Riyadh (GPA) – The Saudi Arabian regime continued with its liberal “reforms” by arresting another prominent scholar. Sheikh Safar Al-Hawali, 68 had just published a 3,000-page book in which he highlighted some of the kingdom’s policies and attacked the royal family. The arrest (one of the latest in a long chain) demonstrates the ruling family’s fear of losing their fragile power.
Saudi authorities also arrested some of al-Hawali’s sons and confiscated electronic devices during the raid which took place a few days ago, according to a Twitter account called Moatqali Al-Ray or “Prisoner of Conscience” as reported by Middle East Monitor. The account also mentions that al-Hawali had just published a book three days prior called Muslims and the Western Civilization.
His newest book reportedly contains direct attacks on Mohammed bin Salman and the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Inside the book, al-Hawali criticizes the royal family’s spending by “wasting funds on fake projects.” The book also calls the Saudi family’s growing relationship with Israel a “betrayal.”
According to the Prisoner of Conscience account, al-Hawali’s condition is frail and he was still recovering from a brain hemorrhage at the time of his arrest. Saudi officials were reportedly aware of al-Hawali’s condition when they ordered his arrest.
For most of his 68 years, al-Hawali has remained one of the most outspoken Saudi voices condemning any American military presence inside the kingdom. Sheikh Safar Al-Hawali rose to prominence in the 1990s as his Sahwa Movement’s momentum reached a peak.
In the 1990s, Saudi forces imprisoned a young al-Hawali for distributing cassette tapes containing a sermon advocating government overthrow. Although the Sahwa Movement has a reactionary Salafi ideology, it is the largest movement pushing for democratic reforms in the kingdom.
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Wiping out All Financial, Social, and Political Opposition with Help from Cambridge Analytica Friends
Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) launched the now infamous Saudi purge last summer by arresting a slew of Saudi billionaires and prominent members of the royal family. Since most of the people detained were those benefiting from the current Saudi economic policy, these arrests served to filter first-degree economic opposition to the Saudi neoliberal reforms.
In September of last year, the Mohammed bin Salman’s regime initiated another series of arrests — this time targeting well-known scholars and clerics of the Sahwa Movement. These arrests serve the purpose of wiping out any democratic threat to the monarchy structure. It’s clear that the Saudi regime considers itself under great strain — if not existential threat — from the people below.
Just months ago, Saudi forces arrested a handful of vocal women’s rights advocates which drew international condemnation from activists (but not a peep from Western leaders, of course). These arrests help contain the population’s demands for social reforms — letting the people know that rights will be given at Mohammed bin Salman’s discretion.
MBS has sought assistance from Cambridge Analytica’s parent company, SCL Group, for monitoring the kingdom’s social climate and tracking citizens’ psychosocial behavior from data. The MBS regime apparently uses this data to determine how and when to initiate reforms such as allowing women into movie theatres and other basic rights.
Mohammed bin Salman has an economic plan known as Vision 2030 which involves broad sweeping neoliberal reforms to privatize several industries and open the country for international business. The goal of cutting hefty financial subsidies to the general public while granting meager social reforms could spark intense protests (or much more). Needless to say, the MBS regime’s arbitrary arrests will likely continue without condemnation from the UN or international community.
Founder and editor of Geopolitics Alert, Randi Nord is a US-based geopolitical analyst and content strategist. She covers US imperialism with a special focus on Yemen, Iran, and Lebanon. Born in Detroit, Michigan, she started learning about the media’s pivotal role in selling “humanitarian” interventions as a teenager during the aftermath of 9/11 and Iraq war. Randi Nord has lived in the Empire’s neoliberal tropical paradise (Kingdom of Hawai’i) and Lebanon. She frequently participates in the UN Human Rights Council as a guest of NGOs speaking about Yemen.