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Saudi rulers say protests don’t fit the Islamic state
Argument remains same - protests are not Islamic; Planned Friday, March 11 protests seen as first key test; Reforms not keeping up with Internet-savvy youth.
March 10, 2011 9:23 by Reuters
SAUDIS QUESTION CLERICS
Wahhabism — the Saudi interpretation of the Hanbali school of Sunni Islamic law — stands out for its insistence that the ruler should be obeyed at all costs. Its clerics also frown on political parties, which are banned in the country.
But following the 1990-1 Gulf crisis — when the government clerics shocked many by authorising U.S. troops on Saudi soil — many Wahhabi scholars broke away.
More politically active, they presented petitions to the royal family that argued the state had veered away from Islamic principles in domestic and foreign policies. They supported the idea of parliamentary elections.
Many of those scholars, who were imprisoned for their insolence, have more credibility than the government-backed clerics among Saudis today.
One of them, Salman al-Odah, who has a programme each week on pan-Arab channel MBC1, put his signature to a reform petition last month and has made pro-reform comments on social media site Twitter this week. “The youth must be given some freedom to criticise,” he said on Wednesday.
Saudi clerics have been split over support for uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Their supporters on Islamist websites fear protests will play into Iranian hands by emboldening Shi’ites, who have already started protesting over the past two weeks in the Eastern Province where most Saudi oilfields lie.
The clerics, given wide powers in society through a historic pact with the Saudi family, also fear protests will benefit liberals who want to rein in the religious establishment.
Saudi Arabia is home to Islam’s two holiest sites in Mecca and Medina, and officials often argue this gives the kingdom a special status in Islam akin go the Vatican for Catholics.