Imam of Mecca's Grand Mosque warns over 'false news'

Sudais calls those who succumb to social media phenomenon ‘Kharajites’, after group who resisted early Islamic rulers.

People want reform but traditional clerics are resisting

2017-02-11 11:53:40

RIYADH - A senior Saudi religious leader on Friday warned over online "false news", bolstering Islamic scholars' concern about the internet in a kingdom where social media are widely used.

The comments during weekly prayers by Abdul Rahman al-Sudais, the imam of Mecca's Grand Mosque, followed criticism of online practices a week earlier by another Saudi religious leader.

Sudais said that "when an incident happens" people rush to the web and social media which exaggerate the matter.

"So many incidents that would have been better forgotten," he said, but instead lead to the spread of "lies and deceit awakening evil and fitnah (temptation), and spreading rumours and false news".

In the comments, cited by the official Saudi Press Agency, he called those who succumb to this social media phenomenon "Kharajites", after a group who resisted early Islamic rulers.

Worldwide concern has risen over false or "fake news" -- which is fabricated -- because of its potential to shape public opinion via the internet.

Saudi Arabia is founded on ultra-conservative Wahhabi thought, but more than half of its citizens are under 25, spending much of their time on social media platforms such as WhatsApp, away from official strictures and traditions in the Muslim kingdom.

At the weekly Grand Mosque prayers on February 3, Sheikh Saud al-Shiraim said social media have led to "strange practices" such as the use of "fingertips instead of minds" to think.

"The nature of social media has given rise to strange practices contradicting morals, customs and norms," he said.

Saudi Arabia bans alcohol, public cinemas and theatres. Unrelated men and women are usually segregated at restaurants and other public venues.

But there are pressures for social change.

As part of wide-ranging social and economic reforms to diversify the country's oil-dependent economy, a new entertainment authority has begun to slowly introduce foreign shows, music and other events seen by limited audiences.

Saudi Arabia's highest-ranking cleric, Grand Mufti Abdulaziz al-Sheikh, warned in early January of the "depravity" of cinemas and music concerts, saying they corrupted morals.

Editors' Picks

The Arab Weekly Newspaper reaches Western & Arabic audience that are influential as well as being affluent.

From Europe to the Middle East,and North America, The Arab Weekly talks to opinion formers and influential figures, providing insight and comment on national, international and regional news through the focus of Arabic countries and community.

Published by Al Arab Publishing House

Publisher and Group Executive Editor: Haitham El-Zobaidi, PhD

Editor-in-Chief: Oussama Romdhani

Managing Editor: Iman Zayat

Deputy Managing Editor and Online Editor: Mamoon Alabbasi

Senior Editor: John Hendel

Chief Copy Editor: Richard Pretorius

Copy Editor: Stephen Quillen

Analysis Section Editor: Ed Blanche

East/West Section Editor: Mark Habeeb

Gulf Section Editor: Mohammed Alkhereiji

Society and Travel Sections Editor: Samar Kadi

Syria and Lebanon Sections Editor: Simon Speakman Cordall

Contributing Editor: Rashmee Roshan Lall

Senior Correspondents: Mahmud el-Shafey (London) & Lamine Ghanmi (Tunis)

Regular Columnists

Claude Salhani

Yavuz Baydar


Saad Guerraoui (Casablanca)

Dunia El-Zobaidi (London)

Roua Khlifi (Tunis)

Thomas Seibert (Washington)

Chief Designer: Marwen Hmedi


Ibrahim Ben Bechir

Hanen Jebali

Published by Al Arab Publishing House

Contact editor

Subscription & Advertising:

Tel 020 3667 7249

Mohamed Al Mufti

Marketing & Advertising Manager

Tel (Main) +44 20 6702 3999

Direct: +44 20 8742 9262

Al Arab Publishing House

Kensington Centre

177-179 Hammersmith Road

London W6 8BS , UK

Tel: (+44) 20 7602 3999

Fax: (+44) 20 7602 8778

Follow Us
© The Arab Weekly, All rights reserved