Authorities in Saudi Arabia crack down on Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated clerics

Saudi sources said the arrests of a number of hard-line clerics were related to their acting like a fifth column for the Qatari government.

A mentor. A grab from a 2010 video showing Saudi conservative cleric Sheikh Salman al-Oudah pleading with former US President Barack Obama to pardon Humaidan al-Turki, who was sentenced to 28 years in jail in Colorado for abusing an Indonesian housemaid. (AFP)

2017/09/17 Issue: 123 Page: 3

London- Authorities in Saudi Ara­bia have detained a number of hard-line clerics, including con­troversial Muslim Broth­erhood-affiliated cleric Salman al- Oudah.

On September 9, security services arrested 20 people; among them were al-Oudah and fellow hard-line Sheikh Awad al-Qarni, also known for his affiliation with the outlawed Brotherhood move­ment. The kingdom’s official news agency did not name either man but said that authorities had un­covered a group involved in “intel­ligence activities for the benefit of foreign parties.” A Saudi security source told Reuters that the indi­viduals arrested were accused of “espionage activities and having contacts with external entities, in­cluding the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Saudi sources, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the ar­rests of a number of hard-line cler­ics were not tied to their individual views or the extreme ideas they’ve expressed on social media, but to their acting like a fifth column for the Qatari government as well as their placing loyalties to the Mus­lim Brotherhood movement above the interests of their own country.

The sources stressed that the ar­rests of al-Oudah and al-Qarni were a long time in the making and were tied to their positions related to Qa­tar and their links to exiled Egyp­tian theologian Yusuf al-Qaradawi, head of the International Union of Muslim Scholars. It has been ac­cused of being a front for the Mus­lim Brotherhood organisation.

In June of this year, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt sev­ered ties with Qatar over what they described as its continued support of radical groups and perpetual in­terference in the affairs of its fellow Arab states. Consequently, Saudi Arabia ordered all its nationals liv­ing and working in Qatar to return home, and Saudi nationals were no longer permitted to work for Qatari-owned business or establishments.

Saudi Arabia designated the Mus­lim Brotherhood a terrorist organi­sation in 2014, coinciding with the last time Riyadh severed relations with Doha.

In al-Oudah’s case, despite the severing of relations between Ri­yadh and Doha, the provocative sheikh maintained his post as as­sistant secretary of Qaradawi’s Qatar-based International Union of Muslim Scholars, regardless of being considered by some to be a front for the Muslim Brotherhood movement and Qaradawi’s official­ly being designated as a terrorist by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt.

Al-Oudah has had a long and complicated relationship with Sau­di authorities. He was imprisoned in the early 1990s by Saudi authori­ties, along with four other high-profile preachers, for petitioning the government to give more say to the religious establishment in the country’s decision-making process, believing the kingdom to not be or­thodox enough.

Al-Oudah was also an inspiration to former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. During bin Laden’s speeches in the 1990s, in which he talked about the kingdom’s conten­tious relationship with the United States, he frequently referenced al-Oudah due to their shared world vision.

The New York Times has de­scribed al-Oudah as a mentor to bin Laden. Although al-Oudah and other Saudi religious scholars de­nounced the 9/11 attacks, it took the controversial preacher six years to publicly denounce his former pupil.

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