Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat – The letter in which Saudi preacher Dr. Salman Al Ouda attacked Al-Qaeda’s Bin Laden on the “cornerstone” program broadcast by the “MBC” channel has caused a wide range of reactions in Islamic circles.
A number of fundamentalist websites sympathetic to or supportive of Bin Laden saw in Al Ouda’s letter as a deviation from the “neutrality” he had been known for. Other websites said Al Ouda was late in taking his stand opposing “terrorism” and “the harm (It’s done) to the image of Islam and Muslims.”
The letter coincided with the sixth anniversary of the 11 of September attacks about which Al Ouda says, “My brother Osama, what happened on 11 September was the killing of several thousands, while you will find unknown callers, which many people perhaps do not know, by whose hands God has guided tens and even hundreds of thousands and they converted to Islam and became guided by its light.”
Al Ouda highlighted in his letter the regret he feels as a result of the negative image many have of Muslims because of those events and explained that, “The image of Islam today is not at its best. People all over the world say that Muslims kill those who do not believe in their religion. They also say that Salafis kill non-Salafi Muslims. My brother Osama, the Prophet, may the blessings and peace of God be upon him, refrained from killing the hypocrites, whom God says they are the lowest level of Hell, lest the people say: Muhammad is killing his followers.”
Al Ouda said when Asharq Al-Awsat contacted him by telephone yesterday that he has received many positive reactions backing his stand and his appeal to Bin Laden and also received reactions from some whose messages he said carried “hidden” sympathy for Al-Qaeda and in which they said they were emotionally affected by the call.
According to Al Ouda, these reactions disagreed with the Islamic preacher for calling Osama Bin Laden “my brother Osama”, but the Saudi Muslim cleric said he has no problem with this and added, that “We are all humans. No matter how much we disagree with any person regardless of his approach, we cannot remove him from the circle of Islam, unless he commits a sin of unbelief.”
Al Ouda asked Bin Laden in the letter about the value of the acts of violence committed by Al-Qaeda since the September 11 attacks, emphasizing the message that “God, we are innocent of what Osama is doing.”
Al Ouda went on to say in his letter, “The Muslim nation has not given anyone the right to take war stands or be its spokesman.” He then asked Al-Qaeda’s leader: “My brother Osama, how much blood has been spilt? How many innocent people, children, elderly, and women have been killed, dispersed, or evicted in the name of Al-Qaeda? Will you be happy to meet God Almighty carrying the burden of these hundreds of thousands or millions on your back? Who is responsible for many young Muslim men and youths in their early years who in their enthusiasm embarked on a road whose end they do not know and lost their way?”
In his remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, Al Ouda rejected the view that the letter is the first stand he expressed toward Al-Qaeda’s policy of violence and said, “I was among the first who condemned the 9/11 attacks and among the first who condemned the acts of violence in many Muslim countries, foremost of them Saudi Arabia.” The Saudi cleric stressed that there is a small group here among the young leaders who refrain from condemning the acts of violence even though they do not condone them.
Al Ouda believes that the reason for refraining from condemning violence is the wish that the other parties do not benefit from these condemnations but he underlined at the same time the need for condemning all acts of violence “clearly and coherently.”
Al Ouda said in his televised letter that the image of Islam today is not at its best and the people all over the world say Muslims kill those who do not believe in their religion and also say that Salafism kills Muslims who do not believe in it.
Addressing Bin Laden, Al Ouda asks: “What have we reaped from the destruction of an entire people as is the case in Iraq and Afghanistan? These wars have even brought on civil wars portending misfortune and destruction for these countries and those neighboring them. Who benefits from transforming Morocco, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, and other countries into frightened ones in which one does not feel secure for his life? Is reaching power an aim? Is this the solution? Is there insistence on reaching power even if this is over the dead bodies of thousands and hundreds of thousands of Muslims? Who is responsible for activating the ideas of takfir and killing until they have spread within the one family and led to estrangement, disloyalty, and rupture? Who is responsible for youths who went to fight leaving behind them mourning mothers, sad wives, and orphans waiting with bafflement the return of their father? Who is responsible for the hunting down of charities, the suspicions of every Islamic project, and the hunting down of preachers everywhere on the charge of violence and terrorism? Who is responsible for overcrowding prisons with youths until they became a breeding ground for a new wave of takfir, extremism, and violence?”