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Intellectuals condemn fatwa against writers

Ian Black, Middle East editor
Thursday April 3 2008
The Guardian

Arab human rights activists have condemned a Saudi religious edict calling for the execution of two writers for apostasy - giving a rare glimpse of tensions over Islam inside the conservative kingdom.

The ruling by Sheikh Abdul Rahman al-Barrak was called "intellectual terrorism" by "clerics of darkness" in a statement obtained by Reuters and signed by 100 human rights groups and intellectuals from the region. Last month Barrak issued a fatwa against two Saudi writers he denounced as "infidels".

Writing in al-Riyadh newspaper, Yousef Aba Al-Khail and Abdullah bin Bejad had questioned the Sunni Muslim view standard in Saudi Arabia that adherents of other faiths should be considered unbelievers.

"Anyone who claims this has refuted Islam and should be tried so that he can take it back. If not, he should be killed as an apostate from the religion of Islam," Barrak said. "It is disgraceful that articles [of] this kind of apostasy should be published in ... the land of [Mecca and Medina]."

Barrak is seen as Saudi Arabia's leading religious authority independent of the establishment Wahhabi school. His call won support from clerics who asked God to support him in the face of liberals with "polluted beliefs".

Fatwas by radical Muslim clerics led to the assassination in 1992 of the Egyptian writer Farag Foda and to an attempt in 1994 in Cairo to murder the Egyptian Nobel prize-winner Naguib Mahfouz.

Last month Saudi Arabia's Shura council threw out a proposal for a law promoting respect for other religions and religious symbols, apparently for fear it might lead to the building of churches.

King Abdullah recently called for the first time for a dialogue among Muslims, Christians and Jews after discussing the idea with Pope Benedict XVI. But it was reported yesterday that the kingdom's leading official cleric, the Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Bin Abdullah al-Sheikh, had denied issuing an invitation to Israeli rabbis to take part in a conference.

A YouGov poll, broadcast by BBC World, showed that nearly a third of Arabs believe Saudi Arabia is at greater risk from religious extremism than any other country.

Copyright Guardian Newspapers Limited 2008

 

 

 

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