Saudi Reformers Under Fire from Clerics, Extremists

(AP/Boston Globe) Faiza Saleh Ambah - Last month, Abdul-Aziz al-Qassim, a former judge, criticized religious institutions in an interview with the al-Madina newspaper, saying extremists were misusing the writings of Abdul-Wahab to rationalize violence against non-Muslims. Grand Mufti Abdul-Aziz al-Sheik, the highest religious figure in the kingdom, demanded portions be deleted. Al-Qassim refused, and the interview never appeared. Abdullah Bijad al-Otaibi, a reformed extremist, was stopped from writing for the al-Riyadh daily in June after publishing an article that accused some members of the religious establishment of spreading extremist views. The paper printed an apology to the mufti after he called to complain. Saudi newspapers are privately owned but closely monitored by the government. Another muzzling tactic is the two fatwas signed by extremist clergy and posted on Internet sites calling for the death of Mansour al-Nogaidan, a former imam and militant who spent two years in prison for burning a video shop. His offense was to tell an Internet magazine called al-Wasatiya that Saudi Arabia preaches an Islam of hate in its radio programs, schools, and mosques. Al-Nogaidan believes that despite a security crackdown that has netted more than 200 suspects and killed over a dozen since the May attacks, the fight against extremism is far from over.

2003-08-06 00:00:00

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