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Saudi Arabia Silent on Reports of Mecca Imam’s Arrest

An aerial view shows the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia's holy city of Mecca on June 3, 2018
AFP Bandar Al-DANDANI

Officials in Saudi Arabia have yet to confirm or deny reports this week that Sheikh Dr. Saleh bin Mohammed Al Talib, imam and preacher of the Grand Holy Mosque on Mecca, has been arrested.

According to a report in Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper, Saleh was arrested after delivering a sermon on the duty in Islam to speak out against evil in public. Al Jazeera noted that, hours after his alleged arrest, both the sheikh’s Engish and Arabic Twitter accounts were deactivated.

Arabic news website Khaleej Online reported that Saleh “derided the mixing of unrelated men and women at concerts and other mixed entertainment events” during his sermon.

Although Saleh did not directly criticize Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) and the ruling family, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has recently relaxed its laws on female attendance at public events and officially allowed for women to start driving vehicles in June.

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in an interview with CBS in July, “We have extremists who forbid mixing between the two sexes and are unable to differentiate between a man and a woman alone together and their being together in a workplace. Many of those ideas contradict the way of life during the time of the Prophet (pbuh).”

Yahya Assiri, a UK-based Saudi human rights activist who previously served as a member of the Saudi Air Force, told Pakistan’s Express Tribune, “Authorities are looking at everyone that’s influential and has a presence on the scene. Even those that have kept quiet or pledged allegiance to the state, even those that have been drumming up the authorities and their initiatives, even these are not safe.”

In November, Saudi officials arrested a significant number of high-ranking political figures in a corruption crackdown. They could reportedly receive prison sentences of 3-10 years for a variety of crimes. These officials were reportedly charged with the Saudi version of perjury, defined as “voicing injustice before Allah and before the king,” and for violating their duty to protect the nation’s institutions and interests.

At the time, popular columnist Khaled al-Suliman wrote an article titled, “Finally – who will be will be” in which he said:

What’s interesting about the list of those arrested for corruption is that it includes those who received complaints of corruption and we demanded that they fight corruption, and we assumed they were our defenders, but it turns out they are the wolf predators. While we thought them models to emulate, they were collecting suspicious fortunes through dirty deals.

Adelle Nazarian is a politics and national security reporter for Breitbart News. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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