Saudi Arabia bans 'extremist books', 'preaching' at mosques
Saudi authorities have ordered mosques to remove "extremist" literature from libraries and end preaching to non-Muslims without permission, according to reports on Tuesday.
Minister of Islamic Affairs Sheikh Abdullatif Al-Sheikh issued directives to mosques across the kingdom ordering them to review books in mosque libraries that call for "extremism and partisanship", according to the Saudi Gazette.
The five circulars to mosque officials and imams also banned dawah - the act of encouraging non-Muslims to convert to Islam - without permission from the ministry and warned any transgressors would be punished.
"The minister highlighted the importance of mosque libraries as intellectual storehouses and incubators for intellectuals and those seeking knowledge such as researchers and students," the report read.
"The minister directed the officials to review these libraries and feed them with what is useful and beneficial and to remove books that call for extremism and partisanship and similar topics."
The directives also ordered mosque officials to provide regular reports to authorities on mosque activities.
Mosque workers have been told to compile a list of literature stored in their libraries and not to add any more books to their collections without permission from authorities.
Imams and preachers were also encouraged to take part in "intellectual security courses" run by the ministry and take part in conferences and events organised by authorities.
The report added: "The minister instructed mosque preachers to explain to the faithful the correct belief and Shariah rulings, underline the need to observe good manners and morals, as well as to adhere to good citizenship, listen and obey the rulers, and stay away from talking about jurisprudential issues in which there are divergence of views of scholars, saying that this would lead to embarrassment and confusion."
It also gave additional orders on protocols for prayer and dawah activities in mosques.
"Any dawah activity may be held only after the obligatory prayers and completion of the funeral prayer, and that there should not be any dawah activity in between the first call to prayer (adhan) and second call to prayer (iqamah), and thus causing delay for the timing set by the ministry for holding iqamah," the report added.
The orders appear to be part of a shake-up of religious institutions and mosques in Saudi Arabia, some of which have been linked to radical interpretations of Islam.
Saudi Arabia's image as an exporter of "extremism" comes after the rise of radical groups across the world, some linked to Salafism - the Muslim sect followed by the Saudi leadership.
Some Saudi princes and business leaders have in the past provided support to powerful Salafi-inspired groups, including the Taliban.
Under Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, authorities have sought to distance themselves from radical interpretations of Islam and extremist groups.
Egypt also ordered mosques this week to remove "extremist" literature and books associated with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Both countries have attempted to root out Muslim Brotherhood supporters following the Arab Spring pro-democracy revolutions in 2011.
Egypt has jailed thousands of people linked to the Brotherhood and other pro-democracy activists.