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Salman al Oudah: I reject the Wahhabi label - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- Dr Salman al Oudah, a prominent Islamic preacher and the General Supervisor of ‘Islam Today’, was banned recently from entering Switzerland by the Swiss authorities. Al-Oudah spoke to Asharq Al Awsat about the case.

Al Oudah said that he had the support of Muslims in Switzerland and that they had helped him in his appeal against the rule that banned him from attending an Islamic conference that was being held in Switzerland that was issued by the Federal Police Department of the Swiss Ministry of Justice.

Al Oudah stressed to Asharq Al Awsat his seriousness in proceeding with filing a lawsuit to challenge the rule and that the lawsuit would be complete in less than a month. He described the report that the Swiss authorities had relied upon in issuing their judgment as “erroneous”. Al Oudah expressed his confidence in Swiss justice, saying, “With regards to the justice of law, we have 100% confidence”.

Al Oudah accused what many know as “extremist Zionist forces” of involvement in preparing the false report. He called the report “a lie that should not be believed.”

The Swiss Ministry of Justice identified al Oudah as a “Wahhabi, a fundamentalist and a close associate of Osama bin Laden.”

Al Oudah responded to such accusations saying, “Since when has Wahhabism become a charge that is punishable by law?” He emphasized that he is against any labelling of this kind. He said, “I do not like to be labelled a Wahhabi. Firstly, I am a Muslim before anything else and before I became a member of this school of thought.”

The Swiss Ministry of Justice stated in a statement through the Swiss Embassy in Riyadh that “Salman bin Fahd al Oudah is a preacher of global influence and is one of the senior figures of the fundamentalist Islamic Wahhabism movement in Saudi Arabia as well as a close associate of Osama bin Laden. He was imprisoned in Saudi Arabia for his extremist ideologies from 1994 until 1999. Even after his imprisonment, he adopts the call to armed struggle against infidel Western countries in his writings.”

In response, al Oudah stated that it is “ironic” that he is accused of being a close affiliate to Bin Laden. In the same context, he said, “In the appeal statement, I will demand that the Swiss authorities present any evidence that proves that I am a close affiliate or associate of Bin Laden.”

Dr al Oudah asserted that he is on the verge of filing a lawsuit against the report that the Swiss authorities had relied upon in issuing its ruling against him entering the country. He pointed out that he has been contacted by American and German lawyers who were keen to take on the case.

Dr al Oudah stated, “I support Palestinian resistance against the Israeli occupation and I am against the American occupation of Iraq as well.”

Swiss authorities said, “Islamist preachers who propagate their extremist ideologies that call for violence and hatred should be banned from entering Switzerland.” Al-Oudah expressed his regret towards the Swiss ruling that prevented him from participating in an Islamic forum held there. He said “I cannot see the justification of issuing this rule in a country like Switzerland that is believed to be an open-minded country that wants Muslims to live in good conditions.”

Al Oudah complained of what he called, “ill-treatment by the Swiss Embassy in Riyadh towards him.” He said, “They treated me in an inappropriate manner. They asked me to come personally to the headquarters of the embassy to collect my passport even though they were willing to have my passport delivered to them without my attendance.” He stressed that he was insistent and did not go to the embassy. The Swiss Embassy eventually returned Al-Oudah’s passport through the same person who had delivered the passport to the embassy.

The Swiss authorities have warned al Oudah against violating its ruling, in which case he would face imprisonment of up to six months or be subjected to a fine of up to 10,000 Swiss Francs.

Al Oudah had received an invitation from the president of the League of Swiss Muslims to attend the 16th annual forum which was held 11-13 May 2007 under the title, ‘Swiss Muslims and the challenges of active citizenship.’ It was planned that Al-Oudah would take part; however Swiss authorities banned him from entering the country.

Dr al Oudah told Asharq Al Awsat newspaper that he was subjected to a similar incident in Spain. The Spanish authorities accused him of financing one of the criminals involved in the Madrid train bombings. Al Oudah emphasized that the case is now history, despite that he demanded proof that he had supported any of the suspects.

Al Oudah noted that he had dropped the idea of filing a lawsuit against the Spanish authority after his lawyers confirmed that the most that he would attain from this case (that would cost him a large sum of money) is “a withdrawal of the allegation that was hurled against him.” They also told him that the newspaper that had published news about his involvement in supporting the terrorist cell is not obliged under the law to apologise for what it had written.