Saudi King Outlaws Religious Groups

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia issued a royal decree which imposes prison sentences on Saudis who fight outside the country and on those who are “members of religious and extremist groups.” The decree incited different reactions on social media networks.

Thousands of Saudis have joined the civil war in Syria, including young fighters, and the Saudi media has been debating who to blame. The decree also comes after Egypt has declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group.

The official Saudi News Agency reported:

Whoever participates or is involved in hostilities outside the Kingdom or joins radical religious and intellectual groups or currents, will be sentenced by no less than three years and not more than twenty years in prison. However, the punishment will be increased to no less than five years and no more than thirty years in prison for armed forces servicemen, a royal order stated here today.

The Arabic decree, however, did not mention “radical religious group,” but rather “religious and extreme,” which induced criticism for the vague language that it uses. Some Twitter users even started a hashtag: “King Abdullah outlaws the Muslim Brotherhood group.”

Political science academic Khalid al-Dekhayel stated that the decree does actually outlaw the Muslim Brotherhood:

The specification of “religious groups or those that are declared terrorist nationally, regionally or internationally” includes the Muslim Brotherhood after it was declared so by Egypt.

Saudi Twitter user Sultan al-Fifi noted the paradox in citing Sharia law to outlaw religious groups:

Based on the purposes of the Islamic Sharia, we will criminalize those who join the Muslim Brotherhood which trades religion for political gain.

Twitter user Abdullah al-Awlah posted a newspaper headline from the 1960s when Saudi Arabia supported the Muslim Brotherhood against the nationalist regime in Egypt of Gamal Abdel Nasser. The headline reads: “Prince Faisal: The Muslim Brotherhood struggled for the sake of Allah by their souls and their money.”

It means that anyone who says this will be punished:

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