Saudi Arabia has yet to confirm or deny the reports of Sheikh Dr Saleh bin Mohammed Al Talib, Imam and Preacher of the Grand Holy Mosque in Makkah, being detained by authorities.
On Sunday, the social media advocacy group Prisoners of Conscience, which monitors and documents arrests of Saudi preachers and religious scholars, had stated that Sheikh Saleh was arrested after he delivered a sermon on the duty in Islam to speak out against evil in public.
According to Al Jazeera’s report published on Wednesday, Arabic news website Khaleej Online reported that in his sermon, Sheikh Saleh “derided the mixing of unrelated men and women at concerts and other mixed entertainment events”.
Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, in an interview to CBS News in July, had said: “We have extremists who forbid mixing between the two sexes and are unable to differentiate between a man and a woman alone together and their being together in a work place. Many of those ideas contradict the way of life during the time of the Prophet (pbuh).”
Hours after his reported arrest, Al Jazeera added, both of Sheikh Saleh’s Engish and Arabic Twitter accounts were deactivated.
Yahya Assiri, a UK-based Saudi human rights activist, was quoted by Al Jazeera as saying that the kingdom’s “authorities are looking at everyone that’s influential and has a presence on the scene”.
On Wednesday, human rights groups had said that Saudi prosecutors were seeking the death penalty for five human rights activists, including, for the first time, a woman.
The five stand accused of inciting mass protests in mainly Shiite areas of the Sunni-ruled kingdom’s oil-rich Eastern Province. Human rights groups said that the execution threat is a calculated bid to stifle dissent.
🔴 We confirm the arrest of the Imam of Haram Sheikh Dr. Saleh al Taleb, and it is said that the reason for the arrest is a speech about the doing evil and the duty in Islam to deny that in public! https://t.co/8jq70ljDGg
The Saudi government, however, has not confirmed that the activists face the death penalty.