In an op-ed for Asharq Alawsat, Adbulrahman Al-Rashed comments on the recent flurry surrounding Sheikh Ahmad al-Ghamidi’s appearance on TV with his unveiled wife and declaration that Islam does not require women to be veiled in order to protect their modesty. In addition to receiving a negative reaction — and threats — from some, the Grand Mufti also jumped in to state that he was in error.
Al-Rashed points out that by going on TV in this way, the sheikh has opened new ground for discourse in Saudi Arabia. Instead of private conversations undertaken in homes, issues of modernization and reform are now finding public fora, including social media. This, he says, can only be for the good.
Why did Saudi Arabia’s Sheikh Ghamidi succeed?
The enormity of stock market losses, the drop in oil prices for the first time in years, ISIS massacres, terrorists’ attacks in Riyadh and its suburbs and the football fever have all faded in Saudi Arabia this week in the shadow of one single story. Sheikh Ahmad Qassem al-Ghamidi appeared with his unveiled wife on television. According to Saudi local standards, this is tantamount to a nuclear bomb and the story soon developed into a controversy that hasn’t settled yet on all platforms and levels.
This may seem like a silly issue in any other Muslim country but in Saudi Arabia it has shocked and angered many and become an amazing surprise to those in support of Ghamidi’s move. The event thus confirms a severe division within Saudi society which consists of movements that express its diversity. Some threatened to sue Al-Ghamidi, though I don’t know over what! While other considered him a modernizing pioneer whom history will immortalize. The certain truth is that Sheikh Ghamidi has shocked Saudi public opinion and reshuffled views once again – although many before him have made such a move, he’s actually the first cleric to do so. Ghamidi has assumed influential religious posts and has accepted to be challenged by his rivals who accused him of hypocrisy and advising others of what he cannot do. It’s on colleague Badria al-Bishr’s show on MBC television that Ghamidi appeared with his unveiled wife in defiance of others, and Saudi media arenas became gripped in this controversy ever since.
Arab News reports that a number of Saudis are planning to sue Sheikh al-Ghamdi. As al-Rashed notes in his piece, however, what grounds they might find for suing is a pretty big question.
A couple of days ago, the former head of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice in Mecca said that there’s no religious obligation for Muslim women to cover their faces. Today, Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti says that’s mistaken. He points to two verses from the Quran which he says do require covering.
Retract remarks and repent, Grand Mufti advises Al-Ghamdi
Saudi Gazette report
RIYADH – Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Aal Alsheikh has asked Sheikh Ahmad Al-Ghamdi, former Makkah chief of Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (Haia), to repent for his recent comments on niqab (face veil) which have created a lot of controversy in the country.
During a local program presented by Dr. Badriya Al-Bishr, a prominent Saudi media personality, Al-Ghamdi said women were not required to wear niqab (face veil). Al-Ghamdi was accompanied by his wife without a niqab.
Grand Mufti said there are Quranic verses that say hijab (head cover) is obligatory for each and every Muslim woman and that women should cover their faces, MBC.net reported. Alsheikh cited the following Quranic verses:
Saudi Gazette reports that while the Saudi program to rehabilitate those involved in terrorist activities has been largely successful over the past 10 years, it might be time to do a reappraisal to see if it might not be improved. That, at least, is the opinion of a member of the Shoura Council. I think the program has been incrementally tweaked over that time period, though, with changes made as they were seen to be beneficial. It certainly couldn’t hurt to re-examine it, something that I think all government programs — and all governments — should do with some regularity.
The Munasaha rehabilitation program claims a 12% recidivism rate.
<Shoura member: Need to revise terrorist rehabilitation program
Saudi Gazette report
RIYADH — The terrorist rehabilitation programs run by Prince Muhammad Bin Naif Center for Advice and Care needs to be revised and reevaluated now that it has been in place for ten years, according to Latifah Al-Shalan, member of the Shoura Council, Al-Watan daily reported.
