September 7, 2011 Special Dispatch No. 4116

Saudi Sheikh Wajdi Al-Ghazawi, Owner of Al-Fajr TV, Criticizes Extremist Atmosphere in Saudi Arabia and Says: After 9/11, People Were in Heaven Because of These Young Men, Who 'Destroyed America and Bombed This Idol,' 'When the twin towers in New York were attacked, they handed out sweets on the streets of Mecca... People were in heaven'

September 7, 2011
Saudi Arabia | Special Dispatch No. 4116

Following are excerpts from a statement by Saudi Sheikh Wajdi Al-Ghazawi, owner of Al-Fajr TV, which was posted on YouTube on August 4, 2011:

Wajdi Al-Ghazawi: "When Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden were at the height of their might, they were extremely popular in Saudi Arabia. From mosque pulpits across Saudi Arabia, preachers would pray for their success. Moreover, from the pulpits of the most important mosques – the Al-Haram Mosque in Mecca and the Nabawi Mosque in Al-Madina – direct prayers for the success of Al-Qaeda were made, during the days of the bombing of Tora Bora: 'Oh Allah, help our brothers in Afghanistan.' These supplications were made during evening prayers, as well as Friday prayers. The preachers would pray for them, in violation of the ministry's instructions.

"When the twin towers in New York were attacked, they handed out sweets on the streets of Mecca. By Allah, they did. I witnessed this myself. The young people bowed in prayer and hugged one another out of joy. People were in heaven because of these young men, who 'destroyed America and bombed this idol.' Am I right or not? Was it like that or not?

"Back then, when the Taliban broke off a piece of the nose of the Buddha statue, which was hewn in the mountain, an entire sermon was dedicated to it in the mosque in Mecca, and the preacher was later reprimanded for this sermon. The entire Saudi people supported and loved Al-Qaeda.

"This went on until our brothers in Al-Qaeda – and I don't know what was going through their minds – began to carry out operations inside Saudi Arabia. That's when we all raised our hands, and said: 'You've gone too far. We won't support you in this.' [...]

"The atmosphere here in Saudi Arabia is one of extremism. It is characterized by focusing on minor details. Many things are forbidden. Yes, maybe they are indeed forbidden, but by forcing people to avoid them, and by acting as if these were major sins, an atmosphere was created that gave rise to extremist youth, who might act recklessly at the most trivial provocation.

"For instance, we blew out of proportion the issue of music, the issue of smoking, or the issue of hanging pictures in public places. True, there are clear texts on these issues, but the young people embraced these issues as if they were fighting usury, fornication, or alcohol. No, these are not among the seven major sins. So our society has become extreme. [...]

"This extremist atmosphere has given rise to people who accuse others of heresy, and people who purport to be waging Jihad. It has created genes that gave rise to cells of Al-Qaeda and other terrorists. We must examine our breeding ground, in which these young men were sown. […]

"By Allah, what can possibly emerge from such an atmosphere? Muftis who accuse others of heresy, sheiks who incite, and young people who bomb. Am I right or not?" […]

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