Saudi Arabia: Religious edict against leading reformist writers

English PEN is seriously concerned for the safety of writers Yousef Aba al-Khail and Abdullah bin Bejad Al-Otaibi following a fatwa which was issued against them on 9 March 2008.

There are fears that the two writers are now at risk of being targeted by Islamic extremists, after the leading Wahhabi cleric Sheikh Abdurrahman Al-Baraak issued the fatwa against them in response to two articles published recently in the leading newspaper Al-Riyadh. The articles, ‘The Other in the Islamic Balance’ and ‘The Islam of the Sharia and the Islam of Struggle’, reportedly challenge some Sunni Muslim interpretations of the Qura’an. Yousef Aba al-Khail’s article is said to argue that Islam is tolerant of other religions, particularly Christianity and Judaism, questioning the Sunni view that followers of other faiths should be considered unbelievers. Abdullah bin Bejad al-Otaibi’s article reportedly argues that some religious clerics have misused Islam for their own benefit. Sheikh Al-Barrak was quoted by Reuters as saying in his religious edict, “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.” The fatwa was not covered in the Saudi print media but was posted on a number of websites. Both men are standing by their articles. On 18 March 2008, a group of twenty Saudi clerics issued an online statement in support of Sheikh Al-Barrak.


To read Abdullah bin Bejad al-Otaibi’s article in Arabic, click here 

To read Yousef Aba al-Khail’s article in Arabic, click here
To read the fatwa in Arabic, click here


Please send appeals:

• Expressing fears for the safety of writers Yousef Aba al-Khail and Abdullah bin Bejad Al-Otaibi following the fatwa issued against them on 9 March 2008;
• Calling upon the Saudi authorities to provide them with immediate and effective protection.


Appeals to:

Minister of the Interior
His Royal Highness Prince Naif bin Abdul Aziz
Ministry of the Interior
P.O.Box 2933, Airport Road,
Riyadh 11134
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: 966 1 403 1185

Crown Prince, Deputy Prime Minister and Commander of the National Guard
His Royal Highness Prince ‘Abdullah bin ‘Abdul ‘Aziz Al-Saud
Royal Court
Saudi Arabia


Please also send appeals to the diplomatic representative for Saudi Arabia:

HRH Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud
30 Charles Street


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