January 12, 2006 Special Dispatch No. 1070

Saudi Doctorate Encourages the Murder of Arab Intellectuals

January 12, 2006
Saudi Arabia | Special Dispatch No. 1070

A three-volume treatise by Sa'id ibn Nasser Al-Ghamdi, titled Deviation from the Faith as Reflected in [Arab] Thought and Literature on Modernity, has recently gained publicity in the Arab world. The book, published in December 2003 in Saudi Arabia, is based on Al-Ghamdi's 2000 doctoral dissertation, submitted to the Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud Islamic University, for which he received his degree summa cum laude. In his treatise, Al-Ghamdi names more than 200 modern Arab intellectuals and authors whom he accuses of heresy - thus making it permissible to kill them.

Jordanian-American reformist intellectual and researcher Dr. Shaker Al-Nabulsi wrote an open letter to Saudi King 'Abdallah Ibn 'Abd Al-'Aziz, demanding to "establish an investigation committee into this dangerous matter, so as to clear the name of the governmental Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud University of [the disgrace of] these terrorist fatwas that serve only [the interests of] the terrorists within Saudi Arabia and outside it." [1]

In an article in the Qatari daily Al-Raya, Al-Nabulsi compared Sa'id Al-Ghamdi's book to another book, titled Modernity in the Balance of Islam, written by the Saudi fundamentalist preacher 'Awadh Al-Qarni in 1988. In that book too, over 200 Arab authors, poets, researchers, philosophers, academics, literary critics, and journalists were accused of heresy - thus making their killing licit.

Al-Ghamdi's book, says Al-Nabulsi, is even more dangerous than Al-Qarni's, because it was published at a time when terrorism was at its peak, and the entire world was following every act that justified terrorism or encouraged terrorists in any way. In addition, it is more dangerous because it had received academic, religious, and official approval, and ceased to be merely an expression of personal opinion when it received the approval of the Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud University in Riyadh. Al-Nabulsi asserts: "The university that granted a degree to a cultural butcher like Sa'id Al-Ghamdi has become a cultural slaughterhouse in which more than 200 modern Arab intellectuals have been slaughtered and skinned..." [2]

Al-Ghamdi's book was reviewed on the reformist website by Egyptian poet and literary critic 'Abdallah Al-Samti, who said: "The most dangerous thing in this book is its outright call to murder, and the fact that it legitimizes the killing of Arab intellectuals, since Sa'id Al-Ghamdi claims that 'the statements, actions, and beliefs of [these intellectuals] demand the ridda punishment [3] and legitimize their killing. However, in the current secular political climate that has been imported from the West, they have [been able to] spread the heresy and atheism that is in their decayed hearts...'"

In his dissertation, Al-Ghamdi explains that "since the arrows of doubt shot by the enemies of Islam have multiplied... and they have spread their intellectual and behavioral poisons among the Muslim youth in an attempt to drown them in deviancy, to bring them out from light into darkness, to replace their inner conviction and faith, and to cast them into the wasteland of doubts, skepticism, and vanities - [for these reasons] it is incumbent upon those who understand this to make clear to their [Islamic] nation and their community the danger inherent in this behavior...

"The most dangerous and vile thing that the enemies of Islam have done in order to achieve their deviant aims has been to use cultural means, which are outwardly manifest as literature, poetry, culture, and criticism, but which internally embody heresy, skepticism, and hypocrisy.

"The enemies of Islam have succeeded in sowing the seeds of their hatred in the land of the Muslims, and in growing the evil tree - the tree of accursed materialism. Muslims see and hear the people who openly call to heresy and to departure from the right path, and who openly spread intellectual and moral depravity, sometimes in the guise of 'modern literature' and sometimes under the slogan of 'human culture'..."

Al-Samti explains that Al-Ghamdi identifies "modernism" with "secularism," both of which are, in his opinion, "intellectual poisons" and "deviant beliefs." Al-Ghamdi believes that those who hold these beliefs intend to "spread different kinds of falsehood," and he claims that "what makes the situation worse is that these people, [whose thinking] is deformed, have great influence in the guidance and media apparatuses of many Muslim states...

"Al-Ghamdi believes that modernism is a foreign plant intended to complete the West's colonialist domination over the Muslim countries, which has taken place over the past few centuries. Its goal is to destroy, to ruin, to cause chaos in matters of faith and ethics, and to plant deviancy, atheism, and doubt. Modernism attempts to destroy Islam and to remove it from people's hearts...

"Al-Ghamdi does not leave a single detail of modern culture - large or small - uncriticized. His criticism... reaches various levels of revilement, racism and accusation of heresy.

"Those who got the largest dose [of criticism] are: [Egyptian author] Naguib Mahfouz, [Syrian author] Adonis, [Egyptian intellectual] Hassan Hanafi, [Egyptian author] Jaber Asfour, [Syrian poet] Nizar Qabbani, [Palestinian poet] Mahmoud Darwish, [Iraqi poet] Badr Shakir Al-Sayyab, [Egyptian poet] Amal Dankal, [Libyan poet] Muhammad Al-Fayturi, [Yemenite poet] 'Abd Al-'Aziz Al-Maqalih, [Saudi intellectual] 'Abdallah Al-Ghadhami, and [Moroccan author] Mohamed Choukri."

Other intellectuals mocked by Al-Ghamdi in his dissertation are: Algerian intellectual Mohammed Arkoun, Egyptian poet Salah 'Abd Al-Sabur, Palestinian poet Ahmad Dahbour, Palestinian poet Samih Al-Qasim, Syrian author Ghadah Al-Saman, Egyptian author Nawal Al-Sa'dawi, Lebanese author Hanan Al-Shaykh, Egyptian author Taha Hussein, Egyptian author Qassem Amin, Palestinian poet Mu'in Bsisu, Palestinian poet Tawfiq Ziad, Egyptian intellectual Nasr Abu Zayd, Palestinian author Ghassan Kanafani, Palestinian author Emil Habibi, Egyptian intellectual Rifa'a Al-Tahtawi, Egyptian intellectual Sa'id 'Ashmawi, Egyptian author Yusuf Idris, and Sudanese author Al-Tayyib Salih.

Al-Samti adds that "Al-Ghamdi doesn't make do with merely attacking [these] Arab authors and intellectuals and accusing them of heresy, but also goes into politics, economics, society, arts, and ethics.

"In one of his attacks upon the Arab rulers and regimes, in which he accuses them of apostasy because they are 'secular,' he says: 'The [Arab thinkers] have become numb... and they have begun to corrupt the land. In their perception and thought, faith and apostasy, Islam and ridda, have lost all meaning, and they have begun to scorn everything, under the protection of the secular rulers who share their [views]. These rulers filled the prisons with Muslim religious scholars and disseminators of Islam, who want the [divine] shari'a, rather than human desires and the filth of human ideas, to rule...'"

Al-Samti asserts that Al-Ghamdi's proposals for fighting the deviation from faith that exists in modern literature are similar to "the recommendations of the Inquisition." His suggestions are: "to reevaluate the position of experts in religious law who overlook the deviations [from faith] in literature; to promote interest in Islamic literature; to study and expose the secular and modern deviations [in modern literature]; to increase supervision over the media and literary clubs; and to request fatwas from prominent religious scholars, which deal with Islamic law as it pertains to issues of modern deviations from the faith." [4]

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