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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
07RIYADH2049 2007-10-03 14:51:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Riyadh
Cable title:  

SAUDI,S GRAND MUFTI DISCOURAGES SAUDI YOUTH FROM

Tags:   PGOV PTER KISL KPAO SA 
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1. (U) SUMMARY: Saudi press gave extensive coverage to an
October 1 sermon given by Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bin Muhammed
al-Asheikh, Grand Mufti of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
warning young "zealous" Saudis against traveling abroad under
the pretext of jihad. Furthermore, he cautioned Muslims
against financing terrorism and urged them to be careful
about where their funds are going. These comments are
significant because they go further than previous statements
per reftel. The Grand Mufti statement follows media reports
that the Ministry of Islamic Affairs launched an extensive
media awareness campaign to protect youth against extremism.
No official English translations has been published and the
following quotes are Embassy translations. END SUMMARY.



2. (U) The Saudi Press Agency reported on October 2 that
Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bin Muhammed al-Asheikh, Grand Mufti of the
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Chairman of the Board of Senior
Ulema and Administration of Religious Research and Ifta
issued a statement urging young Saudi men to refrain from
running after the calls for jihad made by foreign groups. The
Grand Mufti added that young Saudi men are often misled and
exploited by "foreign suspicious organizations" under the
banner of jihad to commit "heinous" acts for "destructive"
purposes. He also believes these men feel strongly about
their faith, but lack sufficient knowledge to distinguish
right from wrong. He describes their lack of knowledge as
the primary reason they are easily misled by some groups to
bring about a hidden agenda and likely causes damage to the
Islamic faith and its believers.



3. (U) The English language daily "Arab News" reported on
October 3 that the mufti's statement follows media reports
that a significant number of Saudis have been fighting
alongside insurgents against US-led occupation forces in
Iraq. Therefore, according to Sharq Al-Awsat, al-Asheikh was
clear in his speech when he says, "our sons zeal and lack of
religious learning has turned them into tools. They have
been toyed with by foreign organizations and used to attain
their inferior goals in dirty operations that are far removed
from religion. Our youths have become a commodity that is
bought and sold by Eastern and Western entities." He also
added that he was compelled to make this statement after
years of witnessing Saudis "sons" leaving for jihad.
Although he believes the young men are passionate about their
religion, he also reminded the youth that rejecting Islamic
scholars and rulers is a major sin in Islam. Finally, he
stated that in accordance with genuine Islamic teachings, it
is the legitimate leader who calls and prepares for jihad -
no one else.



4. (U) Subsequent reporting indicated that the Grand Mufti
asked all Muslims to fear God and give some thought to the
state of the Islamic nation and seek knowledge and guidance
and avoid rash actions. He added, "I encourage possessors of
wealth to exercise caution in how they spend their wealth so
that their money does not inflict damage upon Muslims."
According to the press, this statement is important because
it hit on a nerve in terrorist operations-- funding. By
cautioning Muslims at this important time of giving Zakat
(almsgiving during the month of Ramadan), al-Asheikh is
likely cautioning against being deceived into financially
backing "merchants of death and destruction."



5. (U) Al-Ashiekh's remarks follow media reports that the
Ministry of Islamic Affairs announced on September 29, that
it will launch an extensive media awareness campaign entitled
"targeting youth to strengthen them against strange and
extremist ideas, so they may develop a love of loyalty and
belonging to their religion and leaders." The campaign will
include announcements through Friday sermons, distribution of
books and tapes, and articles on the Internet. Also according
to Saudi Press reports, as part of its campaign to protect
the youth against deviant thoughts and perverse faith, the
ministry released a book on October 1 titled, "Guarding
Against Terrorism." The book's preamble includes a quote
from Salaman Bin Mohammed Al-Omari, Director General of the
Ministry's Central Department of Public Relations, who said
the core mandate of the ministry is to propagate the true
Islamic faith and to fight "any devious and corrupt
thoughts."



6. (U) COMMENT: The Grand Mufti is the most senior moral
and religious authority in Saudi Arabia. He has no
counterpart in the United States. His opinions are heard
widely, are respected, and are an important part of shaping
public opinion in the Kingdom. END COMMENT.



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