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SAUDI ARABIA - Nov. 15 - CP Abdullah Asks Theologians To Tone Down Sermons.

Addressing the top theologian Shaikh Abdulaziz Al Shaikh, the top judicial official Shaikh Saleh Bin Mohammad Al Luhaidan, the Islamic affairs minister and other officials, CP Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz asks theologians to tone down their sermons to avoid embarrassing the kingdom or aggravating anti-Muslim sentiment around the world following the Sept. 11 attacks on the US. He says: "I hope you appreciate your responsibility before God, your people and officials, so we do not land in an embarrassing situation. We are a moderate nation, and there should be no exaggeration in religion... I ask that you not be swept away by emotions or be incited by anyone". Telling the theologians that Muslims are going through "difficult days", Abdullah says: "Now you are a target for those against Islam". (Diplomats in Riyadh say the request is significant because the government acknowledges for the first time its concern about its image abroad as an Islamic state that fosters extremism. A Western diplomat in Riyadh said: "They have been sending this message privately, but this is the first time they have done it publicly. It's a big step. It's a serious effort to control public opinion here and to make clear that intolerance is not to be favoured at this stage". Riyadh has been criticised in Western press reports for not doing enough to assist the US-led war against terror. It has refused to allow use of a US air base in the kingdom by warplanes taking part in air strikes on Afghanistan, where Osama Bin Laden, the Saudi-born terror suspect, has been hiding. The government has urged official theologians to issue statements making it clear that the kingdom condemns the Sept. 11 attacks. But some theologians have recently increased anti-Western rhetoric in their Friday sermons, sharply criticising non-Muslims and denouncing supporters of the US-led military strikes on Afghanistan as non-believers). The newspaper Okaz quotes Shaikh Luhaidan as replying: "Our duty to our guardians is to listen and obey properly within the limits forced on us by God and to hold our tongues properly, except for that which brings benefit to our country and Islamic nation".
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Publication:APS Diplomat Recorder
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:7SAUD
Date:Nov 17, 2001
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