By Eric C. Sigmund
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – Islamic scholars in Saudi Arabia issued a fatwa, a religious edict, Tuesday, forbidding protests in the country. The edict declares that anti-government demonstrations are punishable as un-Islamic. The Saudi government reports that it will print and additional 1.5 million copies of the edict, to add to the 500,000 already printed, to distribute to citizens.
The fatwa, issued by Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul-Aziz Al al-Sheikh, the most prominent religious official in the country, urges citizens to “have a united front….under its wise and legitimate leadership.” Despite the government’s quick endorsement of the edict, not all Islamic scholars support a ban on free expression. Sheikh Gamal Qotb, the former head of the Al-Azhar fatwa committee, the highest religious institution in the Sunni world, expressed that the edict was a “big mistake,” noting that protest helps to promote peace and check tyranny.
While countries throughout the region continue to experience massive popular uprisings, Saudi Arabia has been largely immune from pro-democracy resistance. The government quickly reacted to attempts by opponents to stage mass protests on March 11 by increasing the street presence of its police forces. Heightened security patrols and strong rhetoric from the Saudi leaderships has thus far allowed the government to suppress and deter civilian protests.
For more information please see:
Al-Masry Al-Youm- Al-Azhar Scholar Criticizes Saudi Edict Banning Protests – Mar. 30, 2011
People’s Daily Online – Saudi Arabia Prints 1.5 Million Copies of Anti-Protest Edict –Mar. 30, 2011
Reuters Africa – Saudi Prints 1.5 Million Copies of Anti-Demo Edict – Mar. 29, 2011