Saudi royal order says only appointed clerics can issue public fatwas
Saudi King Abdullah has ordered that public religious edicts, or public fatwas, be issued only by clerics he appoints, in the boldest measure the ageing monarch has taken to organise the religious field.
Timid efforts by the absolute monarchy to modernise the deeply conservative country have led to a profusion in fatwas from scholars and mosque imams in the country, who use the Internet to publicise them as they fight what they perceive as the westernisation of the country.
(Photo: Saudi King Abdullah, 30 July 2010/Ali Jarekji)
This abundance depicted growing divisions among pro-reformist clerics and more conservative clerics, a trend which diplomats say was bound to worry Saudi authorities seeking to fight militancy and the ideology that breeds it.
“We have noticed some excesses that we can’t tolerate, and it is our legal duty to stand up to these with strength and resolve to preserve the religion, the dearest of our belongings,” the monarch said in a royal order sent on Thursday to the kingdom’s Grand Mufti. “We urge you … to limit fatwas to the members of the High Scholars Authority and to advise on those among them who are wholly…eligible to be involved in the duty of fatwa so that we allow them to carry out fatwas.”
The royal order did not explain how authorities would prevent other scholars from issuing public fatwas on the Internet. It excludes personal fatwas, requests by Muslims for advice from a scholar about personal or religious matters.