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Saudi Arabia: The Regime Invokes Sharia Law to Prevent Public Protest

(Mar. 10, 2011) In a declaration issued on March 6, 2011, the Council of Senior Religious Scholars in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia warned against “deviant intellectual and partisan connections and anything that leads to disunity and fragmentation of the nation.” (The Council of Senior Religious Scholars in Saudi Arabia Prohibits Demonstrations [in Arabic], ASHARQ ALAWSAT (Mar. 7, 2011).)

The declaration delegitimizes demonstrations in the country and explains that the method used under Sharia (Islamic law) to safeguard the public interest and avoid vice is munasaha, advice and counsel, a method established by the Prophet Muhammad and followed by his companions and their followers. The declaration contends that reform will be accomplished through the Sharia methods “and not by issuing and collecting signatures on intimidating and incendiary statements that violate what God the most High has commanded” (id.), citing chapter 4, verse 83, of the Koran, which says:

And when it comes to them a concern for security or fear they divulge it, but if they had referred [their concern] to the Apostle and to those in a position of authority among them, those who are able to draw the right conclusion would have known [what to do]; and had it not been for the grace and mercy of God upon you, you would have followed Satan, except for a few [of you]. [translation by the author.]

The Council stressed the importance of the country's legal, surveillance, and executive authorities each discharging their duty in holding every violator responsible. It also emphasized that the Kingdom, throughout all the progress and advancements it had achieved, was able to maintain its Islamic identity and would not allow ideas coming from the West or the East to obliterate this identity or adversely affect the unity of the community. The Council added that among the blessings God bestowed on the people of the country, rulers and ruled, is the privilege of serving the two Holy Mosques (in Mecca and Medina), which gives the Kingdom a special place in the Islamic world. (Id.)