Shaikh Abdulaziz bin Abdullah Al Shaikh Image Credit: GULFNEWS ARCHIVE

Manama: Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti has blasted the microblogging site Twitter as “the repository of scourge and evil and the source of lies and falsehoods.”

In a scathing attack on those who used the social network “to promote lies, backbite and gossip and to slander Islam,” Shaikh Abdul Aziz Al Shaikh said that they did not have the slight sense of respect or any fear of God.

“Twitter is now being used to attack Islam and its imperatives and prohibitions,” he said. “It has been turned into a place for evil and scourge, and it would have been beneficial if it had been used properly. Regrettably, such technologies have been misused in trivial matters. We must guard against God and not listen to all that is being said,” the Grand Mufti said during a religious programme on a Saudi television channel.

He added that people were invariably eager to know what was being posted on Twitter.

“It is very unfortunate that people are asking one another about what had been posted as if it was a reliable and credible source of information when it fact it is a source of lies and misinformation,” he said, local daily Al Eqtisadiya reported on Tuesday.

Al Shaikh has in the past blasted Twitter, one of the world’s fastest-growing social media platforms, as a source of misleading information and abuses.

Last year, he accused it in a sermon of sowing divisions and chaos in the country and of inciting people against the rulers.

The mufti said that the enemies of Islam were using tweets to create a chaotic situation in the country and cause deep divisions.

‘Accusations and lies’

“Some of the users know only how to attack others and make accusations and lies, and there are unfortunately people encouraging such tendencies. These are not the high morals that Muslims should have and I call upon all people to contemplate seriously what they write before they post their tweets,” he said.

Saudis have developed a great interest in social networks and reports say that around three million people use Twitter in the kingdom, prompting Western media to use the microblog to monitor social and political public opinion.

According to specialist reports, Saudi Arabia is one of the fastest-growing Twitter markets in the world with a high level of penetration and around one-third of all tweets posted in the Middle East come from Saudi Arabia.

Experts attribute the phenomenon mainly to the impressively high use of mobile internet in Saudi Arabia where more than 60 per cent of the population access the internet through their mobiles.

The scathing attack by Al Shaikh on Twitter reflects the complicated relationship that Saudi religious leaders have with the social platform.

While the microblog is coming under attack from some of them, it has been turned into a large base of followers by others.

Mohamamd Al Arifi, a university professor and religious scholar, has 9.7 million followers, a figure that puts him well ahead of highly visible international figures. Other Twitter religious scholars with large numbers of followers include Salman Al Oda and Ayedh Al Qarni.