US embassy cable - 95RIYADH4074

SAUDI CLERICS URGE OBEDIENCE TO KING, TAKE SWIPE AT ISLAMIC OPPOSITION

Identifier: 95RIYADH4074
Wikileaks: View 95RIYADH4074 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Riyadh
Created: 1995-09-12 11:51:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PGOV KISL SA
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
R 121151Z SEP 95
FM AMEMBASSY RIYADH
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 1218
AMCONSUL DHAHRAN 
AMCONSUL JEDDAH 
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 RIYADH 004074 
 
 
E.O.12356: DECL:  9/9/2000 
TAGS:  PGOV, KISL, SA 
SUBJECT:  SAUDI CLERICS URGE OBEDIENCE TO KING, TAKE 
          SWIPE AT ISLAMIC OPPOSITION 
 
1.  (C)  SUMMARY: RIYADH'S LEADING IMAM, TOGETHER WITH A 
SHAYKH FORMERLY RENOWNED FOR PUBLICLY OPPOSING AL SAUD 
POLICIES, RECENTLY ADVOCATED OBEDIENCE TO KING FAHD AND 
UNITY WITHIN THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY.   THE OCCASION, A 
MOSQUE SEMINAR WHICH WAS UNCHARACTERISTICALLY COVERED BY 
A SAUDI NEWSPAPER, MARKED BOTH THE RETURN OF A RADICAL 
SHAYKH TO THE AL SAUD FOLD AND THE SAG RELIGIOUS 
ESTABLISHMENT'S SUPPORT FOR STRICT MEASURES TAKEN 
AGAINST ANYONE ATTEMPTING TO UNDERMINE THE AL SAUD.  THE 
SEMINAR COMES IN THE WAKE OF SIGNIFICANT DOMESTIC AND 
INTERNATIONAL PRESS COVERAGE OF THE EXECUTION OF A CDLR 
SUPPORTER ON THE CHARGE OF ATTEMPTING TO DIVIDE THE 
MUSLIM COMMUNITY (UMMAH).  END SUMMARY 
 
 
ISLAMIC SEMINAR PROCEEDINGS AKIN TO FATWA 
----------------------------------------- 
 
2.  (U)  IN THE MOST RECENT EPISODE OF JOCKEYING BETWEEN 
THE SAUDI RELIGIOUS ESTABLISHMENT AND ISLAMIST CRITICS 
OF THE REGIME WHICH BEGAN IN THE WAKE OF THE GULF WAR, 
THREE SHAYKHS PROMINENT WITHIN THE OFFICIAL SAUDI 
RELIGIOUS ESTABLISHMENT BANDED TOGETHER IN A PUBLIC 
APPEAL FOR OBEDIENCE TO KING FAHD AND UNITY WITHIN THE 
SUNNI COMMUNITY.  THE TRIO'S MOST VOCAL SPOKESMAN IS A 
CLERIC ONCE NOTORIOUS FOR HIS INVOLVEMENT IN THE 1991 - 
92 "MEMORANDUM OF ADVICE" AND "PEACE PROCESS" PETITIONS 
- WHICH URGED THE KING TO JETTISON THE SAG-U.S. 
RELATIONSHIP AND CHART A MORE AUTHENTICALLY ISLAMIC 
COURSE - AND FOR HIS FLIRTATION WITH THE LONDON-BASED 
COMMITTEE FOR THE DEFENSE OF LEGITIMATE RIGHTS (CDLR). 
THE FORUM FOR THIS APPEAL, WHICH ATTRACTED COVERAGE IN 
THE SEPTEMBER 2 ISSUE OF THE ARABIC-LANGUAGE SAUDI 
NEWSPAPER "OKAZ," WAS A SEMINAR CONDUCTED AT RIYADH'S 
"GRAND MOSQUE" - THE LARGEST IN THE CAPITAL - HEADED BY 
THE PATRIARCH OF THE AL-SHAYKH FAMILY, WHOSE MEMBERS 
COMPRISE THE DESCENDANTS OF MUHAMMAD ABD AL-WAHHAB AND 
CONTINUE TO DOMINATE THE RELIGIOUS PILLAR OF THE SAUDI 
STATE. 
 
