Saudi Religious Police: Anyone Using Twitter 'Has Lost This World And His Afterlife'

from the that-serious,-huh? dept

A couple of days ago Techdirt wrote about how Murong Xuecun, a well-known user of the Chinese microblog Sina Weibo with over a million followers, had his account closed down suddenly. Murong has now written a fine article about the background to what happened: he points out that the deletion of his account looks to be part of a larger clampdown on the use of microblogging services by well-known figures who are critical of the Chinese government. The problem for the latter is that these services are becoming a real channel for free expression and less-than-perfectly-censored information:

Individuals are silenced on daily basis, and the pool of sensitive words grows by the hour: Liu Xiaobo, Gao Xingjian, Ai Weiwei, Wei Jingsheng, Liao Yiwu, Ma Jian, Mo Zhixu, Xiao Shu … The list goes on. It now includes me, as well as two more scholars who have since been silenced: Wu Wei and Wu Zuolai, whose accounts were deleted on the morning of 13 May. Lurking in the shadows, the “relevant organs” carry out such work as part of their daily routine, and expect people to remain silent. They have perhaps failed to foresee that in the age of Weibo, their actions could trigger such a severe backlash. To this, they responded with more censorship.

Given the problems that even China is having with controlling such services, it’s no surprise that other nations are getting nervous. Here’s a story from the BBC about what Saudi Arabia is doing in an attempt to counter the threat from Twitter:

The head of Saudi Arabia’s religious police has warned citizens against using Twitter, which is rising in popularity among Saudis.

Sheikh Abdul Latif Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh said anyone using social media sites — and especially Twitter — “has lost this world and his afterlife”.

The Saudi authorities are evidently grappling with exactly the same issues as the Chinese government:

Many Saudis have seized on Twitter as the most immediate and effective way to open little windows into a traditionally opaque society.

Recent protests in the Eastern Province have been tweeted and images of human rights activists on trial have been uploaded directly from courtrooms, challenging many taboos.

The situation in Saudi Arabia is complicated by the fact that the well-known Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bought a $300 million stake in Twitter back in 2011. That doubtlessly explains in part the following comments he made recently using his own Twitter account, quoted in an article from CNN:

Dear Saudi Telecommunication Authority, social media is a tool for the people to make the government hear their voices. Just thinking of blocking them is a losing war, and a way to put more pressure on the citizens

As Twitter continues to gain market share — already standing at a massive 51% of all Internet users in Saudi Arabia according to the CNN piece — it will be interesting to see whose view prevails there: that of the religious police or a secular prince.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and on Google+

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Comments on “Saudi Religious Police: Anyone Using Twitter 'Has Lost This World And His Afterlife'”

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59 Comments
Dark Helmet (profile) says:

...

“Dear Saudi Telecommunication Authority, social media is a tool for the people to make the government hear their voices. Just thinking of blocking them is a losing war, and a way to put more pressure on the citizens”

Dear sweet Prince: Democracy is a tool for the people to make the government hear their voices. Just thinking of continuing an antiquated form of government like theocratic monarchy is a losing war, and a way to put more pressure on your citizens.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: ...

9 million times that. I’d rather have a monarchy that is worried with their citizens wellbeing and works for making things even better than some pseudo-democracy where the Govt that should represent the people couldn’t care less about them or the Constitution.

DH nothing personal but while I do agree that monarchies are more ripe to being abused over the citizens than democracy.. But as we are seeing the latter can be rigged to be as abused…

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 ...

I would agree in principle…if we weren’t simultaneously talking about a country that’s blocking Twitter.

I’m generalizing. I think monarchy is inherently bad in the long run. But a good monarch may be better than a pseudo-democracy or representative form of govt that has been rigged by the powers.

Also, people don’t always know what’s good for them or what they want.

And who are you to determine what’s good for whoever? In fact, NOBODY is in position of deciding that in and impose their views onto people.

While us Americans love freedom, it may not always be best.

Freedom is always the best. The difference is that when you step into the rights of others you’ll face the consequences based on laws that are socially accepted. Dictators would agree with you though.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: ...

From the notebooks of Lazarus Long by Robert Heinlein.

