Saudi cracks down on freedom of speech amid Syria fears
Saudi Arabia suspended 18 Friday preachers last month, charging that their sermons referred to complex political issues related to events unfolding in Arab countries.
All the preachers were investigated for failing to follow the religious purpose of the Friday sermons, Tawfeeq Al Sudairi, the Islamic affairs ministry undersecretary, reportedly told the London-based Al Hayat daily.
Preachers in Saudi Arabia have been requested not to refer in their weekly public speeches to the dramatic events in Syria and Egypt amid arguments by the authorities that there were concerns about possible sedition.
Saudi Arabia, like most Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries supported the political change in Egypt on July 30 that ended the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood, a movement with several followers in the Gulf countries.
Gulf countries want to make sure the fallout of the sharp divisions between supporters and opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt would not affect them and told preachers to avoid referring to the issue.
Two preachers were suspended in the Eastern Province for two months and were given a last warning, Al Sudairi said. A third preacher had to sign a pledge to avoid political issues in his sermons while a fourth was referred for investigation and a fifth was given a “last warning.”
In the Tabuk area, one preacher was suspended and referred for while another preacher was suspended until further notice in Al Qaseem.
Five more preachers are waiting to know their fate until the procedures are completed, he said.
Three preachers, two in the capital Riyadh and one near the northern borders of the country, have been dismissed.
Two preachers were suspended in Riyadh and its provinces. The preacher suspended in the Red Sea city of Jeddah was also referred to a special committee for investigation.