November 9, 2022 Special Dispatch No. 10309

Clerics, Western Islamists Condemn Saudis For Celebrating Halloween, Accuse Saudi Government Of Reinstating Polytheism, Apostasy, And Altering Muslims' Identity

November 9, 2022
Saudi Arabia | Special Dispatch No. 10309

In reaction to recent scenes widely shared on social media showing thousands of young Saudi citizens celebrating the once-banned Halloween holiday in the capital city of Riyadh, Muslim clerics as well as Western Islamists harshly condemned the Saudis for taking part in a "paganist" holiday in the birthplace of Islam and accused the Saudi government of reinstating polytheism and apostasy in the Arabian Peninsula and of altering Muslims' identity. Some Salafis who condemned those who celebrated the holiday agreed that it is impermissible to celebrate it while downplaying the reactions and accusing those who criticize the Saudi government of encouraging Saudis to rebel against their rulers. Some Saudi commentators responded that the outrage was exaggerated.

Justifying the intense condemnation against Saudis for celebrating Halloween, Zeeshan Ali, an English YouTuber of Pakistani descent published a video on his Smile 2 Jannah YouTube channel saying: "Well, the reason is because Saudi Arabia is the center when it comes to Islam – it has Mecca, Medina, the Prophet Muhammad, founder of Islam, and the companions... it is the hub of Islam and that is why we, as Muslims, expect more from Saudis because they have experienced Islam with the concentration that other countries and civilizations may not necessarily have. And we expect Saudis to be more cognizant of the fact that liberalizing in this aspect and copying the West is not suitable for someone like them." After acknowledging that Saudi Arabia "wants to liberalize and show itself to be accommodating to the tourists and the West," Ali said: "But Halloween is like the epitome, the peak, of Paganism. I mean, if you want to do something, Halloween is a bit too big – Hallo-Bloody-Ween."[1]

On November 3, 2022, Turkey-based Muslim Brotherhood-linked Egyptian Islamic scholar Sheikh Salama Abdulkawy posted a video to his YouTube channel in which he commented on the celebration of Halloween in Saudi Arabia by arguing that the scenes from Saudi Arabia indicate that "the enemies of the Muslim ummah want to see the Muslim ummah stripped out completely of its Islamic identity, meaning that we would not be proud of being affiliated with the Islamic religion, which was brought by the Prophet Muhammad. Then we would express pride in Hindus, in cows, in Zombies and parties so that we would be considered good and civilized people who know how to communicate with the West and the West listens to us." He then stressed that, by doing so: "we are extracted from all the values, traditions and also the ideology and this is the major catastrophe of which Allah warned us many years ago – that our enemies do not want us to convert to their religion but rather to leave our religion."[2] To prove his point, Abdulkawy sited Quran 2:120: "Never will the Jews or the Christians be satisfied with thee unless thou follow their form of religion. Say: 'The Guidance of Allah,-that is the (only) Guidance. Wert thou to follow their desires after the knowledge which hath reached thee, then wouldst thou find neither Protector nor helper against Allah.'" In these verses, Abdulkawy said: "Allah has summarized the true nature of the battle between us and them and the reality of what the enemies conceal inside their hearts against us."

On November 5, 2022, Al-Waqiyah TV, which is affiliated with Hizb ut-Tahrir, published a video titled "Bin Salman and the changing of identity: Halloween with Islam" on its YouTube channel featuring Palestinian Islamic scholar Sheikh Yousef Makharzah accusing the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Muhammad Bin Salman of "planning to change the identity of the ummah. He wants the ummah to wear its new dress and be similar to the unbeliever and to behave according to and act like unbelievers... When Bin Salman realized that the Islamic identity is weak, the weakness of [the declaration of] 'there is no deity except Allah' and the weakness of Quran, he said change your identity and choose this one and therefore, instead of going to the Grand Mosque to perform Umrah [a secondary pilgrimage to Mecca in Islam] or Hajj, the people chose to take parts in these rallies in the heart of the Hejaz. They happily take part in these rallies. They have become free like other nations... they now pray behind the unbeliever and repeat their chants and adhere to their cultures..."[3]

Texas-based American Islamist Daniel Haqiqatjou of the Muslim Skeptic YouTube channel noted that the celebration of Halloween in "the land of Allah's messenger and the land of monotheism... disturbs Muslims as it should. It is very disturbing since none of this was happening three or four years ago."[4] In a video titled "Roundtable: Halloween, Jordan Peterson, Shabir Ally," Haqiqatjou and three other speakers criticized clerics and preachers who stopped short of condemning the Saudi government based on the belief that disobeying and rebelling against Muslim rulers are acts that violate the teachings of Islam.

