Al-Azhar scholar criticizes Saudi edict banning protests

A Saudi Islamic edict forbidding protests drew criticism from an Al-Azhar scholar Tuesday.

Sheikh Gamal Qotb, former head of the Al-Azhar fatwa committee, said peaceful protests help promote virtue and prevent evil.

Al-Azhar is the highest religious institution in the Sunni Muslim world. Qotb's criticism of the Council of Senior Islamic Scholars edict comes as the Saudi government seeks to keep protests at bay.

Qotb described the Saudi edict as a "big mistake," saying protesters warn officials of their mistakes before those mistakes grow larger. He said Muslim governments should allocate channels for citizens to express their opinions and give feedback to officials.

A Saudi mufti on Tuesday permitted a number of public and private institutions to print more than 1.5 million copies of the edict.

The Saudi council in a statement stressed the necessity of strengthening national unity. Activists had used the internet to call for mass protests in the kingdom, which authorities thwarted on 11 March.

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