Saudi king sacks cleric who attacked social reform

RIYADH (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has sacked a senior cleric after he decried cautious reforms in the world’s top oil exporter that allowed women to mix with unmarried men, Saudi Gazette reported yesterday.

The decision to relieve Sheikh Abdulmohsen al-Obeikan of his position as royal adviser was made in a decree issued on the recommendation of Crown Prince Nayef, himself a reputed conservative.

The move fits a pattern of recent years in which senior clerics who oppose the government’s cautious social reforms too openly have lost their jobs.

Although Obeikan has previously backed government positions on reforms including gender mixing at university, he recently gave a radio interview attacking the government for changing the position of women in society.

“He’s taken a lot of positions in the past against the royal family and this is another one,” said Hossein Shobokshi, a Saudi newspaper columnist.

Under King Abdullah, the ultra-conservative Islamic state has made it easier for women to work and study alongside men, and tried to promote more tolerant views of other religions.

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