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Florence Dixon

Son of Saudi death row cleric blasts ‘hypocritical and brutal’ regime

Salman al-Awdah may face execution on charges including 'not praying enough to the ruler' [Twitter]

Date of publication: 5 September, 2018

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Speaking to The New Arab, Abdallah al-Awdah lambasted the charges brought against his father that now might have him executed by the regime he called as brutal as IS
The son of the imprisoned moderate Saudi cleric Salman al-Awdah launched a scathing attack on the “absurd” charges brought against his father by the Saudi authorities that may now amount to the death penalty, in an interview given to The New Arab on Wednesday.

Saudi prosecutors on Tuesday called for the 62-year-old to face the death penalty.

Abdallah al-Awdah, a postdoctoral researcher at Georgetown University, further lambasted reforms led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, calling them hypocritical lies.

Salman al-Awdah was imprisoned during the crackdown on dissent led by bin Salman a year ago, after tweeting in support of reconciliation with Qatar, who Saudi Arabia have launched a blockade against citing its support for “terrorism”.

Read more: Fake accounts, trolls promote anti-Qatar misinformation amid blockade

Awdah is a moderate cleric whom his son describes an an intellectual who embraces both religious and reformist values. 

He said he has led an active and rich life as a religious scholar and thinker, delivering hundreds of lectures and writing hundreds of articles on issues surrounding Sharia, Islamic law, however at the same time “embracing modernity and democratic rhetoric.”

Despite trying to present himself as an intellectual rather than an activist, al-Awdah made public calls for reforms such as separating religion and state and democratic elections

Despite trying to present himself as an intellectual rather than an activist, according to his son, al-Awdah made public calls for reforms such as separating religion and state and democratic elections.

Awdah is also the assistant secretary-general of the Doha-based International Union of Muslim Scholars.

The organisation boasts a diverse membership of Muslim scholars from around the world representing various Muslim denominations.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain have deemed the organisation a terrorist group, a label critics say is heavily politicised and unjustified. The same four countries launched the blockade against Qatar in July last year.

Awdah was arrested after tweeting: "May God harmonise between their hearts for the good of their people," which many claim was a call for reconciliation between the Gulf states.

The Public Prosecution, which represents the Saudi government, have levelled 37 counts against Awdah and called for the death penalty, reported local daily Okaz on Tuesday.

Abdallah al-Awdah described some of the charges, which he called absurd and nonsensical, saying some were only made criminal offences after his imprisonment last year. He criticised the designation of minor, everyday acts as “terrorist” in retrospect is characteristic of the current Saudi regime.

For example, Awdah is being prosecuted for his membership to the International Union of Muslim Scholars, however just a year before, the Union’s director, famed cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi, was being received by the Saudi King.

Abdallah added that other so-called crimes his father is being accused of are “not praying enough to the ruler”, as well as receiving text messages that “stirred discord in the region”.

He said that their home in Saudi Arabia was arbitrarily searched and books on Qaradawi went missing from Abdallah’s personal library. His father is now charged with possession of the two books which have since been banned in the kingdom.

Salman is reportedly blindfolded and in shackles around his hands and feet so has trouble eating

He said that his father has been suffering from high blood pressure since his imprisonment. The 62-year-old is reportedly blindfolded and in shackles around his hands and feet so has trouble eating.

Read more: Saudi Arabia threatens online satirists with jail time

Abdallah added that the Saudi authorities have made it impossible for him to return to the kingdom in the near future by freezing his passport renewal, despite his father's potential execution.

Lashing out at the worldwide media attention praising Mohammed bin Salman’s “liberalising” reforms, Abdullah said they were hypocritical, and that the regime was using the same brutality as that of the Islamic State.

Despite claiming to have “curtailed” the religious establishment, Abdullah said that religious extremists were still in charge and free to violently attack people like his father and other voices demanding real reforms.

“You cannot make social reforms by imprisoning social reformers. What kind of reform is this?”

Follow Florence on Twitter @flo_dix

 

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