Last Updated: Friday, 20 October 2017, 11:43 GMT

Saudi cleric issues fatwa against two journalists

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date 20 March 2008
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Saudi cleric issues fatwa against two journalists, 20 March 2008, available at: [accessed 23 October 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

New York, March 20, 2008 – The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned by the religious edict issued last week by a radical Saudi cleric who called for the trial of two writers for their "heretical articles" and their death if they do not repent.

Sheikh Abdul-Rahman al-Barrak's religious edict, or fatwa, came in response to recent articles in the daily Al-Riyadh by two reform-minded writers who challenged a Sunni Muslim view in Saudi Arabia that adherents of other faiths who do not believe that the Prophet Mohammed is God's messenger are unbelievers.

"Anyone who claims this has refuted Islam and should be tried in order to take it back. If not, he should be killed as an apostate from the religion of Islam," Sheikh Barrak was quoted by Reuters as saying in his March 14 religious edict.

"We are extremely worried about the safety of our colleagues and ask the Saudi government to ensure their safety," CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. "It is ironic that writers advocating tolerance and reform are subject to incitement and death threats."

The two articles by the writers, Yousef Aba al-Khail and Abdullah bin Bejad, were published earlier this year by Al-Riyadh: "The Other in the Islamic Balance" and "The Islam of the Sharia and the Islam of Struggle."

The fatwa was not covered in the Saudi print media but was posted on a number of Web sites.

"This fatwa accusing us of apostasy and inciting murder is a sign of extreme backwardness," Ben Bejad told CPJ. "It comes at a time when, unfortunately, public debate over important issues is absent in the media."

Religious edicts by radical Islamic clerics or groups led to the assassination in 1992 of Egyptian writer Farag Foda and to a serious attempt in 1994 in Cairo to murder Egyptian Nobel Prize-winner Naguib Mahfouz.

Copyright notice: © Committee to Protect Journalists. All rights reserved. Articles may be reproduced only with permission from CPJ.

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