Six months after the start of the so-called Arab Spring which has witnessed revolutions, uprisings and even a full-fledged Civil War in no less than six Arab countries, there is no sign yet that the spirit of protest and revolt is about to reach the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). Indeed, conventional wisdom in Western academic and governmental circles tends to rule out this possibility altogether on account of the Kingdom’s peculiar political culture and the resilience of the House of Saud.
|© 2011 Citizenside / Editorside.
Over the past two decades, most academic and journalistic studies of Saudi dissent have focussed on two categories of dissidents, namely the minority Shias in the Eastern Province and the Salafi-oriented dissenters who emerged after the first Persian Gulf War of 1991. More recently there has been a focus on armed dissidents, namely the Jihadis operating under the Al-Qaeda banner, who started a bombing campaign in May 2003. Not enough attention has been paid to other platforms or potential platforms of dissent, including the Al-Sahwa (Renewal) reform movement, non-Salafi Islamist dissidents, liberal Islamists and even the official religious establishment.
This article seeks foremost to broaden the range of analysis to include all noteworthy religious-based categories of dissent. The aim is to understand to what extent religiously motivated actors and institutions can be catalysts for change in the Kingdom, and specifically under what conditions they can make the transition to fully-fledged dissidents. With this, the article seeks to make a contribution to the understanding of Saudi politics in a period of momentous and historic region-wide political and social convulsions.
As a cautionary note, it is important to point out that the categories of religious dissent listed below elude neat classification. Indeed, there is a considerable level of ideological, theological and political cross-pollination amongst all the categories outlined below, with the obvious exception of the Shias. The current that essentially defines these groups and movements – or at the very least regulates their ideological, intellectual and political interaction with each other and the outside world – is the dominant Wahhabi religious tradition in Saudi Arabia. In other words Wahhabism as a generic tradition is the basic reference point which defines the identity and oppositional role of many of the groups featured in this article.
Nevertheless, these groups are possessed of sufficiently distinctive features to be mapped out independently, with the implicit assumption that each category potentially exerts a unique influence on the political future of the country.
Official religious establishment: bulwark of the Al-Sauds?
Owing to its vast oil reserves, its central role in the Islamic world and its outstanding regional geopolitical profile, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia remains critical to Western economic prosperity and the continuation of Western, in particular American, political influence in the Middle East.
It is primarily because of this central importance to Western economic, political and security interests that events in Saudi Arabia are keenly observed by a wide range of West European and North American stakeholders as well as the Western public as a whole. Concerns about Saudi Arabia’s long-term stability and its role as an incubator of anti-Western militants were dramatically heightened in the wake of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, in which fifteen of the nineteen hijackers involved in the attacks were Saudi Arabian nationals.
In addition there are major concerns by international human rights and broader civil society organisations about the nature of Saudi society, in particular the harsher aspects of the Saudi judicial system and the strictures imposed on everyday life by the Kingdom’s morality police, the so-called Mutaween, which are controlled by the Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice.
Partly as a response to growing international pressure for change, the Saudi rulers have initiated a carefully controlled reform process and have given rhetorical support to calls for greater debate and dialogue in the Kingdom. The reform process is closely identified with King Abdullah who succeeded to the throne in August 2005.
But despite early hopes for a genuine wide-ranging debate on all aspects of national and public life, with resulting concrete changes, little appears to have changed in the Kingdom. The country has a very limited political life, in which no political parties or trade unions exist, religious minorities (in particular the Shias of the Eastern Province) continue to complain of discrimination, and, at the socio-cultural level, severe restrictions are applied to various spheres, particularly on women, who still do not have the right to drive.
The so-called Arab Spring, the term used by the Western media to describe widespread political and social convulsions across the Middle East and North Africa, has hitherto not reached the Saudi street, despite the best efforts of the most committed opponents of the House of Saud.  While Riyadh and Jeddah may be far less vulnerable to mass street protests of the type that rocked Tunis, Cairo and Sanaa, this does not necessarily guarantee a lack of long-term threats to the stability and well-being of the Saudi ruling system.
In view of the deeply tribal and religious nature of Arabian society, and taking into account the peculiar political culture of the Kingdom (where public mobilization and organised political groups are virtually unheard of), the most potent form of opposition to the House of Saud is likely to emanate from religious actors, movements and institutions. More specifically, the quest to re-define Islam and its role in Arabian society is likely to bring the entire royal family, and broader governing structures, under sharp scrutiny in the years ahead.
In fact this pattern has already been observed over the past two decades, when dissenters came out into the open in the wake of the first Persian Gulf War of 1991, by issuing the Letter of Demands in 1991 and the Memorandum of Advicethe following year, to then Saudi King Fahd.  Nearly all of the petitioners were a mix of Salafi and Muslim Brotherhood influenced professionals (more on this later).
It might appear odd to consider the official religious establishment as a potential platform for dissent, not least because the Saudi ruling elites rely on the religious establishment to manufacture legitimacy and rubber stamp policies. Indeed, leading Arabian opposition activists have told Religioscope that the official religious establishment will “stick” with the regime until the “bitter end”. 
