A Reading of Al-Awdah’s Letter to Bin-Ladin

A Reading of Al-Awdah’s Letter to Bin-Ladin

Six years after the September 11 events, and after hesitation and delay in clarifying his position for unknown reasons, cleric Salman al- Awdah stepped forward and ended the era of insinuations. In his programme “Cornerstone,” cleric Al-Awdah took a stand that is considered to be his clearest against Al-Qa”idah acts. Although he was one of the first to condemn the September 11 events and acts of terrorism through his website, his latest letter, which was so clear, came very late, coming as it did six years after the September 11 events.

“However, it was so clear that it left no room for doubt. The letter will embarrass other preachers who are still hesitant to condemn Bin- Ladin and to declare their disavowal of Al-Qa”idah acts. Al-Awdah”s letter to Usmah Bin-Ladin contains significant points that must be emphasized. It contains rational points that are compatible with the shar”iah and that constitute a new ideological vision of Islamic action. Noting the number of people killed in the September 11 events as a result of Al-Qa”idah action, and the woes these events have brought about, cleric Al-Awdah said that propagation of the message of Islam is a positive jihad emanating from religion, but in a language that is different from blowing up aircraft.

“He said: “You can find obscure Islamic callers – perhaps we do not know all of them – at whose hands God has guided tens and even hundreds of thousands, who converted to Islam. And guided by the light of Islam, their hearts became full of love for God Almighty. Can we not see the difference between those who kill and those who give life through the call to God?”

“Moreover, in discussing attempts at reaching power through killing and bombing, cleric Al-Awdah was good at analysing the objectives of politcal violence and the tools used to perpetrate acts of violence. He asked: “Is reaching power the goal? Is this a solution? Is there a determination to reach power even over the dead bodies of thousands and hundreds of thousands of policemen, soldiers, ordinary Muslims, and innocent people, who are sometimes killed and are said, “they will be resurrected according to their intentions?”

Al-Awdah”s letter may be intended to send greater signals than merely being a letter to Bin-Ladin. It is clear from the letter that he wanted to break with the past decade of his life that continued to weigh heavily on him unequivocal position on politcal, religious and sectarian violence alike. Now the fundamental points in his letter may change the features of the discourse of the religious awakening, which has been in circulation for years, over the mechanisms of change and
of bringing about reform.

“For this reason, I believe that through his letter, cleric Al-Awdah wanted to send several signals that transcend Bin-Ladin, though the latter was the primary goal of the letter. These points can be summed up as follows: First, to declare his disavowal of Al-Qa”idah and Bin- Ladin, something that many of his opponents continued to condemn him for and to taunt him because he had never before spelled out an unequivocal position on this issue.

“Second, to send a message to those who have followed up his discourse for many years that the phase he is nowadays contended with is totally opposed to the violent methods being pursued by certain radical Islamic movements. Third, to demonstrate that his new approach is conciliatory with all parties, and is far from any fabricated or real dispute with any trend or government in the Arab region.”