Supervisor Elham AbolFateh
Editor in Chief Mohamed Wadie

Islamists Whitewashing of Al Oudah Rallies Before Elections 

Wed 04 Nov 2020 | 01:28 PM
Irina Tsukerman

Al Oudah's son uses Khashoggi vehicle & network of fellow travelers to obscure his father’s record

In late September, Washington Post, where Jamal Khashoggi was a columnist before his death in 2018,  was the first major US publication to introduce "DAWN MENA", (Democracy for the Arab World Now), a non-profit inspired and planned by Khashoggi, among many others that he had discussed and passed on through his acolyte and associate, a radical ISIS supporter turned "political comedian" and Canadian asylee Omar Abdulaziz. On the surface, the goal of the organization is to promote democratic developments and the strengthening of civic institutions in Arab societies. In practice, the project dreamed by the Muslim Brotherhood ideologue Khashoggi is just another thinly veiled front for an alliance of Islamist revolutionaries, radical leftists, Qatar-funded opportunists, and various fellow travelers looking for the second coming of the Arab Spring among some of the Arab monarchies and other traditional societies.  Who is on the board of this august institution?

The list includes Abdullah AlAoudh, the son of the radical Al Qaeda-affiliated preacher Salman Al Ouda, educated in the US and now on the quest to clear the name of his father. Another luminary gracing the board of directors is Sari Bashi, a human rights lawyer deeply concerned with Israeli activity in Palestinian territories, another cause dear to Khashoggi’s heart. Sarah Leah Whitson, an activist who has embraced assorted radical causes, and a former Human Rights Watch MENA pision executive director, has earned criticism from perse countries ranging from Morocco to the members of anti-Terrorism Quartet, to Azerbaijan, for managing to be vocally one-sided and unabashedly partisan on every major security issue of concern to those countries, and inevitably and by sheer coincidence to the benefit of the adversaries of those countries.

Another one of the participants is EsamOmeish, a surgeon and a Libyan American Islamist known for his lobbying activities and connections to assorted Muslim Brotherhood fronts, who has played a large role in defending the Islamist elements of the Government of National Accord in Libya. Nihad Awad, the Executive Director and co-founder of CAIR, a well-known Muslim Brotherhood shill organization best known as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation terrorist charity trials is also connected to DAWN. Then there are non-resident fellows, including Doha-based British professor, Marc Owen Jones, known for his takedown of Saudi accounts he claims to be bots, and tied into dubious human rights campaigns targeting Saudi Arabia and other countries, through a network of digital labs, including Citizen Lab, which appear to coordinate on amplifying their attacks, and which at various times have been exposed for engaging in fraudulent Qatar-backed campaigns. There is a pattern to the type of inpiduals in this close-knit network, clearly reflecting the values and vision of Khashoggi.

One of the first campaigns the newly formed organization launched was an attempt to clear Salman Al-Ouda, following in the footsteps Abdullah has been already taking on his own. The hagiography provided by DAWN alleges that al-Ouda's first arrest in the 1990s was due to his criticism of the Saudi government.  He is painted out to be a peaceful advocate for Saudi Arabia’s transition to a constitutional monarchy at the height of the Arab Spring in 2011, and a petitioner for the release of “prisoners of conscience” in 2013.  It further alleges that Al Ouda had been detained by the Saudi government shortly after the ascent of the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and held in various prisoners under a long list of charges, some of which, DAWN alleges appear related to terrorism and financing and support for the Muslim Brotherhood and others include charges for insulting particular officials or questioning the government’s achievements.

The central problem with this article is that it not only leaves out details of Al Ouda’s biography that would most certainly justify investigations and security-related detention, but that it fails to link to any Saudi document pointing to the circumstances of his arrest, detention, or the correct list of charges.  As any good propaganda outfit, the list includes plausible charges as well as statements that sound like they could be true to naïve Westerners who listen to well-meaning organizations like DAWN and who believe KSA is a totalitarian regime, with no due process of any sort, where any criticism of government policies can result in an indefinite detention. The authors make no attempt to substantiate their allegations. Instead, they have presented Al Oudah as a reformer and a critic of the Saudi government corruption and of the alleged monopoly of public wealth.


Who is Salman Al Oudah?

The truth about Al Oudah is far less flattering. Starting out as a local preacher, in the 1980s Al Oudah joined the Al Sahwa (Islamic Awakening) movement which came to spread radicalism and dogma supporting terrorism. It was eventually shut down in the 1990s by the Saudi government, which is what lead to Al Oudah’s first arrest.  Al Oudah was a member of that movement and inculcated anti-Semitic and anti-Western ideology to his growing followers. Upon the dissolution of the movement he was banned from preaching, but disregarding the sentence, continued to spread this ideology to the public through sermons, eventually ending up in prison for five years. Following his release, Al Oudah claimed to have renounced the path of violence and intolerance and created an image of a changed man. He became a media celebrity, a reform success and deradicalization story, who gained a massive following by dominating talk shows and popular programs across the country.


Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, he appears to have condemned Bin Laden, and his fan following grew. He soon became an established figure on social media and YouTube as much as in the traditional press. But he used his newfound popularity to develop contacts with the Muslim Brotherhood, the Qatar-based International Union of Muslim Scholars and assorted terrorist organizations. Youssef Qaradawi boasted of a close friendship with Al Oudah.  Indeed, it appeared that Al Oudah had been deceiving both his followers and the Saudi government since his release. As Hussein Al Ghawi reveals, Al Oudah’s network of terrorist associates grew along with his mainstream and seemingly moderate appeal. As a Wikileaks cable showed, at one point Al Oudah came perilously close to being blacklisted on terror-related charges by the United States; however, the French intelligence intervened and Al Oudah was cleared at the time. What happened?


In an exclusive interview with the author, the intelligence and counterterrorism expert CD Wells explained that Al Oudah became not only an enormously popular public figure but a “money man” who had managed to make friends in high places all over the world, and had free entry into “high society”. He became a connector among various circles and interests. He knew how to find funding for just about anybody who wanted it. Most importantly, he became the highest level liaison between Hezbullah and Hamas. THanks to his uncanny ability to maneuver with ease among seemingly disparate groups, he was raking in money from the terrorist charities, drug trafficking, and various organized schemes, and a significant portion of this ill-begotten wealth funded and benefited the French government. While from the US perspective, this arrangement appeared to be nothing more than thinly veiled government corruption, CD Wells explained, Al Oudah was an invaluable asset for the French intelligence, and so they prevailed upon their American allies to let Al Oudah off the hook.

With a newfound sense of impunity, Al Oudah quickly started showing his true colors. By the time the Arab Spring came around he was operating in his element, among ISlamists, who were being sold to the United States by Western intelligence agencies and the Obama administrations, as moderates and true voices of the Muslim people.  Al Oudah appeared to be right on board with the scheme of Qatar-funded opposition members to bring down the Al Saud family and to weaken the Kingdom by installing a constitutional figurehead monarch who would be controlled by the Brotherhood.  Far from being a peaceful democratic activist gesture, Al Oudah’s push for the “reform” of the monarchy, was in fact, a seditious move dictated by Doha and its Islamist counterpart.  That particular maneuver did not work out; however, as CD Wells pointed out, Al Oudah had other opportunities. When Mohammed bin Naif came to power, a coterie of corrupt officials with Islamist sympathies, who came to be known as “Falcons of Naif” infiltrated the Saudi Ministry of Interior, and with the assistance of the corrupt chief of intelligence Saad Al Jabri, who was later charged with embezzling $11 billion of public money and who fled to Canada reportedly thanks to the assistance of Turkey’s MIT through his Islamist ties, people like Al Oudah found a welcoming ground for their ideology. Al Oudah, as a media personality, soon found himself in the same circles as other operatives on the rise in that time period, such as Jamal Khashoggi and his backers. He networked aggressively building a foundation for making himself indispensable to influential personalities, who shared or tolerated his views.

Al Oudah became increasingly outspoken, calling for jihad in Syria and refusing to warn even the young and naïve followers of the dangers of following that path. He said: “He said: “There are those who go with the intention of overthrowing this oppressive ruler, but some may have developed goal to establish an Islamic state, for instance, and it is certain that the situation in Syria, Iraq, or any other country, there is no agreement on such a goal, and there is no agreement among all parties. This is an interim goal that can be achieved even after a while. In other words, the resistance fighters and the jihadis must safeguard the shared target, which is to bring down this unjust regime.” He also called for jihad everywhere. In a 2004 interview with the Ida’at TV show, Al-Ouda said that when he spoke of jihad, he did not urge the Saudi youth to go for jihad. He added that he urged the residents of Iraq or the countries invaded by enemies to fight their enemy. He said in the same interview: “The resistance – as it is called – or jihad in Iraq, Palestine, Chechnya, or in any country occupied by the military force of an external party. I believe this country has the right to resist this enemy.”

Al Oudah also appeared to be a supporter of jihad in Gaza. His tweet stated: “ A steadfast faith with modest capabilities… this proves that jihad is a determination… The Ummah (nation) needs you more than you need it… May God be with them and grant them victory. #Gaza #GazaUnderFire" .

He also called for Jihad on other occasions, tweeting that “ One of the purposes of jihad is the protection of the oppressed and the resistance of tyrants. You have a right to provide support.” He justified acts of violence and physical battle in advancement of jihad, stating “Despite that the jihad concept is broader than fighting, it remains clearer to say: Islam recognizes fighting when it is an imposed option – “Fighting is enjoined on you, and it is an object of dislike to you.” [2:216]” and further explicitly supporting violent jihad in such comments as “21 - I am not against jihad, but I read into reality, what surrounds it, and its influence in a manner that makes me inclined towards this opinion. #JusticeForOurChildrenInIraq".

