Well-known Saudi cleric, Sheikh Badr Al-Meshari, has been detained by the authorities for reasons which are currently not known, according to Saudi Arabian human rights organisation Prisoners of Conscious who announced the arrest yesterday on social media.
Although no official reason has been given, many observers suspect Al-Meshari was arrested for being an outspoken critic of the activities that the kingdom’s Entertainment Authority has been promoting such as concerts and mixed music festivals which have drawn the ire of conservatives.
Such initiatives are part of social reforms ushered in under Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS), who wishes to steer the kingdom to a more “moderate Islam.” However, under his de-facto leadership, there has been an uptick in crackdowns against perceived dissent from the ultra-conservative religious establishment, which once enjoyed good relations with the ruling Al-Saud family.
Al-Meshari’s arrest was preceded by the detainment of other prominent Saudi scholars such as sheikhs Salman Al-Ouda, Awad Al-Qarni and Ali Al-Omari, all who have been held by the Saudi authorities since September 2017 on “terrorism charges”. Although it is thought they were targeted for not supporting MBS’ boycott of neighbouring Qatar, which had been announced months earlier.
Al-Meshari previously served as an imam at the Hittin Mosque in Riyadh and his sermons and speeches have been widely circulated on social media. The scholar’s purported official Twitter account, which currently has over 550,000 followers has not been active since February this year.
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