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SAUDI ARABIA Social media double edged sword and is used more for evil than good – Saudi Mufti

Social media is very popular in the conservative kingdom

By Jumana Al Tamimi Associate Editor
July 25, 2012

Dubai: The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia has warned against misusing social media to “call for chaos, protests and disobedience to leaders”.

In a statement published in Saudi Arabic newspaper Al Madina earlier this week, Grand Mufti Shaikh Abdul Aziz Bin Abdullah described recent technological gadgets and social media as a “double-edged sword”, and said “actually they are used more for evil than for good”,

“Social media sites are used to spread corruption, distort thoughts, demoralisation, create confusion, circulate lies and to call for chaos, protests and disobedience to leaders.”

Shaikh Abdullah was quoted as warning “every Muslim from taking his or her information from these sites”.

The reason behind the Mufti’s statement and its timing is not clear. The statement came after the social media played a vital role in the “Arab Spring” countries, including Egypt.

During the past months, there was more than one campaign on social media to take acertain action, including calling women to drive on certain dates. Women are not allowed to drive in the conservative kingdom.

Use of social media in Saudi Arabia is exceptionally popular, according to surveys and internet companies’ figures.

With 38 per cent using this medium, Saudis come on top on the list of Arabs using “Twitter” in Arab countries, according to a survey conducted by the Saudi Wamdah Centre for Economic Research. Egyptians came second with 30 per cent, followed by Kuwait and UAE with 13 and 7 per cent respectively. A majority of the users, the study concluded, are media people, with 62 per cent. While politicians came second with 16 per cent of users, religious figures came third with 10 per cent.

Saudis also took a leading place in the list of the most influential in “Twitter”. Also, according to figures released by Google, Saudi Arabia has the highest number of video watchers on YouTube with nearly 90 million every day. All in all, there are nearly 167 million video viewers a day on YouTube in the Middle East and North Africa region.

Interestingly, the most popular twitter account in Saudi Arabia is that of Shaikh Sulaiman Al Odah, a prominent religious cleric. He has 625,147 followers, the survey said. The other clerics, Shaikh Mohammad Ureifi and A’ed Al Qarni came among the top five with 760,367 and 5512,076 followers respectively.

It is estimated that there are 65,233 twitter accounts in the Arab countries out of 300 million, tweeting 250 million times a day, according to some press reports.

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