Democracy is based on the assumption that a million men are wiser than one man. How?s that again? I missed something.

Autocracy is based on the assumption that one man is wiser than a million men. Let?s play that over again, too. Who decides?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: ...

“It’s old so it must be bad”
Come on now. Monarchies have performed well in the past, don’t be a hater.

There’s not really any system of government that works, calling out this guy because of who his parents were is a bit weak. Particularly when what he said was remarkably open and progressive.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: ...

“Come on now. Monarchies have performed well in the past, don’t be a hater.”

Monarchies are an un-enlightened form of government stemming from the divine right of kings, itself a scandalous concept. I will be a hater of that, thank you very much.

“There’s not really any system of government that works,”

Some work better than others. Do you really suppose that the Saudi government retains its monarchy because it thinks it’s the best government for its people?

“calling out this guy because of who his parents were is a bit weak.”

Feel free to show me where he said he renounced his monarchy title and I’ll happily take back what I said. As it stands, this is a man who has donated money to Palestinian “martyrs”, spends his free time “throwing dwarves” for sport, and he is at best a timid revolutionary and at worst a defector from Democracy.

See, his highness once, long ago, criticized Saudi Arabia for being a monarchy and stumped for a democratic reform of government. Then the Saudi rulers struck back in the form of seizing his assets and forcing him into exile. Since then he’s reconciled with the Saudi royal family and, while still suggesting greater citizen participation in government, his revolutionary tone has softened considerably.

?If there is a lesson to be learned from the Arab Spring, it is that the winds of change that are now blowing in the Middle East will eventually reach every Arab state,? he wrote. ?Now is therefore an opportune time, particularly for the Arab monarchical regimes??for instance, Saudi Arabia?s??which still enjoy a considerable measure of public goodwill and legitimacy, to begin adopting measures that will bring about greater participation of the citizenry in their countries? political life.?

See the difference? No longer stumping for democracy, he now sees the storm of revolution coming and hopes the monarchs will stave it off with a wall of pretend kindness to its own people.

There’s no doubt the Prince is relatively progressive. Just don’t expect me to laud a man for going exactly not far enough….

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: ...

“Monarchies are an un-enlightened form of government stemming from the divine right of kings, itself a scandalous concept. I will be a hater of that, thank you very much.”

Sure, Monarchy is rather primitive, but look on the bright side: you don’t have to deal with the annoying senate always blocking you from making a sneak attack on the Aztecs.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: ...

There are schools of thought that suggest you need to be part of a system before you can effect change on it. You can look at his actions as cowardice or a recognition that the way he was going he’d be unable to do anything to improve the situation.

My point is that the western “democracy” is hardly democratic any more and seems to have much in common with old feudal systems anyway.

A monarch that actually has the ability to listen to the people? Maybe there’s some merit in that. It certainly sounds more logical than blowing millions on campaign trails and dumbing down all issues to red vs blue.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 ...

“There are schools of thought that suggest you need to be part of a system before you can effect change on it. You can look at his actions as cowardice or a recognition that the way he was going he’d be unable to do anything to improve the situation.”

Tell Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine that….

AzureSky (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 ...

ever hear of Constitutional Monarchy’s?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constitutional_monarchy

read the link, Monarchy has more the one form, and in many cases(listed in the link) its the only way a system will turn from absolute monarchy to any other system without violent insurrection.

given the situation in this country (and others like it) the best move would be a slow transition to Constitutional Monarchy rather then trying to go to a full democracy or a democratic republic(as we have here in the states)

you cant really say our system works any better then theirs really, our politicians do whatever is best for themselves and the corporate masters, not whats best for We The People, or the nation as a whole…

DH I normally agree with what you post but in this case, I think your a big short sighted and have this impression that our systems the best system…i really think our systems headed for collapse, its nolonger about democracy its become about fascism/corporatism….and that makes me a sad panda.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:8 ...

Of course I have. How could I NOT be aware of one of the greatest misnomers every created? Constitutional monarchies, when properly constructed, are NOT monarchies at all. To evidence this, one needs only look at the prime examples of so-called constitutional monarchies.

