Saudi grand mufti blasts use of social media to 'spread lies' about Islam

(Photo: REUTERS / Ali Jarekji)Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh, the Kingdom's grand mufti, prays during the funeral of the Saudi woman and her daughter who were killed in Chad, at the Grand Mosque in Riyadh February 6, 2008. A bomb attack on the residence of the Saudi ambassador to Chad killed the wife and daughter of an embassy employee taking shelter from the fighting between the government and rebel forces

A top religious official in Saudi Arabia has assailed the use of social networking sites such as Twitter which "enemies of Islam" use to spread "lies" about the faith and attack Muslims in general.

In a television interview, Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh remarked that detractors of Islam are using such means to tarnish the reputation of the religion.

He said at the same time, they undermine the stability of the rulers of the country. The grand mufti did not, however, spell out who precisely he was attacking for misusing social media.

But a respondent on the Arab News site named JamalZ said, "Some love you oh Grand Mufti, some may not. I agree that one should use good judgment when using social media, indeed.

"But truth be told, many do think that there are areas of the Islamic teachings that are dangerous to a balanced and joyful society- ISIS being one of those Islamic areas.

"So I am wondering how come you never ever denounce what ISIS stands for?"

The grand mufti said, "Those who speak badly of Islam are without shame, have no faith and don't fear God," he said.

Many of the strict and unique practices in Saudi Arabia come from Wahhabism, the official and dominant form of Sunni Islam in Saudi Arabia which is seen by some of its critics as an extremist brand of the religion.

Al-Asheikh, who is also the president of the Council of Senior Scholars in Saudi Arabia, encouraged users, especially on Twitter, to be more circumspect before posting anything online.

He lamented that Twitter has become a venue for things that he described as "evil and harm."

"If people use it for their benefit, it would be better, but unfortunately it is being used for trivial things," he continued.

He pointed out that some do not even bother to verify the information they read online, and take posts at face value.

"They think that whatever is tweeted or written about is reliable information and news, but it is all lies and falsehoods," he said.

Earlier this year, a social media agency found out that some three million active in Saudi Arabia general over 50 million tweets a month, which was greater than the global average.

The Social Clinic, which did the analysis, likewise established that Western media outlets use the microblogging site to observe and feel the pulse of Saudi public opinion.

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