The head of Saudi Arabia's Islamic Sharia courts has said owners of Arabic television stations airing immodest shows in Ramadan could face execution.
Sheikh Saleh al-Lohaidan, one of the most powerful clerics was responding to a question on a radio phone-in program about the owners of TV stations airing programs that offend modesty, especially during the holy month of Ramadan.
If the evil of those who promote corruption in belief and actions cannot be held back through lesser punishments, then they can be put to death through the judicial process, Lohaidan, head of the Supreme Judicial Council said.
He appeared to be referring to Turkish soap operas that became hugely popular in Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries this year, provoking a storm of anger among conservatives in Saudi Arabia who fear the spread of secular culture.
They gained huge popularity partly because they were dubbed into colloquial Arabic and focused on a Muslim country whose culture many Arabs can relate to. The characters would fast in Ramadan but also drink wine.
The government's official advisor on religious affairs, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdelaziz Al al-Sheikh, said in July it was not Islamically permissible to watch the Turkish serials.
The shows, Nour and Lost Years , were aired by MBC based in the United Arab Emirates.
You will meet a tall, dark,
frock wearing charlatan.
Beware! He wants to kill you
in the name of nonsense
Another senior Saudi cleric has called for the deaths of competing purveyors of nonsense. He said astrologers on Arab television should face the death penalty
Sorcerers who appear on satellite channels who are proven to be sorcerers have committed a great crime... and the Muslim consensus is that the apostate's punishment is death by the sword, Sheikh Saleh Al-Fozan told Al-Madina daily. "Those who call in to these shows should not be accorded Muslim rites when they die, the prominent cleric added.
Many of the hundreds of Arab satellite channels that have sprung up in recent years specialise in horoscopes and other advice to callers on solving problems that is seen by some religious authorities as sorcery . In their capacity as
judges, clerics of Saudi Arabia's austere form of Islam often sentence sorcerers to death.
Al-Fozan, a member of the Higher Council of Clerics, was responding to a controversy ignited by a Council colleague, Sheikh Saleh Al-Lohaidan, who said last week that owners of Arab TV shows should be tried and face death over some shows.
The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply concerned about an edict issued Saturday by a top Saudi Muslim cleric, who said that writers who challenge or criticize religious sheikhs should be fired from their jobs, flogged, and jailed.
Sheikh Abdallah Ben Jabreen, a former member of the Saudi Arabia's Establishment of Fatwas, told Al-Majd TV, that journalists who criticize religious figures should be punished.
Ben Jabreen's fatwa came in support of an edict issued last week by Sheikh Saleh al-Lihedan, who called for the deaths of owners of television channels that broadcast “immoral” programs.
We fear for the safety of journalists and writers in the Middle East when senior religious figures issue calls for the imprisonment and flogging of their critics, said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney: The Saudi authorities must take
a stand against such sinister edicts and ensure that journalists are protected.
In an apparent bid to reform the religious establishment, Saudi King Abdullah has dismissed the head of the feared religious police and a hard-line cleric who issued an edict last year saying it was permissible to kill owners of satellite TV
stations that show immoral content.
The dismissals were seen as an attempt by the king to reform the religious establishment, which has come under persistent criticism especially because of the performance of the religious police and the judiciary.
Abdul-Aziz bin Humain will replace Sheikh Ibrahim al-Ghaith as head of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, which runs the religious police, according to the agency.
Bin Humain, who is believed to be more moderate than al-Ghaith, will head a body whose members have been criticized by Saudis for their harsh behavior.
Abdullah also removed Sheikh Saleh al-Lihedan, chief of the kingdom's highest tribunal, the Supreme Council of Justice. Al-Lihedan's satellite TV edict, issued in September, was denounced across the Arab world. He was replaced by Saleh bin
Humaid, who until Saturday served as the head of the Consultative Council, the closest thing the kingdom has to a parliament.
Noura al-Fayez has been appointed Faisal's deputy for girls' education — the first time a woman has been appointed a deputy minister.
A Saudi religious scholar is accusing a royal tycoon and another Saudi businessman of being as dangerous as drug dealers because the TV channels they own broadcast movies.
