Saudi preacher Ayed al-Qarni issued an apology to the Saudi society for the period of the Sahwa (Awakening) movement that swept through the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the late 1980s. Qarni was among the most prominent symbols of the movement, along with Salman al-Ouda, Saad al-Breik, Mohsen Al-Awaji and Mohammed al-Hudaif.
The movement clashed with the Saudi authorities in the mid-1990s, after its preachers demanded a cessation of military cooperation with the United States during the Gulf War (1990-1991). The debate surrounding the thought of Sahwa arose when Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attacked it in March 2018, saying that it had dominated the country about 30 years ago.
The current trend arose in light of the repercussions of the Iranian revolution and the rise of the Islamist tide, supported by a group of Saudi scholars, notably Safar al-Hawali, Salman al-Ouda and Nasser al-Omar.
“In the name of Sahwa, I apologize to Saudi society for the mistakes that have contradicted the Quran and Sunnah, and contradicted the tolerance of Islam, a moderate religion,” Qarni stated in a television interview, adding that he sides with the moderate Islam that is open to the world and called for by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Criticizing the Sahwa movement, Bin Salman said in 2017 that the kingdom is back to what it was – a moderate Islam open to the world, to all religions, and to all traditions and peoples.
During the apology, Qarni addressed several important messages concerning Qatar, Turkey, Iran, moderate Islam and the future of Saudi Arabia.
The preacher attacked Qatar, saying that his relationship with them ended after he discovered their plotting and their support for opponents of the kingdom. He pointed out that, besides Qatar, Turkey’s Erdogan and Iran are also targeting the kingdom.
“There are three red lines: moderate Islam, the homeland, and the leadership and allegiance to King Salman and the Crown Prince,” Qarni said, adding that there is no room for complacency, pointing out that the country and the leadership are being targeted.
The Sahwa movement was in error, Qarni said, giving as example the movement’s attention to appearances more than informing and guarding society, its dividing between committed and non-committed, and its denying the people manifestations of joy.
“After we grew up and matured, we discovered these shortcomings,” he said, stressing that he would use his pen to serve the Crown Prince’s project of moderation.
Qarni’s comments were well-received in the kingdom. Media figure Abdulaziz al-Khamis wrote on Twitter that Qarni’s apology was “bold and important”, although it “came too late.”
Khamis added that what interests him is the fact that Qarni apologized in the name of Sahwa, which for decades supported extremism and militancy and brainwashed thousands of young people.