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Saudi Arabia takes action against sectarian fatwas

The Ministry of Islamic Affairs has removed content from its website that was negative about Shia Muslims, Jews, and Christians
Saudi's Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh (C) leads prayer in Riyadh (AFP)

Authorities in Saudi Arabia have moved against sectarian religious edicts in the kingdom, according to a local media report on Thursday.

The daily Okaz newspaper quoted a source in the Ministry of Islamic Affairs who said that a team of officials had begun the process of deleting content on its website “related to different sects and schools of religious thought".

They added that a “special internal body” had been established to “review the contents of its website”.

Saudi Arabia has long been criticised for allowing ultra-conservative religious clerics to spread sectarian ideas targeting Shia Muslims, Jews, and Christians, in part through the Islamic Affairs website.

On Thursday a search for Shia, Christians, and Jews on the website returned no functioning results, which appeared to confirm sectarian content had been removed from the site.

An example of a previous sectarian statement on the fatwa website, which has since been deleted, included a quote from Mohammed al-Mosned, a preacher from Riyadh, who said: “If a Sunni Muslim wants to know the blessings God has given him in terms of intellect and faith, he just needs to look at what the rawafidh (a derogatory term for Shia Muslims) are doing these days.”

“We must impose the harshest sanctions against those who violate the faith and those who go beyond the bounds of Islam. These should include killing, crucifixion and defamation. This is to preserve the religion of the nation, its security and stability.”

The source who spoke to Okaz said the ministry planned to set up a new “online portal to communicate with supportive preachers to educate them about their rights and responsibilities”.

The source added that the new site should be ready within the next three months.

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