Text of report from Riyadh by Mustafa al-Ansari entitled “Mosque imams in Saudi Arabia imprecate America” published by London-based newspaper Al-Hayat on 23 October
Although the Ministry of Islamic Affairs and Endowments in Saudi Arabia is careful to instruct mosque imams and preachers to stick to the prayers as they are pronounced in the Koran and Islamic tradition – praying for Muslims in general and imprecating their enemies without naming any particular group or state – many imams and preachers fail to abide by these instructions, especially those leading Al-Tarawih prayers, usually held in all mosques in the month of Ramadan. These imams invoke evil on the United States and pray for victory for mujahidin in Iraq and Palestine. Some of them even pray for the victory of the mujahidin in Chechnya and Afghanistan.
Requesting anonymity, one mosque imam in the al-Masif neighbourhood in Riyadh told Al-Hayat “imprecating Americans is desirable, because we still hear of and see scores of Muslims being killed every day by US tank and aircraft fire in Iraq and Palestine. As Muslims, the least we can do is to imprecate them.”
However, the same imam sees no reason to refrain from imprecating terrorists or the members of misled cliques who kill civilians in Iraq and Saudi Arabia. “We invoke evil on the Americans who kill Muslims. We are confident that they invaded Iraq to enable Israel to dominate the Arab region. Apart from that, we invoke God’s curse on everyone who spreads corruption on earth,” he said.
Another imam in the Al-Nuzhah neighbourhood disagrees with this view. He holds the view that “one may not invoke evil on any state, group or sect in a public and outspoken manner.” “Whoever wishes to imprecate anybody may do that kneeling down in prayer,” he said.
Dr Abdallah al-Luhaydan, assistant undersecretary at the Ministry of Islamic Affairs and Endowments, pointed out: “The ministry’s instructions are clear. It is impermissible to imprecate a specific state or group in prayers. Whoever fails to comply is committing a violation which is up to the ministry to handle.”
Dr al-Luhaydan added: “It is a general interest not to specify a certain state in our prayers. We believe that dialogue is the best approach with the West, especially at the stage we are going through.”
For his part, Undersecretary for Mosque Affairs Shaykh Abdallah al-Ghannam told Al-Hayat: “Consultative, field and control committees in the ministry’s branches are monitoring imams’ excesses to deal with them appropriately.”
“Most orators and mosque imams in Saudi Arabia are educated people who are knowledgeable about shari’ah affairs and about the things that work in the interest of the society,” he said.