Saudi Arabia’s council of senior clerics has issued a statement forbidding as un-Islamic the public protests, which the rulers of the U.S. ally and key oil exporter fear could spread following demonstrations by minority Shi’ites. The kingdom has escaped major protests like those which toppled leaders in Egypt and Tunisia, but the wave of unrest has reached its neighbours Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan and Oman.
“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 on Sunday.
More than 17,000 people backed a call on Facebook to hold two demonstrations in Saudi Arabia this month, the first on Friday. The interior ministry said on Saturday that protests violate Islamic law and the kingdom’s traditions. Security forces have detained at least 22 Shi’ites who took part in protests in the kingdom’s oil-rich east, activists said. Neighbouring Bahrain has seen protests by majority Shi’ites against their Sunni rulers.