Saudi Cleric Reportedly Arrested For Criticizing Mixed Gatherings

“Authorities are looking at everyone that's influential and has a presence on the scene,” said Yahya Assiri, a UK-based Saudi human rights activist.



A Saudi cleric at the Grand Mosque in Mecca was reportedly detained by authorities after he criticized mixed gatherings.

According to reports, Sheikh Saleh al-Talib delivered a sermon at the mosque where he opposed the idea of mixed gatherings in the kingdom. The cleric further said in the sermon that it is a duty in Islam to speak openly against the evil in public.

The cleric also serves as a judge in the city. Al-Talib was arrested by Saudi authorities shortly after he delivered the sermon. He opposed the idea of men and women coming together and attending concerts and other events together.

Although the address didn’t specifically name the Saudi royal family, it did criticize the recent significant changes by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman which were introduced in the kingdom’s policy for a much more modernized approach.

Soon after the detention, social media accounts of al-Talib were deactivated.

The kingdom saw its first cinema opening in decades, in a complete overhaul of usual Saudi social practices.

The country also commenced its first fashion week showcasing international designers and proposed a program that calls for an end to the draconian gender segregation that has been followed in the kingdom for a very long time.

The 236-page document sent to the reporters called for easing social restrictions in the conservative kingdom. The new “Quality of Life Program” said these areas needed immediate regulatory changes and called for an end to such laws.

Recently, women were allowed into football stadiums in a one-off event to commemorate the country’s national day.

Under the crown prince’s Vision 2030, bin Salman aims to open up Saudis’ cloistered lifestyles, shaped in part by a strict, conservative version of Sunni Islam that limits the role of women, and diversifies the economy away from oil.

The Saudi government didn’t confirm the arrest of the cleric but advocacy group Prisoners of Conscience confirmed the news.

“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,” said Yahya Assiri, a UK-based Saudi human rights activist.

The cleric’s arrest comes as the Saudi authorities arrested activists who had campaigned for the lifting of the driving ban on women drivers, under the watch of the crown prince.

Banner / Thumbnail : FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images

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