Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat – Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Islamic Affairs has reaffirmed that it takes all threats issued against its Imams by the Al Qaeda organization “seriously” and that it will pass on any such threats to the security authorities.
This came after a number of Saudi Arabian imams and preachers in Riyadh revealed that they had received threats from Al Qaeda sympathizers during a meeting with Saudi Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al-Sheikh.
Undersecretary for the Ministry of Islamic Affairs Dr. Tawfiq al-Sudairi told Asharq Al-Awsat that the authorities have not ruled out imams and preachers being targeted by Al Qaeda.
Dr. al-Sudairi told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the latest Interior Ministry statement revealed that the Al Qaeda organization and these transgressors target [government] figures, scientists, security figures, and others. This approach is not surprising for such transgressors, for anybody who stands against them and reveals their falsehood will be targeted by them.”
The Ministry of Islamic Affairs Undersecretary did not rule out Al Qaeda targeting imams and preachers affiliated to the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, telling Asharq Al-Awsat “for this reason, we do not rule out imams and preachers who contribute to revealing the true nature of this deviant group being targeted.”
During an open meeting with the Saudi Grand Mufti last week, a Saudi preacher who refused to give his name revealed that he had received threats from a person known to him after he had spoken out against Al Qaeda. The preacher said that he had chosen not to take the matter to the authorities as he wanted to do what was in the general interest, and he asked the Grand Mufti what he should do in this situation. Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al-Sheikh told the unnamed Saudi preacher that he should beware, and that he should be on the lookout for the man responsible for threatening him, in an indication that he should take this matter to the authorities.
Ministry of Islamic Affairs Undersecretary Dr. Tawfiq al-Sudairi called on any imam or preacher who has been threatened by Al Qaeda to immediately report to this to Saudi Arabia’s security authorities.
He told Asharq Al-Awsat, “I call upon all imams and preachers, in the event of any one of you receiving any threat from Al Qaeda, take this seriously and inform the Ministry of Islamic Affairs of this, or immediately take this matter up with the security authorities in order to combat such cases.”
The Saudi Interior Ministry has contributed to combating Al Qaeda terrorism over the past 7 years by fostering real cooperation between the citizens and the security authorities, encouraging the public to report any suspicious activity to the authorities.
These threats have opened the door to Saudi Arabia’s imams and preachers being granted “terrorism recompense” [an increase in wages for facing the risk of terrorism] in the same manner as security officers and personnel.
However observers who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat described this as being “unrealistic” as “the [security] figures who work in the various government agencies are working to correct the [ideological] misconceptions that Al Qaeda rely upon in their operation, and they do not receive [financial] recompense such as this.”
This represents the first time that any Saudi imam or preacher has revealed that he has received a threat against his life by a member of Al Qaeda, or an Al Qaeda sympathizer.
Sheikh Abdullah al-Hamid, the director of the Ministry of Islamic Affair’s offices in the Riyadh region, stressed that the Ministry of Islamic Affairs that they will take any threat issued against any imam “seriously” adding that “we will investigate this matter and bring it up with the security authorities.”