Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh  said Tuesday that scores of young Saudi men have lost their lives by answering false jihad calls to fight wars outside their country.
“They were misled into believing that they were jihadis, but were in fact easy targets for the enemies of Islam in war zones where they were subject to torture, humiliation and slavery, let alone losing their lives,” the grand mufti said in an interview on Saudi Television.
Al-Asheikh’s comments come a day after Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah decreed jail terms of up to 20 years for citizens who fight in conflicts abroad or belong to “extremist religious and ideological groups, or those classified as terrorist organizations.” Promoting the views of such groups and organizations “through speech or writing” would also incur prison sentences.
The grand mufti urged families, schools, the media, and imams to warn young men against supporting advocates of sedition and focus on creating a better future in the Kingdom.
He said some people in Saudi society are manipulating the true message of Islam. They are spreading misleading information sugarcoated with religious rhetoric to break down national unity and create chaos, he said.
He praised King Abdullah for tackling these extremist views and actions that were harming the nation. He said it was “the ruler’s obligation to maintain the well-being of the nation.”
The Council of Senior Religious Scholars said King Abdullah acted on the basis of Islamic principles related to governance and political leadership. “The call for war or peace is an Islamic right given to the ruler, Muslim scholars agree,” Sheikh Fahad Al-Majed, secretary-general of the council, said in a statement on Tuesday carried by the Saudi Press Agency.
He said jihad only becomes “obligatory” if it is made by the ruler. The king’s decision protects the nation’s religion, security, and unity, he said.
Meanwhile, Sheikh Abdullateef Al-Asheikh, the chief of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice  (Haia), reportedly vowed on Tuesday to remove extremists within the organization and called them “advocates of sedition.”
“We will eliminate whoever urges sedition in this country,” he warned, describing calls for jihad as “void.”
“It is forbidden to disobey the ruler” by sending young Saudis to join “sedition in neighboring countries,” Al-Sheikh said.
Saudis have welcomed the royal decree.
Saudi columnist Salman Al-Dossari said that the decrees include “those who encourage instigate and support acts of terror in writing and speech.” The relationship between terror and its supporters has a history of wars and political conflicts in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, and Egypt, he said in his column in Al-Eqtisadiah daily.
He said that Saudi supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood , the party banned in Egypt, have publicly supported it despite the government’s unequivocal stance on that party’s political agenda.
The decision then “is not necessarily politically motivated as some may perceive it, but rather to keep our national unity intact without alliances with politically motivated groups that tear apart the fabric of the nation,” he said.
Hamoud Al-Fayez said: “We have now realized the danger they pose. These poor young men, who have been tricked into someone else’s war, come back armed with malicious intent to harm their societies.” Fadel Abu Al-Ainain said: “Only such a law can protect young men from becoming entangled in outside wars.”
Abdul Rahman Jumah said: “This is the right decision to protect the minds and integrity of our young men from the religious swindlers who have tarnished the essence of true Islamic teaching.”