March 29, 2011 / 11:27 AM / 8 years ago

Saudi prints 1.5 million copies of anti-demo edict

JEDDAH (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia is printing 1.5 million copies of an edict by religious scholars outlawing protests in the conservative kingdom as un-Islamic, the state news agency said on Tuesday.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter and major U.S. ally, is an absolute monarchy that does not tolerate any form of public dissent.

It managed to stifle an attempt to stage a mass protest on March 11 with a large security presence on the streets.

Religious scholars issued their fatwa, or religious edict, and senior princes issued warnings in advance.

“The Grand Mufti requested that a number of government and private firms print and distribute more than a million copies,” SPA said, adding that 500,000 copies already had been printed.

SPA said the fatwa “called for strengthening cohesion and affinity” and called on the Saudi people to “have a united front... under its wise and legitimate leadership, warning (against) and forbidding demonstrations.”

Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul-Aziz Al al-Sheikh heads the clerics council and is the country’s highest religious official.

The Saudi royal family dominates politics but accords the class of religious scholars wide powers of control over society in a historic pact. The vast desert nation has a population of over 18 million Saudi nationals.

Mass protests which toppled longstanding leaders in Egypt and Tunisia have spread to the Arabian Peninsula, affecting Bahrain and Yemen and to a lesser extent Oman and Kuwait.

Web activists had slated March 11 as the first day for mass protests in Saudi Arabia, calling for reforms, a fair distribution of wealth and a “constitutional monarchy.”

Reporting by Asma Alsharif; Editing by Michael Roddy

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