RIYADH – A SENIOR Saudi cleric has said purveyors of horoscopes on Arab television should face the death penalty, a paper said on Sunday, days after another cleric urged the same fate for channel owners who broadcast ‘indecent’ shows.
‘Sorcerers who appear on satellite channels who are proven to be sorcerers have committed a great crime … and the Muslim consensus is that the apostate’s punishment is death by the sword,’ Sheikh Saleh al-Fozan told al-Madina daily.
He said it.
‘Those who call in to these shows should not be accorded Muslim rites when they die,’ the prominent cleric added.
Many of the hundreds of Arab satellite channels that have sprung up in recent years specialise in horoscopes and other advice to callers on solving problems that is seen by some religious authorities as ‘sorcery’.
In their capacity as judges, clerics of Saudi Arabia’s austere form of Islam often sentence ‘sorcerers’ to death.
Shiekh Fozan, a member of the Higher Council of Clerics, was responding to a controversy ignited by a Council colleague, Sheikh Saleh al-Lohaidan, who said last week that owners of Arab TV shows should be tried and face death over some shows.
Sheikh Lohaidan, who is the head of Saudi Arabia’s Islamic syariah courts, told Saudi radio: ‘I want to advise the owners of these channels that broadcast programmes with indecency and vulgarity and warn them of the consequences … They can be put to death through the judicial process.’
He was referring to comedy shows and soap operas airing in Ramadan, a month of fasting when Muslims are supposed to focus on God. Critics say Ramadan has become an orgy of food and television consumption once the fast ends at sunset.
Sheikh Lohaidan appeared on Saudi state television on Saturday night to clarify his statement, saying he did not suggest satellite owners should be killed without a trial.
‘No one should expect that I would rush to judgement, as has been falsely suggested, and say I had ruled that satellite owners be killed,’ he said in the remarks, which were published on an Islamist website on Sunday. He added that courts could impose a death penalty.
Fozan said entertainment channel owners should be ‘banished’ but stopped short of advocating the death penalty for them.