He justified violence against the Egyptian government, saying “We must welcome everyone who declares war on the present tyranny even if they had different ideologies.” and also indicating his willingness and ability to work with any movement, organization, and group of people who shared the same aims of bringing down traditional governments in the Arab world, even if the agendas ultimately differed. This sort of ideological flexibility and willingness to work with perse movements is prevalent among both Shi’a Islamists such as Khomeinists and Muslim Brotherhood affiliates. Far from being repelled by differences in theology, these groups frequently work together on sharing best practices, influence each other ideologically, adopt new ideological streams, and support the same political causes in the West. This statement may offer an indirect insight into Al Oudah’s emerging role as the nexus between Shi’a and Muslim Brotherhood affiliated organizations, just as well as other groups and organizations he made contact with.

Al Ouda grew more brazen with time, and his sermons which had attracted and radicalized many young Saudis, earned the attention and approval of Osama bin Laden. Al Ouda was no moderate, and despite many years of changing his colors according to the circumstances, his actions did not escape the scrutiny of the Saudi government. For the last three years, the Khashoggi fan network had spent advocating on Al Oudah’s behalf to the West, and claiming that this moderate preacher was facing unfair persecution by the Saudi authorities for benign criticism of the government. However, in the past several months, the calls for the US intervention on his behalf increased and became the spotlight of the network's activities, with his son leading the charge.

What is the importance of Salman al Oudah’s case to the pro-Islamist network and why now?

A convergence of factors brough this story to the surface. First, since the death of Jamal Khashoggi, there has been an ongoing aggressive campaign involving to various extent all of the above-mentioned actors, in attacking the Saudi government and placing the blame for Khashoggi’s demise on the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The movement had lost important financial and ideological backers following the corruption probe of 2017; the motivation to retaliate against the person responsible for this blow is self-evident.

Therefore, any issue that could be used to generate pressure in Western countries concerned with human rights, but lacking the tools to navigate the Saudi society and legal system had been thrust into the spotlight, including Al Oudah’s who is considered one of the ideological pillars of this network. If Al Oudah can no longer freely engage in his activities, it undermines the goals of the movement; therefore, his case became a double-edged sword, a move to attack the government but also a necessary cause to return to open operations. The case took on more urgency after Mohammed bin Naif was placed under arrest and the government released the information about Sa’ad’ Al Jabri’s unpalatable activities. These moves undermined the system that the Qatari-Islamist network had been building; the former Crown Prince and his counterpart in the intelligence had served an important function in providing Western intelligence agencies, media, and assorted NGOs with access, funding, and a sense of purpose.

The increasing integration of the Middle East through normalization agreements between Israel and two of the Gulf countries are a grave concern to Qatar, which may lose leverage in the region in the event of a new security block that would be opposed to Doha’s sponsorship of Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Houthis, and Hezbullah. Revelations about Doha’s support for Hezbullah directly endanger Al Oudah’s sensitive work; if he is not available to mitigate the damage from the release of this information, the network faces the danger of increased scrutiny and unraveling.

While the son may have initially spearheaded the campaign for sentimental reasons, when Abdullah Alaoudh joined forces with CAIR, Qatar’s digital campaign mastermind Marc Owen Jones, and others, the issue quickly turned from familial to political. For Alaoudh, who studied in Western universities, saying anything that might let him bring his father out of the line of danger may seem like a natural personal inclination; however, the moment he joined the Khashoggi caboose, he married himself to the cause. According to CD Wells, however, Alaoudh may never have been the innocent son porced from his father’s projects and ideology. CD Wells points out that none other than Ali Soufan, the former FBI Special Agent considered to be a heroic counterterrorism operative, and who now works for Qatar in various capacities, including as a senior security contractor and as a propagandist, who had spearheaded the perception of the Kingdom’s responsibility for the 9/11 attacks due to the 15 terrorists being Saudi nationals, is the younger Alaoudh’s mentor.  Thanks to his contacts at CAIR, says CD Wells, Alaoudh is also close to two of the Islamist members of the US Congress, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib.

Whether Alaoudh himself is ideologically inclined to align with the Khashoggi fellow travelers, the timing of the uptick in activity on this front is quite obvious. The Qatar-backed crew has been consistent in attacking Donald Trump frequently aligning with radical leftist groups in the US in choice of extreme rhetoric and relentless criticisms of both the foreign and domestic policy. The timing of the official entry of DAWN into the Washington scene a little over a month before the elections is not coincidental. The Al Oudah case could be one of the contributing factors in swaying the results of the elections against Donald Trump and in favor of Joe Biden who has demonstrated his willingness to work with CAIR, Linda Sarsour, and other associates of the network, as has his running mate Kamala Harris, who is perceived to be close to CAIR. This is also an opportunity to bring in leftist intersectionalist crowd onboard with the cause. Abdullah Aloudh has implausibly claimed that his father went to prison for his defense of human rights for homosexuals; in fact, a video linked in the Arab News Preachers of Hate profile for Al Ouda, points to the opposite – Al Ouda had harshly attacked homosexuals and homosexuality; every word in his defense by his son and others had been a lie.

Al Ouda’s political controversies and tweets have not been presented at all to the Western public, relying on general disinterest, lack of due diligence or inclination to corroborate the media, and stereotypes about Saudi Arabia.

Every member of Alaoudh’s association sees Donald Trump and Republicans as standing in the way to complete the infiltration and takeover of American institutions.