In line with his efforts to eradicate the role of Islam in peoples’ lives in Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman announced new religious restriction ahead of Ramadan.
On this Wednesday, the government of Saudi Arabia announced a set of new restrictive rules on the practices that Muslims do during the holy month of Ramadan in the Kingdom.
The controversial announcement, which sparked huge criticism in social media, introduced several rules including the reduction in mosque loudspeakers, the surveillance of worshippers wishing to seclude themselves during the month’s last ten days, limitations on donations, and the banning of filming or broadcasting of prayers within mosques.
The announcement was made in the form of a document released and circulated by Abdul Latif Al-Sheikh, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Islamic Affairs this Wednesday.
Other limitations include “not using cameras in mosques to photograph the imam and worshippers during the performance of the prayers, and not transmitting the prayers or broadcasting them in the media of all kinds”, as well as obligating “the imam’s responsibility for authorizing the i’tikaaf [seclusion in mosque during last ten days] and knowing their data”.
The Ministry also banned any mosque across the Kingdom from collecting financial donations for organizing meals to break the fast for fasting people during Ramadan. If any meal is to be served for this purpose, the announcement explained, it must be prepared and held in designated areas in mosque courtyards rather than inside the mosque itself, and it also must be conducted under the responsibility of the imam and muezzin.
Limiting the amount and volume of the loudspeakers emitting the call to prayer – a continuation of the same decision earlier this year and last year – and the complete ban on their emittance of prayers and recitations, along with the ban on parents bringing children to the mosque for prayers, were also among other restrictions announced by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs this Friday.
Muslims lashed out at the announcement
The controversial restrictive rules announced by the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs sparked a huge wave of strong criticism against the Kingdom among Muslims in different countries. Many believe that such a hardline stance against Islamic rules emanate from Mohammed Bin Salman and his tendency to secularize the Saudi society. They see the rules as a further attempt by Bin Salman to limit the influence of Islam in public life through restricting Islamic rules that have long been practiced among Muslims.
But that’s not all; At the same time as Bin Salman is in the course of reducing the influence of Islam in lives of Saudis, he is also increasingly promoting western style of life across the Kingdom. Under his rule, for example, the Saudi government has eased restrictions regarding musical concerts and invites popular Western artists as well as raunchy cultural figures in an attempt to appeal to international audiences and open the Kingdom’s society.
Back in 2017, when Bin Salman was just promoted to the Kingdom’s Crown Price, he promised in an interview with the Guardian that he will return the country to moderate Islam; “We want to revert to a moderate Islam open to the world and all religions. 70% of the Saudis are younger than 30, honestly, we won’t waste 30 years of our life combating extremist thoughts, we will destroy them now and immediately.” Bin Salman explained.
On April 2021, Bin Salman also repeated his secular tendencies and in a long television interview to the Saudi channel “Al-Arabiya”, suggested the elimination of many hadiths (sayings of the Prophet) as the laws on the Quran. He also spoke of the need for a new “interpretation” of the Quran, a real change in ideological direction of Saudi Arabia.