Saudi imam sends death threats to official


The ministry asked the imam several times to refrain from using political slogans but the imam was adamant and refused to obey. He was then summoned to the ministry and removed from his position.

After a quarrel with a ministry official and the failure by others to mediate and have the imam reinstated in his job, the imam sent death threats to the official on his cell phone. The official then filed a lawsuit against the imam at the religious court in Hail.

A reliable source reported that the imam “kept arguing with the judge that it was legitimate in Islam to pray against the governments of certain Western countries.” The source continued: “When the judge asked him whether he was the sender of the death threats, he confessed and did not deny it.” The judge then sentenced the imam to seven months in prison and 150 lashes.


Cassation Court

will either uphold the Hail court’s ruling or ask for a retrial.

Sheikh Abdullah Al-Hammad, head of the branch of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs in Hail, the receiver of the death threats, said the ministry was firm on monitoring the performance of imams. “Among the large numbers of imams here, you will find some who do not follow guidelines,” he told Arab News.

He said the ministry monitored the performance of imams through committees which submit reports. “If and when an imam is seen to have indulged in any wrongdoing, he is summoned by the ministry. If the mistake is unintentional, he is warned and resumes his job. But if the wrongdoing is intentional, he is punished according to the level of the violation,” Al-Hammad said.

He said punishment was gradual and could lead to the imam’s being removed from his job if he continued to disregard ministry guidelines.

Earlier this month, Interior Minister Prince Naif said that some mosques in the Kingdom were being used to send messages which violated their main purpose. The prince also said that some imams and khateebs (preachers) were not doing enough to discourage militancy among Saudi youth, including discouraging young Saudis from going to Iraq to fight alongside insurgents.

In June, Prince Naif held a meeting with imams and khateebs from all over the country and sought their support in fighting the ideology that had been used to recruit Saudi youth to Al-Qaeda. Asked if he felt there had been any progress since that meeting, the minister said: “No, not at the level I would have hoped for.”

Last year the Ministry of Islamic Affairs announced that 270 officials had been hired to monitor the performance of imams and khateebs. In addition, the ministry said some 203 technical teams regularly check architectural aspects of mosques. The report said there were 58,110 mosques in the Kingdom including 11,806 where Friday prayers are held.

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