Saudi activists raise concerns over whereabouts of cleric who criticised government

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In recent years, Saudi Arabia has stepped up efforts to muffle political dissent (AFP/File photo)

Emad al-Moubayed tweeted a video criticising recent reforms. A day later, he posted another video offering ‘clarification’ of his remarksSaudi activists have raised concerns over the whereabouts of a Saudi cleric who published a video criticising recent reforms in the kingdom’s entertainment industry.

Emad al-Moubayed, a renowned preacher in Saudi Arabia and the former imam at the King Abdulaziz Mosque in Dammam, tweeted a video on 1 March advising “those in power” in the kingdom to “fear God”.

He further stated that the recent changes in the country were “erasing the Islamic faith”, as reported by the New Arab. The comments appeared to be in reference to numerous changes in the country, including allowing once-banned concerts.

Since the video was published, it has garnered more than six million views.

The video was addressed to King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and Turki al-Sheikh, the kingdom’s chief of entertainment.


Then, a day later, Moubayed released another video that showed him speaking with a piece of paper placed directly in front of him. Moubayed tweeted the video with a message saying it was a “clarification” of his comments made in the previous video.

The second video has more than two million views. The Prisoners of Conscience Twitter page, an account dedicated to tracking news regarding Saudi prisoners, said there has been “no news of him” since he appeared in the 2 March video published on social media.

The hashtag #WhereIsEmadMoubayed was trending on Monday, with many Twitter users worried about the religious cleric.

Middle East Eye reached out to the Saudi embassy in Washington for comment on the concerns over Moubayed’s whereabouts, but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

In recent years, Saudi Arabia has stepped up efforts to muffle political dissent, using cybercrime laws to sentence offenders to prison terms for online posts deemed insulting to rulers or threatening to public order.

Moubayed’s comments from the initial video he posted appeared to be in reference to Riyadh’s recent measures easing decades-long restrictions on entertainment, as part of efforts to improve its image, diversify its economy, and attract tourists.

Public entertainment events are a major feature of Mohammed bin Salman’s policy of opening up the country to western artists after decades in which cinemas were closed and concerts with mixed audiences were not permitted.


The kingdom has hosted several international sporting events, including wrestling, football, and world heavyweight boxing in recent years, in an effort to diversify the economy as part of Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 strategy.

Meanwhile, a number of rights organisations have called out such events for going ahead while an intense crackdown on activists and political dissidents has continued throughout the country.

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Disclaimer: Saudi activists raise concerns over whereabouts of cleric who criticised government - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect point-of-view

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