The authorities in Saudi Arabia have arrested well-known scholar Aisha Al-Muhajiri, reportedly because she has continued to preach and teach the Qur’an at her home in the holy city of Makkah. The 65 year old was said to have been arrested by “20 members of the Saudi intelligence service.”
According to Prisoners of Conscience, which reports on the Saudi government’s arrest and repression of activists and public figures, two other women were arrested alongside Al-Muhajiri. “One of the two women is 80 years old, while the family of the other woman refused to reveal any information about her,” the group said.
Following their arrests, it was reported that anyone who asks about the detentions or charges also face arrest, including Al-Muhajiri’s own children. “We confirm that the sons of the preacher Aisha Al-Muhajiri were threatened with detention when they asked about her after she was arrested,” said Prisoners of Conscience. The authorities are reported to have said, “We will arrest anyone asking about her.”
The group has pointed out that Al-Muhajiri is being held in Dhahban Prison near the coastal city of Jeddah.
A number of scholars, activists, and critics of the Saudi regime have been arrested over the past few years. Even highly-regarded and well-known clerics having been detained simply for commenting on current affairs or government policy, among them Aid Al-Qarni, Ali Al-Omari, Safar Al-Hawali, Omar Al-Muqbil, and Salman al-Ouda. Many are known as reformists and are thus seen as a threat by de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.
His crackdown on Muslim scholars who have long been a major voice in Saudi Arabia represents efforts to curb their influence. Bin Salman’s foreign policy initiatives and his harsh efforts to modernise the Kingdom have been specific targets for critics.
Even foreign scholars have not escaped under the crackdown. Aimidoula Waili from China’s persecuted Muslim Uyghur minority was arrested by the Saudi authorities in November at the request of the Chinese government. Having already been detained in China years ago before escaping to Turkey, Waili is reported to be at risk of being deported to China.