As anti-government demonstrators vow to continue their protests in Saudi Arabia, the country’s senior Wahhabi clerics have censured the pro-democracy demonstrations “as un-Islamic.”
In a statement released by state news agency SPA on Sunday, the Council of Senior Scholars said, “reform and advice do not take place through demonstrations and methods that fan sedition.”
The reaction of the 10-man council, headed by the mufti of Saudi Arabia, comes against the backdrop of growing calls on the Internet for massive anti-government protests planned for March 11 and 20 to demand change in the ultra-conservative kingdom.
A group of Saudi youths has posted a message on Facebook, calling for a “Saudi Revolution” on March 20 to demand democratic and political reform in the monarchy.
The Facebook group, which has over 17,000 members, also called for a “Day of Rage” rally on March 11. Tens of thousands of Saudis have already joined the drive.
“The council stresses that demonstrations are prohibited in this country, and that the Islamic way of realizing common interest is by offering advice,” the clerics said.
Earlier, Saudi intellectuals and rights activists urged King Abdullah in a statement to “transform the absolute monarchy into a constitutional kingdom.”
However, the council went on to add that “Reform and advice are the Islamic way and would carry benefits and prevent evil, and that does not happen through intimidating and seditious statements on which signatures are collected.”
The council issued a plea to Saudi security officials to “do their job in line with the law of the land” and confront anti-government protests.
The Saudi government on Saturday banned all types of rallies and gatherings and declared that security forces were “authorized by law to take all measures needed against those who try to break the law.”
The decision came in the wake of anti-government demonstrations that were held after the Friday prayers in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, and other cities.
Hundreds of Saudi protesters took to the streets in Riyadh for the first time, joining other anti-government protests held in a number of cities across the country while chanting anti-government and anti-corruption slogans.
Witnesses say Saudi security forces in Riyadh detained at least three people that had chanted slogans against the Saudi monarchy.
At the same time, groups of protesters continued their rallies in the towns of al-Hufuf, al-Ahsa, and al-Qatif in the Eastern Province, with demonstrators demanding the release of political prisoners.
In a move to intensify its crackdown on the mass protests planned for next week, the Saudi government has also decided to deploy thousands of anti-riot police to northeastern Saudi Arabia.
Protests and any public displays of dissent are forbidden in the Persian Gulf kingdom. The government has become increasingly anxious about the wave of protests that have swept the Arab world, toppling the Egyptian and Tunisian long-term rulers, and recently gaining intensity in states of Oman, Bahrain, Yemen and Libya. Agencies