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Sun 6 Mar 2011 05:35 PM

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Saudi clerics condemn 'deviant' ideas, protests

Council of Senior Clerics speaks out after security forces detain at least 22 protesting Shi'ites

Saudi clerics condemn 'deviant' ideas, protests
SHIITE DETAINED: Saudi security forces have detained at least 22 Shiite Muslims over protests last week (Getty Images)

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.

Arabian Business: why we're going behind a paywall

Neil 9 years ago

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?

Saeid 9 years ago

'Saudi clerics condemn 'deviant' ideas, protests'

Why am I not surprised?

Ali Saleh 9 years ago

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.