October 29, 2015 | Business Insider
The Qatari Speaking Tour in Which a Saudi Cleric Urged Knife Attacks Against Israelis
A prominent Saudi preacher glorified Palestinian knife attacks on Israelis on October 25th – the first day of his visit to Qatar to deliver a series of public lectures. Such incitement was met with silence by Qatar’s government, which has pledged to stamp out intolerant ideas that could encourage terrorism.
First, on October 25th the Twitter account of Saudi preacher Aidh Abdullah al-Qarni posted in Arabic: “The well-off have knives to slit open the bellies of fruits, but the Palestinians have found for them another meaning and a second glory.” The tweet garnered over 1,300 retweets and 900 favorites, as well as such responses from other users as “Slit open the bellies of the sons of Zion” and “You must incite the armies to kill the Jews.”
Later that day, Qarni delivered a lecture at Doha’s Dar al-Salam Mall, performing on the samestage used for children’s acts like Bob the Builder and Frozen. On Monday evening he delivereda second lecture at the mosque in Katara Cultural Village, a site in the capital for showcasing Qatari culture.
According local news reports, the preacher doubled down on his militant rhetoric while visiting Doha. The Qatari daily al-Sharq reported the following about Qarni’s Sunday lecture: “he saluted the jihad of the Palestinian people to acquire its rights and self-determination, saying: ‘I salute from Doha in Qatar the noble, great, distinguished mujahid Palestinian people who confirmed that the knife – which many well-off Arabs do not know except to cut fruits and what is good and tasty on the table – is stronger with effort and patience and steadfastness than the weapon of the Zionists,’ praising the patience of the Palestinian youth and their endurance in the face of their enemies and the enemies of all the Umma.”
At least one of the two lectures was organized by the RAF Foundation, a charitable relief group whose events are frequently attended by top state officials and that was founded by a member of Qatar’s royal family. Fliers for Qarni’s lectures that were posted on Twitter by RAF featured the logo of several prominent Qatari organizations, at least one of which is owned or controlled by the state.
One flier for the program posted by RAF stated that Qarni’s speeches came as part of a lecture series called Basha’ir al-Rahma launched by the group earlier this year. That series included aplethora of preachers from the Gulf over Ramadan who have reportedly voiced intolerance toward other religious groups, including Omar Abdelkafi, Mohammed al-Arifi, Tariq al-Suwaidan, Salman al-Oudah, and Mohammed al-Nabulsi.
For his part, Qarni reportedly has a long history of incitement to hatred and violence. According to the Middle East Media Research Institute, in 2004 he denigrated Jews as “brothers of apes and pigs” and “murderers of prophets,” declaring that “throats must be slit and skulls must be shattered” in a sermon praising the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas.
Shortly thereafter, he was appointed to the board of a foundation chaired by Salman bin Abdulaziz, Saudi Arabia’s then-governor of Riyadh and the country’s current king.
This summer, Qarni was a guest of Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani at a Ramadaniftar meal where the two were videotaped exchanging kisses. Thanks in part to such government indulgence, Qarni has amassed over 10 million Twitter followers and become one of the most profitable televangelists in the Arab world.
The apparent indifference of the country’s leadership to his recent incitement raises new questions about Doha’s commitment to fighting the ideas that feed terrorism. Indeed, Qatar’s embrace of radical preachers contravenes its agreement with Washington on last year’s 9/11 anniversary to terminate incitement as well as terrorist finance.
Such developments also come at an awkward time for Qatari foreign relations. On the morning of October 26, Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew signed a memorandum of understanding with their Qatari counterparts at the outset of the inaugural US-Qatar Economic and Investment Dialogue. Kerry’s deputy, Antony Blinken, even describedthe US-Qatari partnership as “absolutely essential and fundamental as a component of America’s strategy and commitment to the region.”
Secretaries Kerry and Lew should exercise caution. Episodes like the Qarni debacle continue to raise questions about Qatar’s relationship with the West and its commitment to fighting terrorism.
David Andrew Weinberg is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He recently testified before Congress on religious incitement and terror finance concerns in the Gulf. Follow him on Twitter @DavdAWeinberg