MEMRI: June 7, 2012 Special Dispatch No.4778
Senior Saudi Cleric: Officials In Kingdom Are Plotting To Westernize Saudi
Society, Overthrow Royal Family
Senior Saudi cleric and royal advisor Sheikh 'Abd Al-Muhsin Al-'Obikan
claimed recently that officials in the Saudi judicial system and religious
establishment are trying to "Westernize" Saudi society, and that they are
plotting to undermine the religious court system and to overthrow the royal
family. His statements evoked intense criticism in the Saudi press and led
to his dismissal from his position as advisor to the king.
The following are details about the affair and excerpts from press responses
Sheikh Al-'Obikan: Officials Are Trying To Sabotage The King And Ultimately
Sheikh Al-'Obikan made his statements in a two-part interview that was aired
on the "Your Fatwas" program on UFM Radio. He spoke against gender mixing in
the Saudi courts, claiming that separate departments and separate entrances
were needed in order to prevent this. He also criticized the Justice
Minister for including women in his delegation on an official visit to the
U.S., saying, "What benefit can there be in the Justice Ministers' traveling
to America in the company of women?..."
Al-'Obikan threatened to reveal the names of officials in the religious
judicial system and the religious establishment who "have a plan to
undermine the religious courts and to issue man-made laws." He explained
that they mean to do this by Westernizing Saudi society and by liberating
women and thus taking them away from their "natural place" (in the home). He
claimed further that these officials are keeping him from seeing the king,
lest he present him with evidence of their plot to deceive him and
ultimately overthrow him: "I have been trying to see the king for several
months. I submitted a written request in which I asked to meet him in order
to speak [to him] about this grave matter, but the meeting never occurred,
and I suspect that the request never reached him... I do not rule out that
these saboteurs are planning to overthrow the Sa'ud royal family... and I
have evidence to prove it... People in the king's vicinity are trying to
Al-'Obikan added that some of the king's associates are sabotaging him in
order to make him seem incompetent, and are using the media to realize their
plans: "Some of the king's associates fail to carry out his orders and are
delaying his initiatives when it is possible to advance them, so as to
slander his personality and create the impression that he is incapable of
realizing the citizen's hopes... They use the media to carry out their plot,
by [bribing] journalists and writers to spread their ideas and attack their
Senior Saudi Sheikh: Making Sweeping Accusations Against Senior Officials Is
"A Forbidden Act"
The sheikh's statements sparked intense criticism among wide circles in
Saudi Arabia, and triggered a harsh response from the authorities. According
to reports, his website has been shut down and he has been banned from
appearing in the media. On May 11 the king fired him from his post as
royal advisor. Sheikh Qais Al-Mubarak, a member of the Senior Clerics
Council (Saudi Arabia's supreme religious body), said in response to
Al-'Obikan's remarks that making sweeping accusations against senior
officials is "a forbidden act" that must be avoided. He conceded that
reprimanding officials for improper behavior is an act mandated by the
shari'a, but added that there are proper procedures for doing so.
Conversely, senior cleric Sheikh Sa'd Al-Barik condemned the attacks on
Al-'Obikan, saying that his detractors are "like payphones that, fed with a
coin, immediately start to spew curses."
Editors of Saudi Dailies: Al-'Obikan Is Talking Nonsense
The editor of the daily Al-Yawm, Muhammad Al-Wa'il, wrote: "... Forgetting
(or pretending to forget) that, as a royal advisor, he is [supposed to be]
credible, Al-'Obikan resumed his preoccupation with his ideological and
mental disorders, and used the radio station to spread fantastic stories...
trying to take over the listeners' minds. He attacked the [kingdom's]
supreme leadership and senior ministers, and violated the moral principle of
refraining from making an enemy of the one who gave him his post, sought his
advice, and believed in him [i.e., the king]...
"His crocodile tears over the presence of women on the Justice Minister's
[delegation] are shameful, and exposes the depth of the man's backwardness
and ignorance... The problem with Al-'Obikan and people like him is that
they must always put in their two cents, even if it involves lying or comes
at the expense of their religion, homeland, and conscience. They never learn
from their past [mistakes] or learn how to preserve their credibility.
Al-'Obikan is living in the past, in a cave full of illusions, fantasies,
and conspiracy [theories]. He looks and sounds stupider than ever...
"Like all braggarts, Al-'Obikan has repeated the mistake of his
predecessors... who sadly still think that the state takes its authority
from them and not from Islam... They think that they [embody] the religion,
and therein lies the danger... Al-'Obikan and his ilk must understand that
we do not need them; what we need is real rulers..."
The editor of the Al-Jazirah daily, Khaled Al-Malik, wrote that
Al-'Obikan's behavior was foolish and that he "speaks without knowledge,
distorts facts, and hurls accusations right and left, at this [official] and
that one, regardless of their seniority, without [the slightest pangs of]
conscience... and without learning from his past... He does this even when
it comes at the expense of his homeland and its citizens, and uses religion
to attain his goals, on the pretext of defending reforms and fighting
corruption – when [in fact] it is his recent statements that are corrupt and
"How [can] a man like him, whose position obliges him to be responsible, say
what he said about the judicial [system], the Justice Minister, and about
senior advisors that the king believes in? His statements are a betrayal of
his position, an offense to the honor of the state, and slander against [the
king], who should be obeyed and trusted."
Al-Riyadh editor Turkey Al-Sudairi wrote: "... I call upon [Al-'Obikan] to
prove his claims. As [members of] the Journalists Union, we must demand that
he be prosecuted for what he said... These nonsensical [statements] lack any
religious or scientific proof, and are nothing but a collection of immoral
accusations and exaggerations…"
Al-'Obikan's Supporters: His Critics Are Distorting His Image
There were also some journalists who defended Al-'Obikan. Columnist
'Abdallah Nasser 'Utaibi wrote in the website lojainiat.com that the
sheikh's critics were slandering him and that his position obliged him to
voice his opinion: "... Sheikh Al-'Obikan's statements were clear. He was
speaking of the Westernization plan that [some people] are trying to
advance, and which might spread in the future to the judicial institutions
and even to the religious establishment... Things reached a point where the
sheikh could no longer keep silent. [That is why] he spoke of grave plans
[to harm] the king and the state. As an advisor, it is his duty [to expose
such threats]... The sheikh is known for his sincerity and honesty... [His
critics] are the ones... who distort the image of religious scholars and
harm them with their articles..."
 Sheikh Al-'Obikan was the author of the breastfeeding fatwa of 2010. See
MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 626,
"Controversy in Saudi Arabia over Fatwa Permitting Breastfeeding of Adults,"
July 28, 2010,
 E-mailaat.com, May 9, 2012.
 Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), May 11, 2012.
 Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), May 12, 2012.
 Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), May 11, 2012.
 Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), May 11, 2012.
 Al-Yawm (Saudi Arabia), May 13, 2012.
 Al-Jazirah (Saudi Arabia), May 9, 2012.
 Lojainiat.com, May 11, 2012.