous position adopted towards Sheikh Salman al Ouda and my response to him today does not stem from any specific ideology.
However, the question still remains: Why now, Sheikh? This comes at a time when no one is shedding any tears for the leader of Al Qaeda organization.
Sheikh Salman al Ouda’s distancing himself from Bin Laden at a time when those absolving themselves of Al Qaeda’s leader have nothing to lose and no price to pay is similar to condemning Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime today, this is especially true since the terrorist Al Qaeda organization revealed its ugly face on the morning of September 11, and everyone who had opposed Osama Bin Laden paid a very dear price.
On that day, governments were accused of heresy and treason while some were calling for a revolt against the authority.
That same day, the clerics who criticized and condemned Bin Laden’s ideology and deeds were boldly labeled as the “sheikhs of the authority”, and they in turn were attacked in a striking and forceful manner.
Likewise, intellectuals, writers and journalists were declared disbelievers [by Al Qaeda disciples] and newspapers were questioned, while many were condemned from mosque podiums and were subjected to a storm of hatred and extremism on the Internet.
Should Sheikh Salman al Ouda’s disowning of the Al-Qaeda leader and his ideology and practices, upset us today?
Of course not! However, what is disturbing is the degree in which the sheikh was embraced for doing so, particularly since al Qaeda is ostracized everywhere today.
Whoever empathizes with the organization now does not dare to openly declare their support. Unlike the past, publicly supporting Al Qaeda has become a charge and a condemnation.
As for the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan, amidst the fears that a civil war may erupt in either; these are not fears that were born today, in the words of Sheikh al Ouda, but have existed for two years running.
The signs portending them were clearly visible since the day the famous open letter* calling for jihad in Iraq was drafted. Sheikh Salman al Ouda was one of the signatories of this letter; who also wrote the popular article “Song for Fallujah”.
Had the sheikh announced before yesterday that he had erred in not coming out sooner to disassociate himself from Bin Laden, or that he had committed an error in signing the statement [calling for jihad], then we would have said he was faultless and his efforts are praiseworthy. However today, one can only say to the sheikh: May God deliver us!
* In November 2004, 26 Saudi religious scholars signed an open statement to the Iraqi people legitimizing the resistance and forbidding any cooperation or dealing with the American forces, considering it to be jihad.