Saudi clerics condemn protests
Riyadh, March 7, 2011
Saudi Arabia's council of senior clerics issued a statement on Sunday forbidding public protests.
'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 took part in protests in the kingdom's east, activists said.'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.'
The statement also attacked petitions asking the rulers for reforms. 'Reform and advice ... should not be via menacing statements that provoke strife and by collecting signatures, since it violates what God ordered,' the clerics said, citing a Quranic verse as justification of their position.
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, King 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.