Twitter, Saudi Arabia's Top Cleric Says, Will Damn Your Soul

On May 15, Abdul Latif Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh, the most senior religious authority in Saudi Arabia, declared that Saudi citizens who use Twitter are risking damnation, according to a report from the BCC. A Saudi who tweets "has lost this world and his afterlife," he said.

As the BBC elaborates, Abdul Aziz al ash-Shaikh's comments are just latest in a concerted effort from the kingdom's authorities in attacking the U.S.-based microblogging service. While Saudi establishment leaders frequently use technology like television and radio to broadcast their religious and political messages, Twitter and other digitally-based social media sites have Saudi leaders worried about government dissidents speaking out in the religiously conservative nation. "The government cannot follow everybody's Twitter user name," Saudi protestor Abu Zaki told NPR, explaining why activists have come to favor the microblogging media. "The authorities have to be selective and, hopefully, they don't select my name."

Unlike some other social networks, Twitter allows people to maintain multiple accounts and maintain them anonymously. That protection has allowed the site to become a veritable haven for Saudi dissent, according to the New York Times. On Twitter, "even the king has come under attack."

Over the past two years, Twitter usage has skyrocketed in Saudi Arabia, company CEO Dick Costolo said. And with 70 percent of Arab Twitter users classified as "youths", according one social media report, it's no wonder Saudi authorities fear a disgruntled -- and possibly more progressive -- younger population speaking up. The desire to discourage Twitter users in Saudi Arabia is probably exacerbated by the recent history of youth-led "Arab Spring" revolutions in the Middle East.

The religious clerics comments aside, Saudi Arabia's Twitter users have far more to worry about than their immortal souls. Al Jazeera reports that Saudi government are looking into way of ending anonymity on Twitter, and have recently begun arresting human rights activists who use Twitter as their platform.



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