Unlike Egypt or Syria, Saudi Arabia does not receive much coverage in international media. Except for few reports appearing occasionally about repression of Shiites in eastern region of Saudi Arabia, there has been very little coverage of ripples being created in normally sedantry Saudi society due to brutal military crackdown and massacres by Egyptian Army led by Al-Sisi.
Whereas Saudi government or rather monarchy has decided to put its weight completely behind the Egyptian military, it is not going down well amongst some strata of Saudi society.
Best overview is provided by Marc Lynch in Foreign Policy
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia issued an unusually rapid and strong endorsement of the Egyptian military crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood’s sit-ins, calling on all Arabs to unite behind a crackdown on terrorism, incitement, and disorder. Bahrain, the UAE, and Kuwait rapidly backed his stance. But many of the most popular and influential Saudi and Kuwaiti Islamist personalities disagreed vehemently and publicly. Indeed, a popular hashtag quickly appeared on Twitter: “King Abdullah’s Speech Does Not Represent Me.”
When I started tweeting about these responses, a lot of Saudis quickly pointed me to Mohammed bin Nasir al-Suhaybani. Suhaybani had delivered a sermon at the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina denouncing the crackdown, and arguing that whoever supported the coup bore the responsibility for the bloodshed and had God’s curse upon them. The video, posted to YouTube, has received hundreds of thousands of views. His rapid banishment quickly generated a popular hashtag in his defense (“Shaykh Suhayban Represents Me”) — which resonated uneasily with the hashtag “King Abdullah’s Words Do Not Represent Me.”
Few have been more outspoken than the influential Saudi Islamist Salman al-Awda, who tweeted in English on August 15: “Whoever helps a murderer – whether by word, deed, financial support, or even a gesture of approval – is an accomplice. Whoever remains silent in the face of murder to safeguard his personal interests is an accessory to the crime.” Surrounded by dozens of Arabic tweets blaming the Egyptian military for said crimes, the implications for the official Saudi position were difficult to miss. “It is clear who is driving Egypt to its destruction out of fear for their own selves,” he tweeted. “I am with those whose blood is being shed and against those who are blindly going about killing people.”
That seems to be in line with the most popular responses among the politicized Islamists of the Gulf. Examples abound. Ibrahim Darwish, in a video posted two days ago, was particularly incensed by the “monstrous crime” of Muslims killing Muslims. The Saudi professor Abd al-Aziz al-Abd al-Latif on August 16 complained about the official framing: how could it be that “supporting the coup and financing butchers and traitors is not fitna and not terrorism and not intervention in the affairs of Egypt, but fitna is calling for the rights of the downtrodden?” Another popular Islamist personality, Hajjaj al-Ajmi, declared “there is no doubt that the Gulf regimes participating in shedding the blood of Egyptians deserve the curse of God.” Others were more careful in their criticism, or focused on the need to avoid bloodshed, but their sympathies seemed clear. Mohamed al-Arefe declared himself on August 15 to be “with Egypt in my heart and my position and my preaching,” calling on Egyptians to “avoid violence, preserve the calm, do not wash blood with blood.” A’idh al-Qarni pleaded for all sides to show restraint.
But that is not all. Fearful of democracy gaining roots in the gulf neighbourhood, Saudi government got their grand mufti to implicitly endorse the coup, the brutal crackdown and the massacre.
The Grand Mufti Abdulaziz Al Sheikh has stressed the need to adhere to the teachings of the Qur’an and Sunnah to unify the Ummah and to avoid conflict and division.
He said that deviating from the teachings of the Qur’an, the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his companions is the reason behind current tribulations and calamities, in addition to deviating from moderation and issuing fatwas without knowledge.
He stressed the role of scholars to warn people against the dangers of sedition and show them the right path by disseminating accurate Shariah knowledge derived from the Qur’an and Sunnah. He also warned against reverting to tribalism, extremism and conflicts over control that will cause the Ummah “great calamity.”
But in this age, one may be able to control the electronic and print media but social media is a totally different beast. The Grand Imam of Makkah Holy Mosque is a revered figure amongst Muslims but on August 23rd he delivered a friday sermon lambasting the Syrian Bashar Al-Assad but supporting the coup in Egypt. Saudi twitter went up in flames with this hashtag#خطبة_السديس_لاتمثلني i.e. the sermon of Sudais doesn’t represent me
#خطبة_السديس_لاتمثلني. Wonder how much he was paid by the filthy kings to say what he said.. Maybe they didn’t even pay him..
— عمر مغاوري (@Omar_Maghawri) August 23, 2013
So u see people like the Imam of Mecca prostituting religion, but u argue w/ us when we tell you ISIS and co do same. #خطبة_السديس_لاتمثلني
— BSyria (@BSyria) August 23, 2013
— JustAnotherTweep (@daqeqa) August 23, 2013
Its just a start. Saudis are taking to twitter quite aggressively
— كريستوفر ديفيدسون (@dr_davidson) August 23, 2013
But one should not read too much into it because in the end, “protesting on internet is effortless therefore worthless.”
Saudi twitter is burning while saudi streets are peaceful. Thats why we call it Virtual world! #خطبة_السديس_لاتمثلني
— Esra’a (@Esraachahine) August 23, 2013
A fight broke out between Egyptian expats (Muslim expats more often than not support autocracies in home countries) and locals in Riyadh mosque when preacher in Friday sermon instead of toeing the official line of supporting the coup started lambasting Al-Sisi. From Al-Arabiya (visit the link for the video)
The report said the Saudi cleric had been praying for the downfall of both Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and General Sisi, prompting uproar from the Egyptians who were in attendance.
And with anything happening in Saudi, it resulted in a hashtag #عراك_جامع_الفردوس. Seems hashtags will do for Saudis now. However it seems that such hashtags are causing jitters to the Saudi authorities
Over 300 Twitter hashtags targeting the Kingdom and its people have been registered in just one month by the Sakina program combating extremist and terrorist ideology, which is run by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, according to the program’s director.
Speaking to Al-Watan newspaper, Abdul Monem Al-Mashooh said: “The hashtags were made by unknown people who know what they are doing and are following up closely the current events in the region.” He said over 17,000 tweets reacted to these hashtags.
“This number should be taken into consideration and should not be ignored even though it increased suddenly before vanishing. Although these hashtags failed to achieve their goals, they succeeded in stirring a limited number of people, a matter which should be dealt with carefully,” he added.
He regretted the fact that several accounts on Twitter acknowledged and interacted with the hashtags without verifying their sources and real purposes.
“Everyone should realize very well that this is a battle against the Kingdom and it should be fought with great wisdom. Our religion, security, unity and minds are targeted. Reforms and advice are a must but those who wish evil to this country and hate us should not play any role in the process of reform and advice.” Al-Mashooh said the hashtags were made from unknown Twitter accounts that are run by people who want to wreak havoc and chaos in the Kingdom in order to achieve their goals.
“They care about nothing but instigating sedition, exaggerating mistakes, and filling people’s minds with hatred. They have been trained to create an environment conducive to chaos,” he warned.
Al-Mashooh said most Twitter users in the Kingdom realize that such hashtags come from foreign sources.
“Most people refuse such hashtags because they go against the Shariah. People realize what happened to other countries whose people listened to the calls for chaotic revolutions,” he said while emphasizing the importance of countering such hashtags with wisdom.
The Sakina program plays a weak role in countering such extremist ideologies on social networking sites because it does not have enough capabilities, Al-Mashooh pointed out. He called for setting up a center to study such hashtags and other posts on social networking sites.