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Saudi Twitter users ‘losing afterlife’: religious police boss

Sheikh Abdul Latif echoes clerical establishment’s dim view of social media

The kingdom’s telecom regulator has previously sought a means to monitor social platforms such as Twitter.
The kingdom’s telecom regulator has previously sought a means to monitor social platforms such as Twitter.

The head of Saudi Arabia's Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, otherwise known as the kingdom's religious police, yesterday spoke out against the use of Twitter by Saudi citizens, according to a BBC report.

Sheikh Abdul Latif Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh said Twitter was a platform for those without a platform and condemned the general use of social media, stating that anyone using the technology "has lost this world and his afterlife".

In April, the imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca expressed similar concerns about social media tools, telling millions via a televised address, that Twitter was a threat to national unity. Saudi's grand mufti had also previously launched a scathing attack on the messaging platform dismissing Twitter users as "fools".

The remarks come shortly after Saudi telecom regulator, the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) directed operators to find ways of blocking Skype and similar VoIP systems. Earlier this week a US hacker claimed a representative of Saudi telco Mobily had approached him for help with the monitoring of encrypted data. Mobily has since denied the approach took place.

The Gulf kingdom, which observes an austere interpretation of Islam, has, in the past, found itself at odds with international human rights groups over the use of social media. In recent years Internet, mobile and social media penetration have all soared in Saudi and the Web has provided a forum for expression on a range of issues, including Shia unrest in the Eastern Province.

Last week Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, billionaire chairman of Kingdom Holding, spoke out on what he viewed as a futile attempt by authorities to stop the tide of change.

"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," he wrote on his Twitter account.