Only 10 percent of rehabilitated inmates return to terrorist activities after their release from the center, according to reports.
“These reports do not change the fact that the center has produced very positive results since its inception in 2004,” Al-Shalan said during the Council’s session on the great achievements accomplished by the Ministry of Interior in fighting terrorism.
She said the Council’s committees and some of its members are capable of contributing to a comprehensive plan to further develop the program.
Al Arabiya TV carries a piece from Associated Press noting that Google — who owns YouTube — will have another day in court today to argue that an earlier decision that forced it to take down the notorious video of “Innocence of Muslims” was erroneous. The earlier decision was based on the copyright claim of an actress who appeared in the film (for all of five seconds). Google is arguing that she did not have a valid copyright claim, but that the producer/director of the film did.
The court argument has nothing to do with the substance of the film, but is entirely based on copyright law, which is a mess in itself.
Associated Press – Los Angeles: A federal appeals court will reconsider a decision to order YouTube to take down an anti-Muslim film clip that sparked violence in the Middle East and death threats to the actors from those who considered it blasphemous to the Prophet Muhammad.
An 11-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena will hear arguments Monday by Google, which owns YouTube, disputing the court’s decision to remove “Innocence of Muslims” from the popular video sharing service.
A divided three-judge panel ruled in February that actress Cindy Lee Garcia had a copyright claim to the 2012 video because she believed she was acting in a much different production than the one that appeared.
Al Arabiya TV reports on the storm of social media following the appearance of a Saudi cleric — formerly head of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice in Mecca — in which he stated that the wearing of the veil is not obligatory for Muslim women. While Sheikh Ahmed al-Ghamdi received abuse and threats from some, he also received support from others on Twitter.
Al-Ghamdi has raised the ire of conservatives in Saudi Arabia on earlier occasions, as when he stated that music was not forbidden by Islam and that men and women working together was entirely fine in principle.
A Saudi cleric caused massive controversy this week when he said on a prominent television program that contrary to what some Muslims believe, women are NOT required to wear the niqab (face veil) and are allowed to use make-up and other beauty products.
To further strengthen his argument, Sheikh Ahmad al-Ghamidi brought his wife UNVEILED to last Saturday’s “Badria,” a talk show hosted by the renowned Saudi media personality Badria al-Bishr on Al Arabiya’s sister channel, MBC. (Episode can be watched here).
Ghamdi, who is a former head of the Holy City of Makkah’s branch of the Saudi Committee for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (commonly known as the Religious Police), was discussing a fatwa (religious edict) which he had issued previously, permitting women to show their faces and wear make-up.
Asharq Alawsat reports on a conference at Al-Azhar in Cairo at which leading Sunni scholars are dancing around how to denounce ISIS without using ISIS’ tactics. One of the hallmarks of ISIS philosophy — along with sheer brutality — is the way it is quick to declare certain Muslims to not be Muslims, takfirism.
So, instead of declaring ISIS to be a group of apostates, the organization has decided that “very bad Muslims” will have to do.
Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—Egypt’s Al-Azhar, the country’s leading Sunni religious institute, has issued a statement formally rejecting the labeling of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters as apostates.
Takfirism, the practice of one Muslim declaring another to be an apostate, is controversial within Islam. While this is something that is actively practiced by Islamist groups like ISIS, it is generally rejected by adherents of mainstream interpretations of Islam.
“Al-Azhar rejects the takfirism of ISIS . . . Because takfirism cannot be applied to any believer, regardless of his sins,” Al-Azhar said in a statement in response to comments made by the Mufti of Nigeria during last week’s counter-terrorism conference in Cairo.
During the conference, Al-Azhar Grand Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb called for joint Islamic efforts to combat ISIS. “Division, strife and polarization are the main tactics extremists are using to divide the Islamic nation,” Tayeb said. He stressed that ISIS militants are acting “under the guise of this holy religion and have given themselves the name ‘Islamic State’ in an attempt to export their false Islam.”
