Council of Senior Clerics speaks out after security forces detain at least 22 protesting Shi'ites
Saudi Arabia's council of senior
clerics issued a statement on Sunday forbidding public protests,
which the rulers of the US ally and key oil exporter fear
could spread following demonstrations by minority Shi'ites.
The kingdom has escaped major protests like those in Egypt
and Tunisia, which toppled leaders, but the wave of unrest has
reached its neighbours Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan and Oman.
"The Council of Senior Clerics affirms that demonstrations
are forbidden in this country. The correct way in sharia
(Islamic law) of realising common interest is by advising, which
is what the Prophet Mohammad established," said the statement by
the body headed by the Mufti Sheikh Abdul-Aziz Al al-Sheikh.
"Reform and advice should not be via demonstrations and ways
that provoke strife and division, this is what the religious
scholars of this country in the past and now have forbidden and
warned against," said the statement, carried by state media.
Security forces have detained at least 22 Shi'ites who have
staged small protests for about two weeks in the kingdom's
oil-rich east, activists said. The region is near Bahrain, scene
of protests by majority Shi'ites against their Sunni rulers.
More than 17,000 people backed a call on Facebook to hold
two demonstrations in Saudi Arabia this month, the first on
Friday. The interior ministry said on Saturday that protests
violate Islamic law and the kingdom's traditions.
Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam and home to its two
holiest sites, applies sharia law and allows religious scholars
wide powers in society. They dominate the judicial system and
run their own police squad to enforce religious morals.
The clerics back the ruling al-Saud family's ban on
political parties, which they say are not Islamic. Their
position on elections to bodies such as the advisory Shura
Council has been more ambiguous.
Many clerics campaigned for an elected parliament after the
Gulf War in 1991.
"The Council warns of deviant ideological and
party-political connections since this nation is one and will
adhere to the ways of the pious ancestors," the statement said.
"The kingdom has not and will not allow ideas from the West
or the East that take away from this Islamic identity and divide
the unity of the whole."
A loose alliance of liberals, moderate Islamists and
Shi'ites have petitioned King Abdullah to allow elections in the
kingdom, which has no elected parliament.
Last month, Abdullah returned to Riyadh after a three-month
medical absence and announced $37 billion in benefits for
citizens in an apparent bid to curb dissent.
Not really getting it are they? I am unsure as to what real sentiment there is for any changes in Saudi but taking an example from the rest of the region lately bottling it up and not listening to the people is not a long term solution.
Is autocracy a fundamental part of Islam? Is this why it has been pretty much presumed by everyone outside of the Arab world that they were happy with the status quo? Or is this a myth perpetuated by those in power so they remain in power?
'Saudi clerics condemn 'deviant' ideas, protests'
Why am I not surprised?
Here we go again with the Clerics dancing with the wind, it is not fashinable anymore, would have been if we were in the 7th century. The Saudi idenitity will always be a moslem one, but the saudis have a right in representative democracy and independant judiciary. Please do not hide under the veil of Islam to stop any possibility of democratizing the country. Enough is Enough.