The fatwa calling for their prosecution is unusual because it publicly chastises two such prominent Saudi figures by name: Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the world's richest people, and Waleed al-Ibrahim, a brother-in-law of the late King
Youssef al-Ahmed, a professor in the Islamic law department at the ultraconservative al-Imam University, issued the fatwa in response to a question regarding Alwaleed's assertions last month that the kingdom will have movie theaters one day and
that movies play a positive social role in Saudi Arabia.
Cinemas were closed in Saudi Arabia in the early 1980s amid a rise in conservatism. Conservatives believe the movie industry encourages decadence by showing the drinking of alcohol and portraying men and women together in a country that bans
liquor and the public mixing of the sexes.
Movies are a tool that hypocrites use to implement their plot to Westernize society, corrupt it and drive it away from (religion), said al-Ahmed in his response, posted on Islamlight.net: It is a duty to bring him (Alwaleed) and people
like him, such as Waleed al-Ibrahim, to justice. They are no less dangerous ... than drug dealers."
Waleed owns the Dubai-based MBC Group media conglomerate, which includes several satellite channels that broadcast movies, entertainment, news and children's programs in Arabic and English. Those include American and European sitcoms and movies.
A group of Saudi clerics urged the kingdom's new information minister on Sunday to ban women from appearing on TV or in newspapers and magazines, making clear that the country's hardline religious establishment is skeptical of a new push toward
In a statement, the 35 hardline clergymen also called on Abdel Aziz Khoja to prohibit the playing of music and music shows on television.
We have great hope that this media reform will be accomplished by you, said the statement: We have noticed how well-rooted perversity is in the Ministry of Information and Culture, in television, radio, press, culture clubs and the book
Although it raises the pressure on the new minister, the recommendation is likely to have little effect. Khoja's appointment was part of a government shake-up by Abdullah that removed a number of hardline figures and is believed to be part of an
effort to weaken the influence of conservatives in this devout desert kingdom.
No Saudi women should appear on TV, no matter what the reason, the statement said: No images of women should appear in Saudi newspapers and magazines. Saudi Arabia was founded on an alliance with the conservative Wahhabi strain of Islam that sees the mixing of sexes as anathema and believes the playing of music violates religious values.
From an illuminating TV interview with Sheikh Yousuf Al-Ahmad, a professor of Islamic law at Al-ImamUniversity in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Interviewer: A year ago, Sheikh Saleh Al-Lahidan issued a fatwa that made all hell break loose. He demanded that owners [of liberal Arab TV channels be placed on trial] and repent. Do you support Sheikh
Sheikh Yousuf Al-Ahmad: I believe all Muslim scholars support him in this.
I believe that one of our problems is that we continue to bury our heads in the sand, and talk about 'Lebanese' TV channels, as if we are being honest. Take LBC, for example. We all know who owns it. We should say to [the owner] Al-Walid bin
Talal: Beware. The same is true of MBC TV, Al-Arabiya TV, the ART and Rotana channels - all these [Saudi] channels serve to destroy Islam and the Muslims.
Regarding these base channels that I have mentioned, and others like them - I have no doubt whatsoever that their danger to the Islamic nation is no less than that of the Zionist Jews, or of the Crusader Americans in Iraq and elsewhere.
Interviewer: What led you to such an extremist view? Note that you are equating channels owned by Muslims, by Saudi citizens, with the Jews.
Sheikh Yousuf Al-Ahmad: I wasn't equating them. I said they are more dangerous. I was being precise. In my view, the deadly poison that they are spreading has reached the bone marrow.
The people who spread corruption in the land - whether highway robbers, drug dealers, or the owners of these TV channels, who are even more dangerous... These channels broadcast corruption and nudity. They are all people who spread corruption in
the land, and they should be tried in an Islamic court of law and sentenced to death. This [fatwa] is clearly in accordance with Islamic law. There's no doubt about it.
Our human nature may tell us that stoning is unacceptable, but this is a punishment decreed by Allah. If Allah decrees death - this is how it should be. If the Islamic scholars ruled that the punishment for drug dealers is death, this is how it
I believe that [the TV channel owners] are more dangerous than all of these. Forget about whether or not they should be killed - we demand that they face trial in an Islamic court of law.
I call upon the good, honorable businessmen to contribute their millions in order to hire lawyers to file Islamic lawsuits against these TV channels owners, and to persecute them legally. I call upon lawyers and good people in Saudi Arabia, in
the Gulf states, in Egypt, in Yemen, and everywhere, to banish them from all Muslim countries.