3.  (C) SEMINARS ARE ROUTINELY CONDUCTED IN THE MAJOR 
MOSQUES OF SAUDI ARABIA AND THEIR THEMES, ACCORDING TO A 
LOCAL EMBASSY EMPLOYEE WHO FORMERLY TAUGHT AT THE IMAM 
MUHAMMAD BIN SAUD RELIGIOUS UNIVERSITY, CAN BE A 
FUNCTION OF A GOVERNMENT DIRECTIVE, A QUESTION FROM A 
WORSHIPPER, OR A DECISION OF THE SENIOR IMAM.  HOWEVER, 
THE FACT OF A SEMINAR AND A REPORT OF ITS CONTENTS IS 
RARELY PUBLICIZED.  THE COMBINATION OF THE PROMINENCE OF 
THE INDIVIDUALS INVOLVED AND THE PRESS PLAY GAVE THE 
SEMINAR'S CONCLUSIONS THE FLAVOR, IF NOT THE LEGAL 
STATUS, OF A FATWA, ACCORDING TO OUR SOURCE. 
 
RELIGIOUS ESTABLISHMENT REPRESENTED 
----------------------------------- 
 
4.  (C)  THE COMPOSITION OF THE SEMINAR'S INSTRUCTORS 
WAS ARRESTING AS IT INCLUDED MAINLINE ESTABLISHMENT 
FIGURES TOGETHER WITH A SHAYKH WHO, IN THE RECENT PAST, 
CAME INTO CONFLICT WITH THE REGIME FOR OPENLY 
CRITICIZING AL SAUD POLICIES.  THE FOLLOWING ARE BRIEF 
BIOS: 
 
-- SHAYKH ABD AL-AZIZ BIN ABDULLAH AL AL-SHAYKH: THE 
BLIND, ELDER STATESMAN OF THE AL AL-SHAYKH FAMILY, HE 
SITS ON THE SUPREME COUNCIL OF ULAMA AND IS THE IMAM OF 
THE RIYADH GRAND MOSQUE - THE VENUE OF THE SEMINAR. 
SHAYKH ABD AL-AZIZ IS A STALWART SUPPORTER OF THE AL 
SAUD, WHO ABSTAINED FROM ALL OF THE PETITION DRIVES OF 
1991-92. 

-- SHAYKH ABDULLAH BIN ABD AL-RAHMAN AL-JABRIYN: A 
SIGNATOR TO BOTH THE "MEMORANDUM OF ADVICE" AND THE 
"PEACE PROCESS" PETITIONS, AL-JABRIYN'S EARLY SUPPORT 
FOR THE CDLR RESULTED IN HIS OUSTER FROM THE SUPREME 
COUNCIL OF ULAMA.  HOWEVER, FOLLOWING HIS HASTY 
RENUNCIATION OF THE CDLR UNDER OFFICIAL PRESSURE, SHAYKH 
AL-JABRIYN RETAINED HIS POSITION WITHIN THE GOVERNMENT 
COMMITTEE FOR FATWAS AND SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH.  IN A 
RECENT ISSUE OF THE SAUDI WEEKLY PUBLICATION 
"AL-MUSLIMUUN," AL-JABRIYN AUTHORED THE "FATWA" PAGE, 
DISPENSING ISLAMIC GUIDANCE IN RESPONSE TO READERS 
LETTERS - A SPOT USUALLY RESERVED FOR FULL-FLEDGED 
MEMBERS OF THE SUPREME COUNCIL OF ULAMA. 
 
-- SHAYKH SALIH BIN ABD AL-AZIZ AL AL-SHAYKH:  OUR 
PRESUMPTION IS THAT SHAYKH SALIH, WHO IS A LECTURER ON 
THE KORAN AT IMAM MUHAMMAD UNIVERSITY, IS THE SON OF 
RIYADH GRAND MOSQUE IMAM SHAYKH ABD AL-AZIZ (ABOVE). 
 
 
OBEY KING FAHD 
-------------- 
 
5.  (C)  THE SHAYKHS DREW TWO CONCLUSIONS: (1) ANY 
DIVISIONS WITHIN THE SUNNI COMMUNITY WAS TO THE 
DETRIMENT OF THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY ("JAMAA'AT 
AL-MUSLIMIIN"), OR MAJORITY OF MUSLIMS; AND (2) ALL 
"PEOPLE OF THE MAJORITY" SHOULD FOLLOW THE LEADER (IMAM) 
OF THE MUSLIMS.  IN THE SAUDI CONTEXT, THE PHRASE 
"LEADER OF THE MUSLIMS" REFERS UNAMBIGUOUSLY TO KING 
FAHD.  (IN FACT, IN MOSQUE SERMONS, A STANDARD FORMULA 
FOR REFERRING TO SAUDI ARABIA'S TWO SENIOR-MOST LEADERS 
IS "THE LEADER OF THE MUSLIMS AND THE CROWN PRINCE...") 
 
