Controversial Saudi cleric launches anti-media campaign

Controversial Saudi cleric launches anti-media campaign
Controversial Saudi religious scholar, Mohammad al-Arefe, is campaigning against the kingdom's liberal media after a popular TV host filed a suit against a false "public intoxication" arrest by religious police.
2 min read
19 Feb, 2016
Arefe has attack liberals, women's rights, Shia Muslims and homosexuality [Twitter]
A controversial Saudi cleric has launched an online campaign against the liberal elements of the country's media after a TV host filed an unprecedented lawsuit against the religious police, The Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, informally referred to as the 'Haia'.

Mohammad al-Arefe, a social media savvy cleric with a huge online following, released a series of tweets with thinly attacks aimed at talk show host Ali al-Alyani on Monday after news of Alyani's lawsuit became public.

Last week it emerged that Alyani, a long-time critic of the Haia, had filed a defamation case against the government agency after he was falsely arrested for "public drunkenness".

"Some TV presenters and journalists have the audacity to accuse the Haia, preachers and their ideologies of supporting religious extremism. This is a crime against the kingdom and it is harming its people's reputation," tweeted Arefe, who has over 14 million followers on Twitter.

"Their repeated allegations open the door for accusations against the Kingdom," the cleric added.

Arefe launched the Arabic-language hashtag #JournalistsServingOurEnemies and created a poll asking his followers whether they agreed with him.

Twitter users in Saudi Arabia were quick to respond to the conservative cleric with people quickly taking sides in a wide-ranging argument between liberal and conservative Saudis. 

Alyani's lawsuit has not been the only recent bad press for the Haia. Last week a video was widely circulated on social media of religious police attacking a woman in the street.

Arefe, a radical Sunni preacher known for his anti-Shia statements, has been banned from entering the UK for allegedly radicalising Muslims to fight for the Islamic state group in Syria.

He has long been a controversial figure in Saudi Arabia, where he has used his media and social media platforms to attack liberals, women's rights, Shia Muslims and homosexuality.