Saudi Arabia: Silence is a sign of disloyalty!

Oliver Miles in the TLS, ‘At least three prominent Saudi clerics, Salman al-Awda, Awad al-Qarni and Ali al-Umari,  have been arrested in the last few days. They are not part of the state-backed clerical establishment. Saudi Arabia has always had problems with clerics whose loyalties are not to the royal family, going back to the revolt of the Ikhwan which was ruthlessly suppressed by Ibn Saud in 1929. Nowadays the problem has a new dimension: large online followings. Nearly 60 per cent of the Saudi population are said to be active on social media; al-Awda has more than 14 million followers on Twitter. Le Monde describes him as a defender of individual liberty and one of the most popular challengers of authoritarianism in Saudi Arabia. There are reports on social media of more arrests including other clerics and the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. During the reign of King Abdullah (2005-15), Khashoggi was a respected supporter of the regime and became the editor-in-chief of a leading news channel, but last week he had to deny accusations that he was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. A senior member of the royal family, Prince Abd al-Aziz bin Fahd, the son of the late King Fahd, has also reportedly been detained. He apparently tweeted that if he did not travel after performing the hajj it would be because he had been killed, but it seems that his account may have been hacked . . . There is another, perhaps weightier reason for a crackdown on those whose loyalty is in doubt. Social media are awash with speculation about how and when Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman (MBS) will replace his father. King Salman is 81 and in poor health, possibly so poor that he is not really functioning as ruler. . . public criticism by religious bodies and senior royals as growing risks for his [the Crown Prince’s] position. The anonymous blogger who goes by the name of Mujtahidd tweeted on 9 September that MBS would be declared king any day now”.’ click here.