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Thursday, 15 November, 2001, 10:24 GMT
Saudi prince warns against Islamic extremism
Osama Bin Laden
Osama Bin Laden has a following in Saudi Arabia
Frank Gardner

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz has warned the country's top Islamic figures not to indulge in extremism.


The authorities have placed informers in the mosques to report on any preacher who voices sympathy for al-Qaeda.

The aging but respected crown prince is not yet king, but he is flexing his political muscles.

He laid down the law by summoning the grand mufti and senior members of the clergy and judiciary for a meeting at his palace late on Wednesday.

He told them that Saudi Arabia was going through difficult times, and that they should be careful and responsible when they made public statements.

The Jeddah-based newspaper Arab News quoted the crown prince as telling the Islamic dignitaries that Saudi Arabia was a moderate nation and that there should be no exaggeration in religion.

Saudis stung

The Saudi government, which is dominated by princes from the ruling al-Saud family, has been stung by recent criticism in the Western press.

Articles, particularly in the US media, have accused Saudi Arabia of fostering extremism, and of helping to create Osama Bin Laden's network al-Qaeda.

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz
The crown prince has laid down the law

The Saudi government has strongly rejected these accusations.

But it is also acutely aware that Osama Bin Laden has a following here, especially in the Islamist heartland north of the capital Riyadh.

The authorities have placed informers in the mosques to report on any preacher who voices sympathy for al-Qaeda.

Hundreds of Saudis have also been reportedly detained for questioning about their sympathies for Osama Bin Laden.

See also:

18 Oct 01 | Middle East
Saudi minister warns against militants
12 Oct 01 | Middle East
Religious warning to Saudi monarchy
12 Oct 01 | Americas
New York rejects Saudi millions
01 Oct 01 | Middle East
Saudi leaders fear Muslim backlash
26 Oct 01 | Middle East
Analysis: US nurtures Saudi ties
13 Nov 01 | Middle East
Bin Laden's continuing appeal
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