Missing Saudi cleric 'flees kingdom' after controversial video

Missing Saudi cleric 'flees kingdom' after controversial video
A renowned Saudi cleric, Emad al-Moubayed, who activists fear was detained by authorities, said he left the kingdom for a 'safe country' after a controversial video denouncing recent reforms.
2 min read
08 March, 2023
Al-Moubayed posted a video to his twitter on 1 March directing his 'advice' to the Crown Prince [Getty]

A renowned Saudi cleric who activists feared was detained by authorities has left the kingdom, a Twitter account attributed to him announced on Tuesday.

Emad Al-Moubayed, a preacher who allegedly criticised recent reforms in Saudi Arabia's entertainment industry, posted a message saying he was now in a "safe country".

It follows a video posted on his unverified Twitter account last week, which reached over 1.8 million views, where he warned against recent social reforms in Saudi Arabia that have overturned decades of conservative law.

In another video, the cleric appeared to apologise for comments made in that clip. Criticism of the Saudi leadership is generally not tolerated.

A hashtag #WhereIsEmadMoubayed trended on Monday after Saudi authorities said they detained a man for allegedly breaching cybercrime laws. Although the suspect was not named, activists feared the man was Al-Moubayed.

The New Arab could not verify whether the man was Al-Moubayed, but on Tuesday an account attributed to the cleric posted a message saying he was not detained.

"By the grace of God, I was able to leave the country and reach a safe country, praise be to God," Al-Moubayed tweeted.

Al-Moubayed posted a video to his Twitter on 1 March directing "my advice to the custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, his trustworthy Crown Prince [Mohammed bin Salman], and Advisor Turki Al-Sheikh", Saudi Arabia's Entertainment Authority chief.

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In the video the cleric described himself as an "honest" source of advice for the Saudi leadership, stating that those in power should "fear God" and that social changes in the kingdom were "erasing the Islamic faith, and replacing the identity of Islam with other identities".

His comments appeared to be in reference to the Gulf country's recent measures easing decades-long restrictions on entertainment, as part of efforts to improve its image, diversify its economy, and attract tourists.

However, the next day Al-Moubayed posted a new video, backtracking on comments made in a clarification video as he appeared to read from a piece of paper in front of him.

"Some people may have misunderstood what I mentioned in my previous words and clip… I would like to clarify and affirm that our country, its leadership, and its people are enjoying great prosperity, security and safety, and development".

Some activists claimed he was arrested and being kept in custody, where he was forced to film the "suspicious" video. The New Arab could not confirm these claims.

Many activists still languish in Saudi jails, where there have been reports of abuse and torture.