The Mufti of Nigeria Sheikh Ibrahim Saleh Al-Hussaini later issued similar comments during the counter-terrorism conference, saying ISIS are promoting a “false” Islam.
Saudi Gazette reports on a case currently before the Saudi courts in which a daughter is suing her father because he is preventing her from returning to her studies abroad. The girl, studying on a government stipend, claims that her father wants part of that stipend — I suppose because he thinks it his due. As her guardian, he has wide-ranging authority over her and can — as here — forbid her to leave the country. The girl is claiming that this causes her injury and Shariah law does not permit parents to injure their children.
It will be interesting to see how the court rules.
Girl sues dad for not letting her complete overseas education
Saudi Gazette report
JEDDAH – The Criminal Court is reviewing a case filed by a young woman who claimed her father would not let her complete her scholarship program because she refuses to give him her stipends, Makkah daily reported.
She told the judge that her father did not let her travel back to the country where she is studying.
Her father kept asking her again and again for money but she did not give him any, the court heard.
When he realized that his daughter did not have any intention to share her scholarship money with him, he waited for her until she got back and then banned her from traveling.
She accused her father of being a drug addict and having a prior criminal record.
At a Brussels meeting of foreign ministers of the coalition against ISIS, Saudi Arabia’s Saud Al-Faisal warned that ISIS cannot be defeated without the use of ground troops. He did not say, however, whose troops would have to be involved or under what aegis or authority they would fight in Syria and Iraq. This is a rather large detail.
It would be interesting if the Arab League could pull together a joint army, authorizing it to combat ISIS. It’s even conceivably possible, though unlikely. Waiting for armed forces from outside the region, though, is a matter of “Let’s you and him fight.”
Brussels and Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal said that the fight against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) cannot be waged by aerial bombing alone during a speech to representatives of the US-led anti-ISIS coalition on Wednesday.
Speaking to diplomats from more than 60 countries and international organizations at NATO’s headquarters in Brussels, the Saudi Foreign Minister said: “We are all well aware that countering terrorism will take a long time and requires continuing effort.”
“Out of the Kingdom’s keenness on the continuation of the cohesion of this coalition and the success of its efforts . . .We believe that this requires the presence of combat troops on the ground,” he said.
Wednesday’s meeting was the largest meeting of anti-ISIS coalition foreign ministers since the inception of the alliance. Representatives from more than 60 countries met to discuss the latest developments in the fight against ISIS, and released a statement to continue their efforts to clamp down on the group’s presence in Iraq and Syria.
The Saudi Foreign Minister called for increased efforts to “strengthen the forces of moderation in Syria,” singling out the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and other moderate opposition forces in particular.
“This would unite the efforts of these forces to be used to purge the Syrian territory of all terrorist organizations, which occupy one third of Syria,” Prince Saud Al-Faisal said.
According to this report from Arab News, the Saudi government will be installing closed-circuit TV cameras in mosques to monitor the performance and speech of clerics, most of whom are drawing some sort of salary from the government.
There has been increased concern that some clerics — both imams and muezzins — are promoting religious extremism. With over 75,000 mosques as of 2012, the government is unable to put human monitors in place. Where it has done so, it has found problematic preachers on occasion. These have been removed from their positions, but the government fears (probably correctly) that it is missing some. TV monitoring just might help identify the others. Of course, if the monitors aren’t on their toes….
Mosques in the Kingdom will soon have close circuit cameras and a smart control system to monitor imams and muezzins (prayer callers) as they perform prayers, religious rituals and deliver sermons. The move will help record any irregularities or violations in the mosque.
According to Abdullah Al-Howaimel, undersecretary for administrative and technical affairs at the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Endowments, Call and Guidance, all mosques will be managed by the electronic system that automatically records the activities in mosques.
“The study of the project has been completed but its implementation will be done in stages,” Al-Howaimel said.
