Controversial Saudi religious scholar Sheikh Mohammad al-Arifi who described the emir of Kuwait as an illegitimate ruler and who supported the pro-democracy protests in the oil-rich Gulf state surprised Kuwaitis in a recent tweet when he asked them to “let bygones be bygones.”
Arifi’s first tweet ignited various reactions in Kuwait after he encouraged anti-government demonstrations against the Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah’s decision to change the electoral law.
In a statement he published on his Twitter account, Arifi said “the Emir of Kuwait is not qualified,” and that the political struggle in Kuwait was “peaceful, permissible and a legitimate way of demanding one's right.”
In another tweet, he questioned how “free Kuwaitis” were being opposed for demonstrating peacefully against a ruler who is not qualified for the job.
In his opinion, Emir Sheikh Sabah does not satisfy the religious conditions of an Islamic ruler.
Kuwaiti bloggers and activists on twitter have expressed resentment at what they called Arifi’s interference in Kuwait’s domestic affairs, which likely prompted the Saudi cleric to backtrack on his earlier tweets.
On Muslim holiday feast of Eid al-Adha last week, Arifi tweeted: “Eid Mubarak…For all Muslims everywhere, Eid Mubarak and for all Kuwaitis, their rulers and their people, Eid Mubarak let bygones be bygones.”
Last Sunday riot police used rubber bullets, tear gas and stun grenades and beat up hundreds of protesters in a bid to disperse what the opposition described as the largest demonstration in Kuwait’s history.
More than 100 protesters and 11 police were hurt in the unprecedented clashes in this oil-rich Gulf state. Around 70 activists were arrested, according to defense lawyer Mohammad al-Subaie.
The opposition said more than 100,000 people took part in the protest.
The opposition charged that “foreign personnel were part of the riot police” who clashed with protesters. The statement did not elaborate, but an opposition source said they were members of a foreign community in Kuwait.
The statement said the opposition was ready to wage a “long battle” for reforms, adding however that none of it is directed at the ruling family.
But the “popular protests are not directed against the Al-Sabah family,” which has ruled for more than 250 years unchallenged, the statement said.
“The demands of the Kuwaiti people are not confined to abolishing the (amendment of the electoral law) decree... but also include achieving political reforms that transform Kuwait into a democratic parliamentary state,” it added.
The new political crisis in the oil-rich emirate was sparked by a decision by the ruler to amend the electoral constituency law which the opposition says is aimed at electing a rubber-stamp parliament.
The opposition announced it will boycott snap parliamentary polls slated for December 1.