In a video posted on November 7, 2022, Algerian Islamist cleric Abd Al-Fatah Hamdash argued that the celebration of Halloween and other forms of "polytheism and apostasy" that are taking place in Saudi Arabia are events that Prophet Muhammad predicted they would happen before Judgement Day. While showing footage of Saudis celebrating Halloween, Hamdash said: "The apostasy that is taking place in the Arabian Peninsula, I am talking about the modern [form] of apostasy nowadays is an introduction to what will take place in the Arabian Peninsula before Judgment Day... This is Freemasonry. This is liberal secularism and this apostasy following the embrace of Islam. We call it by its [proper] name."[5]

However, not all the condemnations were on the same level and some clerics even downplayed the attention directed against Saudis and their government by saying that Saudis are no different than other Muslim nations who celebrate Halloween. For example, on his Friday sermon titled "Halloween in Saudi," British imam Abu Usamah limited his condemnation on the people who celebrated Halloween in Saudi Arabia by describing them as "foolish" after emphasizing that celebrating Halloween is impermissible in Islam. In fact, he condemned those who shared the footage and images of the celebration by saying: "Those people [who] started spreading these pictures and images of some of the foolish people of Saudi Arabia. Libya has foolish people, Pakistan has foolish people, the African Americans have foolish people, Sudan and on and on. Everybody has foolish people... So what the people wanted to do was to show, hey look, what they are doing over there as if to say they made celebrating the Prophet birthday impermissible and they do Halloween... anyway, Halloween is the worst of the worst issues, so to see it coming out of Saudi Arabia, it was distressing but, what can I say? You are going to make the Saudi Arabian and all the people of monotheism there and the good Muslims there, you are going to make them responsible for what the foolish people amongst them do? That's not fair."[6]

UK-based Salafi preacher Shamsi of the DUS Dawah YouTube channel published a video titled "Halloween in Saudi" in which he noted that he had received inquiries about Saudis' celebrating Halloween. In his answer, Shamsi noted that it is impermissible and added: "I mean what do you want? You want me to say it is permissible or you want something else. You want us to say Saudis rebel and the leaders are evil, rebel against them. Destroy your country like they destroyed Yemen, Libya. It is impermissible. Are you waiting for me to tell you it is impermissible?"[7] He then downplayed the reaction against the celebration saying that "and by the way, there was no Halloween festival. It was a festival of Riyadh. Sheikh Fawzan spoked up against it and it has been happening since 2000... and I don't know how come everybody has started talking about it now... there was a festival of Riyadh and some foolish Muslims, may Allah guide them, and Saudis are not angels. They are human beings like us and they have desires and among them there are hypocrites and Muslim sinners and if there are Muslim sinners what would we do? We ask Allah to guide them. Or you don't want Allah to guide them because they are Saudis and should not fall into sins?"

Riyadh-based English-speaking graduates of Saudi universities Abdul-Hameed Edge and Muhammad bin Abdilwali went as far as not only downplaying the reaction to the celebration but also accusing critics of the Halloween celebration in Riyadh of attempting to encourage scholars to speak out openly against the rulers in Saudi Arabia. Elaborating on this point, Abdilwali said: "Let us clarify something here. Saudis celebrating Halloween. The way they put it: the Halloween celebration in Riyadh or by Riyadh. What are you talking about? Okay, some people here in Riyadh celebrated Halloween but why are they trying to give the sort of impression that it is some kind of a national holiday?" After acknowledging that the celebration was part of the Riyadh season, he added: "The point is, these people who are celebrating are a certain faction of the society who might have studied in America or watched American movies who are generally speaking weak Muslims or even liberal Muslims or whatever... This is not something that is particular to Saudi Arabia. You find Muslims like that everywhere."[8] In an indirect response to Haqiqatjou's video that both speakers noted they had watched, Edge said: "If you were listening to these individuals, you would think that people here are going Trick-or-Treating... by the name of Allah this is crazy. I do not even know where they get these costumes... and I do not know where it is taking place. It is not a tradition here. It is not something which is normal."


[1], October 31, 2022.

[2], November 3, 2022.

[3], November 5, 2022.

[4], November 3, 2022.

[5], November 7, 2022.

[6], November 6, 2022.

[7], November 3, 2022.

[8], November 7, 2022.

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