New Religious Activism Takes Country by Storm

March 23, 2006

Source: The Washington Post

On March 23, 2006 The Washington Post reported, "[A] loosely knit grass-roots movement that has sprung up across the kingdom [of Saudi Arabia] since January, when anger over cartoons of Muhammad sparked riots in Europe and several Muslim countries. The movement is made up of a diverse cross section of women, students, businessmen, lawyers and clerics, all campaigning under the banner of Nusrat al-Rasool, or Victory for the Prophet. The activists' campaign includes a continuing economic boycott of Denmark, where the cartoons were first published, and a project to produce television ads about the prophet for broadcast in Europe. College students are attempting to collect 1 million signatures to present to the Danish Embassy, and lawyers are studying ways to make insulting Islam and its prophet illegal. A number of businessmen have launched competitions with prize money of more than $50,000 for the best essays on Muhammad. This month, several clerics and heads of local committees will travel to neighboring Kuwait and Bahrain to brainstorm with Islamic activists there. Though in its early stages, the grass-roots movement is a demonstration of how, in this region, activism within a religious context is capable of motivating and energizing a wide swath of society in a way that politics cannot. It is also a study of the ways in which deeply felt religious disputes, when not handled by governments, cut their own path, pushing people to take matters into their hands."