Over the past few days, the security forces in Saudi Arabia arrested a number of scholars and preachers, including famous ones with millions of followers on social networking sites, such as Sheikh Salman Al-Ouda, Sheikh Awad Al-Qarni and Sheikh Ali Al-Omari. There are some who are trying to link these controversial arrests with the arrest of dozens of the terrorist Parallel State organisation members in Turkey after the failed coup attempt.
Can we say that Saudi Arabia is defending its security and stability by arresting these scholars and clerics like Turkey did when it imprisoned a large number of Parallel State members? This is what quite a few supporters of these recent arrests in Saudi Arabia are claiming.
The deliberate confusion of established facts and fake pictures is nothing new, as we have witnessed it on more than one occasion. Such occasions include the protests against the legitimate elected Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi shortly before the military coup in Egypt, which were labelled as “a popular revolution” in order to portray the play that was pre-arranged by the coup leaders and counter-revolution governments as a popular movement, similar to the popular demonstrations organised by revolting nations to overthrow dictator tyrants.
No one with a mind and conscience can miss the big difference between arresting members of the terrorist Parallel State group in Turkey and the arrest of scholars and clerics in Saudi Arabia because the difference is as clear as day. Regardless, there is no harm in mentioning some facts in order to remove any confusion from those who are unsure of the matter.
The members of the Parallel State group were not arrested on charges of affiliation with the group. They were arrested because they carried out acts that are considered crimes according to the laws and constitutions of the world. These acts include espionage, illegal eavesdropping, stealing exam questions and participating in an attempt to stage a coup against the elected government. In addition to this, they killed dozens, wounded hundreds and bombed the Parliament building and the headquarters of the Special Task Forces and the intelligence agency with planes and helicopters. It is unfair to equate the arrest of scholars and clerics merely because their positions are different to that of the government and the arrest of those attempting a coup, carrying arms and killing security officers and innocent civilians. If any of the recently arrested scholars or clerics in Saudi Arabia committed a tenth of the crimes committed by the Parallel State members, they would have been sentenced to death on charges of disobeying the authority.
Members of the armed group who carried out a violent attempt to seize popular will in Turkey were only arrested for a few weeks or months in an arbitrary manner and are not put on trial. They are arrested based on the orders of the State Prosecution as part of regular legal measures. They are then taken to court within a week to start their trial. The judges may decide to release them or try them without holding them in prison. The most they had done, in an emergency case, is hold suspects 30 days before charging them with anything. However, at the beginning of the year, the Turkish government reduced this period to seven days. There have also been no cases of enforced disappearances or illegitimate arrests where suspects do not know why they were arrested or why they were released in Turkey.
There is an important point that those who compare the arrest of the scholars and clerics in Saudi Arabia to the arrest of Parallel State members do not know or ignore, i.e. that the majority of the Turkish people agree to the need to combat this group and prosecute and punish its members for the crimes they committed. Various opinion polls indicate that the percentage of Turkish citizens who consider the Parallel State organisations a terrorist organisation that must be combatted is 95 per cent. Was there an opinion poll conducted in Saudi Arabia where the results indicate that the overwhelming majority of Saudis support the arrest of scholars and clerics such as Al-Ouda, Al-Qarni and Al-Omari?
Arresting a number of prominent scholars and clerics in Saudi Arabia is a purely political matter and is the fruit of the transitional phase currently experienced by Saudi Arabia. It sends a message to all scholars and clerics that says those who dare to criticise any future measures or actions taken by Saudi Arabia, under the young king, will be imprisoned.
This article first appeared in Arabic on Arabi21 on 13 September 2017
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.