1. Canada
2. Australia
3. Denmark
4. New Zealand
5. UK

If you actually believe that any one of those examples is in any way beyond ceremonial functioning even in part as an actual monarchy, you don’t know the meaning of the word. Those are all republics or democracies, and thank God for that.

“in many cases(listed in the link) its the only way a system will turn from absolute monarchy to any other system without violent insurrection.”

Nonsense. Since none of those are actual monarchies in any functioning way and since some of them underwent relatively bloodless transitions from actual monarchies to their present system, your point is completely disproved.

“you cant really say our system works any better then theirs really”

I’m sorry, I can’t say our government works better than a theocratic monarchy? I most certainly can.

“our politicians do whatever is best for themselves and the corporate masters, not whats best for We The People, or the nation as a whole…”

That certainly occurs far too often, but not being as good as we should doesn’t make us as bad as others.

” I think your a big short sighted and have this impression that our systems the best system”

Incorrect, but I do believe democratic concepts are the best for of government yet devised. That doesn’t mean we can’t do it better, or that others aren’t currently doing it better, but it does mean it’s better in principal than a theocratic monarchy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 ...

Modern democracies are poor at listening to the people because they are based on parties offering a political program on an all or nothing basis. Their is little public political debate, but rather parties pushing their ideas, and denigrating the opposition. Is it any wonder that many people are turned off by politics?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Religious police

Dont hate the country. Only in democracies you can somewhat judge the countries by their leaders.

When that is said, Saudi Arabia is somewhat of a powder keg, like most of the autocratic middle east (and even the weak democracies for that matter!). They have some suspicious connections with USA, a pretty scary army and are neighboring Iran so it is pretty hard for a rebellion to gain enough support to actually overturn the king. Their hope has to rely on inside changes in the government.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Religious police

Before you puff up your chest and congratulate yourself that YOUR supposedly-advanced country is, in fact, advanced, it would be wise to consider the stranglehold that religious fanatics have on politics, economics and social issues in places like, oh, the United States.

For example, any civilized country would immediately arrest the Pope the moment he entered their jurisdiction for his role in facilitating and supporting worldwide child rape and coverup of same. But that will never, ever happen in the US, or in any number of other countries, because of the massive influence of organized religion. And thus, sociopaths like the Pope are not only free from arrest and prosecution, but they’re invited guests and lavished with the funds of the state in support of their visits.

Yes, they may call theirs “religious police” and we may not call ours that — but they still exist, and if anything, they’re more powerful because they’re not state actors and thus not held accountable.

The Libertarian says:

Saudi Religious Police

A sure fire way that an religious organization is controlling it’s people’s thinking is how they terrorize a man or a woman’s eternal salvation for their choices. All religions — it doesn’t matter which one — eventually lose their way and apostatize from their original message over time (Scientology doesn’t count — it was already messed up).

If you want proof on how this happens, study the Mormon Church’s History with a critical eye. Thanks to the miracle of printing with moveable type, you can compare what Joseph Smith said to what the leadership is saying now. You’ll find that there are differences as to what Smith said and what the leaders are saying now (standing forward and saying the truth can get someone in trouble, so I am being brave.)

The priests of an apostate religion will always use Religion as a way to control the people. Again, people believe it is easier to follow what an Authority figure says over critically thinking about what they say. It’s easier not to rock the boat, as boat rockers are often “pushed off.” Threatened into silence, or at worst, killed.

out_of_the_blue says:

FALSE DICHOTOMY: "the religious police or a secular prince".

Can’t you guys get out of binary mode? Both those are out for control! The alleged freedom on Twitter is actually an easily monitored GIANT WINDOW on potential dissidents. As with ALL of the internet, what looks freedom is actually a giant spider web. — But of course at Techdirt, there’s never a dark side to technology!

Privacy is going to be the first word excised from Newspeak, no more need for it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: FALSE DICHOTOMY: "the religious police or a secular prince".

Yup, it’s so open that anything that’s put up there is like public. And if governments are able to see public information then Google will take over. After that it’s a simple matter for the Pirate-freetard-thieves to steal whatever isn’t nailed down and we’ll all be left with nothing.

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