Facebook must contend with Saudi radicalism

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1. Prior to the March 11, 2011 “Day of Rage” in Saudi Arabia, where citizens planned to air their economic, political, and social grievances with the state, regime loyalist cleric Saad al-Buraik warned against protests and called for “smashing the skulls of those who organize demonstrations or take part in them.” Saudi scholar and professor at King’s College London Madawi al-Rasheed aptly describes Buraik as “one of the extremists retained by the government to preach obedience at home and jihad abroad.”

2. An official Saudi religious site says that a woman cannot refuse to have sexual intercourse when her husband desires it, particularly if it is out of stubbornness. They cite the hadith (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad): “When a woman spends the night deserting the marital bed, the angels curse her until she comes back.”

3. Popular cleric Mohammed Al-Arefe, who has more than 1.5 million Twitter followers, explained in 2007 how husbands should properly beat their wives. As Arefe explains, a husband should first admonish his wife, and then give her the silent treatment, but if those two options fail, he should beat her.

However, he adds, “the beatings must be light, and must not make her face ugly. He should beat her in some places where it will not cause any damage.”

4. Saleh Al-Fawzan, one of the Kingdom’s senior clerics, issued a religious ruling that allows fathers to arrange marriages for their daughters “even if they are in the cradle.“ Just to be safe, Fawzan clarified that it “isn’t permissible for their husbands to have sex with them unless they are capable of being placed beneath and bearing the weight of the men.”

5. During a debate over Saudi Arabia’s archaic laws against female drivers, which remain in place today, a body of top clerics ruled that allowing women to drive would “provoke a surge in prostitution, pornography, homosexuality, and divorce,” and further stated that within 10 years of lifting the ban, there would be “no more virgins.”

In the Middle East and the world beyond, freedom of expression is usually something to celebrate. Leave it to Saudi Arabia’s most extreme clerics to turn that notion on its head.

Miller is a research associate at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and recently co-authored the monograph Facebook Fatwa: Saudi Clerics, Wahhabi Islam and Social Media.


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