In Saudi Arabia, a former Imam of Kaaba and preacher Sheikh Saleh al-Talib has been sentenced to 10 years in jail, exposing the internal churn in the Kingdom, which is taking steps to transition away from its ultra-conservative past.
BBC Urdu service is quoting Qatar-linked Arabic 21 as saying that the Saudi appeals court which has handed over the sentence has reversed the verdict of a lower court that had acquitted the preacher.
The cleric was arrested in 2018, and prior to his detention, he had slammed the Saudi leadership by calling it “oppressive and autocratic” . According to the BBC, the Qatari network has been critical of Saudi Arabia since 2017 following tensions between Doha and Riyadh.
Though Sheikh Talib has steered clear of naming the Saudi royalty in his criticism, he has, nevertheless, highlighted social media opposition to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s economic and social reforms under Riyadh’s “Vision 2030”.
Under the patronage of the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Riyadh will host the #Global_AI_Summit in its second edition from 13 to 15 September next..🇸🇦🤍 pic.twitter.com/YQ1U9oijYh
— محمد بن سلمان بن عبد العزيز (Informal) (@HRHMBNSALMAAN) August 23, 2022
The sentencing of Sheikh Talib is not unprecedented as a number of Saudi clerics, with ultra-conservative views , and critical of Prince Salman’s transition blueprint have been put behind bars, according to the BBC.
Sheikh Talib’s arrest has exposed deep fault lines in the Kingdom.
For instance, Turki-al-Shaloub, a self-styled anti-corruption scribe with over a million followers on Twitter described the verdict as “one of the stories of cruelty, corruption and injustice of the Salman regime”.
Social media backlash to the decision has been intense.
The jailing of Sheikh Saleh Al-Talib for his outspoken words on the evils of Saudi Arabian government is a prime example of exactly how that country has veered so far off course. A shameful and disgusting example for the rest of the Muslim world…
— Syed Waseem (@syedwassum) August 23, 2022
Another tweet prayed for the cleric’s early release and called for the protection of “all righteous scholars”.
The Saudi Court of Appeals sentenced Sheikh Saleh Al-Talib, a prominent imam, judge, and preacher at the Grand Mosque in Makkah, to 10 years in prison.
May Allah hasten his release and protect all righteous scholars. pic.twitter.com/iM8tTHkW9T
— Abdullah Moola (@AbdullahMoola) August 25, 2022
Prince Salman’s Vision 2030 on the other hand calls for a complete transformation of Saudi Arabia. In a tweet, the Saudi Ministry of Investment says that Saudi Arabia “attracts more than 40 international companies to set up their regional headquarters in the Kingdom during the first quarter of 2022 followed the Saudi vision 2030”
The Ministry of Investment:
The Kingdom of #SaudiArabia attracts more than 40 international companies to set up their regional headquarters in the Kingdom during the first quarter of 2022 followed the Saudi vision 2030 🇸🇦 pic.twitter.com/h5rjWGK7RP
— THE TRUE NEWS 📰 (@thetruenews12) August 22, 2022
The plan also includes developing the ultra-modern Neom city. The new city being built along the Red Sea coast will be 33 times the size of New York City. The city is being touted as a new model for sustainable living, working and prospering. Saudi officials describe it as “the world’s most ambitious project.”
Also Read: Why attack on a Kabul mosque that killed at least 20 is not a one-off event?