The US has established a new TV channel to try to counter anti-American propaganda in the Islamic world. But now several clerics in our friend and ally Saudi Arabia has forbidden Muslims to watch it. Why? It’s “un-Islamic.” From AP, with thanks to Nicolei:
Clerics in Saudi Arabia are venting their anger at a new United States-funded television channel for Arab viewers, saying it was founded to fight Islam and Muslims are religiously forbidden to watch it.
Sheikh Ibrahim al-Khudairi, a cleric and judge in Riyadh, and Sheikh Mansour bin Ahmed al-Hussein, another government-appointed cleric in the Saudi capital, both slammed Al-Hurra. They said no one should work for the station, watch it or support it with advertising.
During his Friday sermon before thousands of worshippers, Sheikh Abdul Rahman al-Sudais, prayer leader of the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca, said that Western satellite channels directed at Arab viewers were part of a ‘war of ideas’ against the Muslim world.
Al-Hurra, or The Free One, made its broadcast debut on Feb 14 with footage of windows being opened, symbolising freedom, and comments by US President George W. Bush praising Iraq’s determination for democracy.
Al-Hurra is the latest US government effort to reach out to Arabs.
The others include the Arabic-language Radio Sawa, also overseen by the Broadcasting Board of Governors that runs Al-Hurra, and hi, a slick Arabic-English cultural and lifestyle magazine for youth.
In a written fatwa, or religious edict, Sheikh al-Khudairi said last week that Muslims were religiously forbidden to watch the station or have anything to do with it.
The channel was ‘founded by America to fight Islam, and to propagate massive decay to Americanise the world’, said the edict.
‘It must be boycotted… not used for advertising, or written about in praise in a manner that would lure anyone to watch it.’
Sheikh al-Khudairi could not immediately be reached, and officials at the board which runs Al-Hurra declined to comment on the fatwa.
The channel will cost US taxpayers about US$62 million (S$107 million) in its first year, and US officials have said they hope to air balanced programming to counter what they say is anti-American ‘hateful propaganda’ in the Muslim world.
Sheikh al-Khudairi’s edict was not endorsed by the Commission of Senior Clerics, which includes the Grand Mufti of the kingdom, meaning that it does not carry a government approval.
But it reflects a growing sentiment against the station in the kingdom.
‘Satellite stations that claim to speak in the name of freedom and independence are sowing the seeds of doubt’ about Islamic principles, the official Saudi Press Agency quoted Sheikh al-Sudais as saying.
Sheikh al-Hussein, who teaches Islamic law at a school in Riyadh, said there was a consensus among the religious authorities that Al-Hurra was founded with the sole aim of ‘weakening the Islamic nation and sowing divisions between Muslim nations’.