"Religious Decree Saying It Is Permissible To Kill the Owners of Satellite TV Networks That Broadcast Immoral Content"

issued by "Saudi Arabia's top judiciary official." So reports the Associated Press:

The 79-year-old Sheik Saleh al-Lihedan said Thursday that satellite channels cause the "deviance of thousands of people." ...

Al-Lihedan is chief of the kingdom's highest tribunal, the Supreme Judiciary Council. Saudi Arabia's judiciary is made up of Islamic clerics whose decrees, or fatwas, on everyday issues are widely respected. Their fatwas do not have the weight of law. In the courts, cleric-judges rule according to Islamic law, but interpretations can vary....

TheNational (United Arab Emirates) reports that the judge later "sought ... to play down his comments." Originally,

In reply to a listener's question about "bad programmes" on television, Sheikh Lihedan, 79, said: "What does the owner of these networks think when he provides seduction, obscenity and vulgarity? Those calling for corrupt beliefs, certainly it's permissible to kill them. Those calling for sedition, those who are able to prevent it but don't, it is permissible to kill them."

This led to condemnation by "Sheikh Abdul Mohsen al Obaikan, a popular moderate religious scholar closely allied to the [Saudi] government" and by Saudi newspaper editors, al-Linedan issued a "clarification":

He insisted that he had not meant to refer to all "immodest" television programmes, merely to those that broadcast black magic and sorcery. He did not backtrack on the suggestion that network owners could face the death penalty, but said execution could take place only after a "judicial process".

Sheikh Lihedan's views on "sorcery" were, in fact, echoed by another senior Saudi cleric, who was quoted yesterday advancing a similar argument in response to queries about the original controversy.

Sheikh Saleh al Fozan, who is a member of the Higher Council of Clerics, went as far as to say that those who read horoscopes on Arab television should face the death penalty.

"Sorcerers who appear on satellite channels who are proven to be sorcerers have committed a great crime ... and the Muslim consensus is that the apostate's punishment is death by the sword," Sheikh Fozan told Al Madina newspaper. "Those who call in to these shows should not be accorded Muslim rites when they die."

Thanks to Prof. Howard Friedman (Religion Clause).