6.  (C)  AL-JABRIYN'S CONDEMNATION OF ISLAMIC FACTIONS 
(OR SCHISMS) SUCH AS THE JAMAA'AT AL-SUNNA, ANSAR 
AL-SUNNA, AHL AL-TAWHID, AND JAMAA'AT AL-TABLIGH SPARKED 
DIPLOMATIC SPECULATION THAT HERETOFORE UNKNOWN ISLAMIC 
POLITICAL OPPOSITION GROUPS HAD EMERGED IN SAUDI ARABIA. 
HOWEVER, STUDENTS OF ISLAMIC THOUGHT HAVE CLARIFIED THAT 
THE ABOVE-NAMED GROUPS REPRESENT SCHOOLS OF ISLAMIC 
THEOLOGY MAINLY ACTIVE OUTSIDE SAUDI ARABIA.  THEY 
CONSTITUTE STRANDS WITHIN THE BROADER SALIFIYYAH 
MOVEMENT OF THOSE WHO BELIEVE IN USING ORIGINAL TEXTS 
ONLY (THE KORAN AND THE SUNNA) IN INTERPRETING ISLAM. 
THESE GROUPS ARE INACTIVE IN SAUDI ARABIA (THOUGH 
DOUBTLESS ATTRACTING SOME SAUDI SYMPATHIZERS).  BUT 
LOCAL OBSERVERS READ INTO AL-JABRIYN'S COMMENTS THE 
CONDEMNATION OF ANY OPPOSITION FORCE WHICH, WEARING THE 
CLOAK OF ISLAMIC VIGILANCE, SEEKS TO DIVIDE THE MUSLIM 
COMMUNITY. 
 
7.  (C)  THE SHAYKHS' PAEAN TO THE IMAM, I.E., KING 
FAHD, WAS REMARKABLE IN THE CONTEXT OF SHAYKH 
AL-JABRIYN'S PARTICIPATION.  THE SHAYKHS LECTURED THAT 
ONLY IN THE INSTANCE OF A KING'S EMBRACE OF ATHEISM WAS 
IT APPROPRIATE FOR MUSLIMS TO TURN ON THE LEADER OF 
THEIR COMMUNITY.  THE MAIN CHARACTERISTIC OF THE 
"MAJORITY OF MUSLIMS," THEY ADDED, WAS THEIR OBEDIENCE 
AND PATIENCE.  ONE OF THE MANIFESTATIONS OF DIVISIVENESS 
IS DISOBEDIENCE TO THE KING WHICH CAN RESULT IN GREAT 
DAMAGE AND INTERNAL CRISIS WITHIN THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY. 
 

COMMENT 
------- 
 
8.  (C)  WE BELIEVE THE PRESS COVERAGE OF THE RIYADH 
GRAND MOSQUE SEMINAR SERVED TWO PURPOSES:  IT 
HIGHLIGHTED SHAYKH AL-JABRIYN'S RETURN TO THE FOLD, AND 
IT UNDERLINED THE SAUDI RELIGIOUS ESTABLISHMENT'S 
SUPPORT FOR STRONG MEASURES AGAINST ANY INDIVIDUAL, 
SECULAR OR ISLAMIST, ATTEMPTING TO UNDERMINE THE 
LEGITIMACY OF THE SAUDI STATE.  THE LECTURE COMES IN THE 
WAKE OF A GREAT DEAL OF PUBLICITY, LOCAL AND 
INTERNATIONAL, PAID TO THE EXECUTION OF ABDULLAH 
AL-HIDAIF, A SUPPORTER OF THE CDLR WHO, THOUGH CONVICTED 
FOR MAIMING A POLICEMAN, WAS EXECUTED ON AUGUST 11 FOR 
THE CRIME OF ATTEMPTING TO DIVIDE THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY. 
 
9.  (C)  THE SEMINAR ALSO REFLECTS AN EFFORT TO MEET 
ISLAMIST CRITICS ON THEIR OWN THEOLOGICAL GROUNDS IN A 
SOCIETY IN WHICH POLITICS OFTEN TAKES ON THE COLORATION 
OF THEOLOGICAL DEBATE.  WHILE HARD-CORE CRITICS MAY 
REMAIN UNPERSUADED, THE SEMINAR'S ORGANIZERS MAY HOPE 
THAT RESTORING THE PATINA OF RELIGIOUS LEGITIMACY ON 
RULE BY THE AL SAUD WILL INFLUENCE LESS COMMITTED 
SKEPTICS AND THE PUBLIC AT LARGE.   END COMMENT 
 
 
KATTOUF 

Latest source of this page is cablebrowser-2, released 2011-10-04