Saudi Gazette translates a piece from the Arabic daily Al-Jazirah in which the writer worries the issue of jinns and the ridicule the belief in them occasions in foreign media. He’s troubled that social media report on all sorts of jinn behavior, but notes that because they are cited as real in the Quran, they must be real. The comments to the article demonstrate that belief in them is very widespread within Islamic communities around the world, and why not, as they are given reality by the very word of God?
This is, of course, awkward in a world where modern science and medicine tend to attribute the manifestations and behaviors of jinns not to external beings whom have never been investigated scientifically, but instead tend to look toward internal issues on the part of the observer.
Until there are a few dozen scientific experiments done on jinns in laboratories, belief in them will have to remain a matter of faith. Ridicule over what no one other than a believer can apprehend is just something that will have to be borne.
The problem becomes acute, however, when people are condemned to death by Saudi courts for dealing with jinns. Causes unknown to science are problematic for non-believers. Instead of legitimate cause, they see irrational behavior and violation of basic human rights.
Saudis are stuck in a hard place, between what they are told they must believe as the word of God and what few other than Muslims accept as fact.
Saudis and the jinn
Fahd Bin Jleid | Al-Jazirah
THE international and Arab media last week published a story and photograph of a boy who is said to be Saudi. The boy’s father had taken the photograph and on seeing it several days later, discovered a smiling and naked jinn next to his son.
“And say, ‘O my Lord! I seek refuge with thee from the suggestions of the Evil Ones. And I seek refuge with Thee O my Lord! Lest they should come near me.’” (Holy Qur’an verses 23:97-98).
Science is still incapable of detecting and monitoring jinns. Some non-Muslim scientists deny the existence of jinns. Yet, some of us claim to have successfully photographed them with digital cameras?
The way the Western media portrays Saudis’ belief in jinns is a very disturbing; something needs to be done to prevent further mockery.
It is we who are responsible for this negative media coverage because it is the local media that is obsessed with publishing sensational news stories.
Only 12% of those going through Saudi Arabia’s rehabilitation program — Munasaha — for those arrested for terrorism-related crimes go back to their ways, the Ministry of Interior says. This is quite a low rate compared to other criminal rehabilitation programs internationally. In the US, overall criminal recidivism rates are around 60%; in the UK, around 50%.
If the figure provided in this Arab News report is accurate, it may mean that a majority of those going through the program were those only marginally involved in terrorism, but who were swept up in various anti-terror campaigns. Or, it just might be that it is an effective program, designed specifically to address those factors that lead Saudis toward extremism.
Twelve percent of those who had participated in government-run rehabilitation programs for terrorism have relapsed and returned to terror-related activities, a Ministry of Interior official has revealed.
Maj. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki, spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said officials at the Prince Muhammad bin Naif Center for Counseling and Care are now trying to determine the causes for these failures.
However, he said the program has been largely successful. Over the past two years more than 2,500 people had participated in the programs, with 80 percent not returning to terrorist activities, he said.
Al-Turki rejected the notion that the program itself caused some to relapse and take part in terror-related activities in the Kingdom. “Without the program, thousands of those who were released would have been exploited by terrorist organizations,” he said.
Arab News runs a story on a report from Vision of Humanity that says 82% of the victim of terrorism are to be found in Muslim countries. The perpetrators are primarily Muslim.
Most of the 18,000 people killed were in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria, Syria, and Somalia. Deaths in the rest of the world account for only 16.5% of the total.
A staggering 82 percent of terror-related deaths occurred in five Muslim countries, namely Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria, in 2013, according to a report published by the Vision of Humanity Foundation.
There has been a substantial increase in the number of terrorist attacks in 2013, according to the Global Terrorism Index (GTI).
Almost 18,000 people were killed that year, a 61-percent increase from the previous year, the foundation said.
The report pointed out that four organizations — Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Boko Haram and the Islamic State (IS) — were behind most of the terrorist attacks that year.
“About 90 percent of attacks took place in countries with gross human rights violations,” said the report.