Considering the likely role and reaction of the religious establishment in a climate of change requires a definition of that establishment. For the purpose of this article the core official religious establishment in KSA is comprised of the following: the Council of Senior Ulama (comprised of 30-40 of the most senior Wahhabi clerics) and the ancillary 21-member Grand Ulama Commission (which together control the Wahhabi clerical network in the Kingdom and beyond); the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (responsible for enforcing Islamic norms and customs); the Judiciary, specifically in the form of the Supreme Judiciary Council. All of these institutions and their myriad commissions and sub-organisations are critical organs of the Saudi state and as such they can be considered to be the least vulnerable to dissent. 
However, if we broadened the category of analysis to include the countless Wahhabi-oriented religious and cultural institutes that operate in the Kingdom and beyond, then the potential for bottom-up pressure and, ultimately, dissent expressed by ostensibly official bodies, is increased. This is a wholly legitimate extrapolation since by definition all the registered religious organisations in the Kingdom (and those that operate abroad under clear Saudi direction) are ultimately tied to the grand institutions noted above.
The potential for dissent is considerable in view of the religious zeal commonly associated with the salaried personnel and volunteers of these organisations, and the dim view they take of corruption attributed to royalist circles and the – to them – less palatable features of the Kingdom’s foreign policy, particularly its six decades long iron-clad alliance with the United States.
|© 2011 Citizenside / Editorside.
Al-Sahwa: still a relevant force?
The movement known as Al-Sahwa al-Islamiyah (Islamic Revival) is arguably Saudi Arabia’s foremost modern reformist Islamic movement. Al-Sahwa emerged in the 1970s in the universities and other elite institutions, but its roots are believed to go deeper, at least to the 1960s when Saudi Arabia was exposed to foreign influences, in particular the ideas of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood who arrived in the Kingdom in the 1950s and 1960s to escape persecution in their own country.  One notable expert on the subject has described the ideological force behind the Sahwa as an “amalgam of traditional Saudi thinking and the philosophy of the Muslim Brotherhood”. 
Inasmuch as it can still be considered a coherent or even an identifiable movement, the Sahwa is divided between competing trends that defy neat categorisation. Indeed, both Arab and Western scholars have struggled to reach a consensus on a definition. For the purpose of this article – and in an effort to assess the movement’s oppositional role and potential – the Sahwa may be thought of as a heterogeneous socio-religious (and from the 1990s onwards political) movement comprised of a Wahhabi religious-cultural core interspersed with strong Salafi reformist tendencies, and selective adoption of Muslim Brotherhood methodology. The latter characteristic comes to the fore when Sahwa activists enter the political realm or when they try to establish and manage relations with Islamists outside the Kingdom. According to this definition, the Sahwa may be considered as a unique and influential socio-cultural, and ultimately political force in Arabia.
In its first two decades of activism the Sahwa movement was a strong pillar of the Saudi regime. While clearly influenced by non-indigenous Islamic movements (in particular the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood) leading Sahwa activists in the universities, training institutes and the bureaucracy were careful to couch their Islamist rhetoric within the framework of the political interests and the worldview of the House of Saud. Rhetorically, at least, leading Sahwa activists held fast to the belief that the Saudi royal family and the official Saudi religious establishment were the most authentic voices of Islam on the world stage. Owing to this political position the Sahwa were long regarded by the Al-Sauds as indispensable ideological allies, enabling the regime to convince a wide range of actors in the Muslim world of its Islamic credentials.
But with the benefit of hindsight it is clear that the Sahwa carried within it the seeds of dissent and even outright opposition to the House of Saud. This became clear in the wake of the first Persian Gulf War of 1991 when Saudi Arabia enabled a vast American-led international coalition to wage war on Iraq (following the latter’s invasion of Kuwait in August 1990) by hosting Western armies and giving free access to its airspace. This open and brazen alliance with Western armies at the expense of a fellow Arab and Muslim country was deeply shocking to many sections of Saudi society, in particular Sahwa activists and sympathisers.
For the first time since the founding of modern Saudi Arabia in 1932, the deep and irreconcilable contradiction between the House of Saud’s self-appointed role as the guardian of authentic Islam, and the Kingdom’s near total dependence on Western powers, notably the United States, for its security, burst out onto the surface. Not surprisingly over the course of ten years the Saudi rulers had to contend with a relatively novel phenomenon, namely serious dissent couched in an Islamic garb and rhetoric.
Sahwa leaders and activists were at the forefront of this dissent, helping to organise both the Letter of Demands and the Memorandum of Advice in 1991 and 1992 respectively. The former was a concise summary of the main demands of the embryonic opposition (chief amongst which was the establishment of a Consultative Council and the modernisation of the legal system) while the latter presented a detailed programme for reform. Together these documents constituted an unprecedented political act in the Kingdom and were perceived by the Saudis and their supporters as a blatant and direct challenge to their authority.
Two prominent Sahwa leaders emerged as particularly influential amongst these early dissidents. Safar Al-Hawali and Salman Al-Auda were outspoken in their opposition to the foreign policy of the Al-Sauds and the corruption and ideological deviation which they believed were the source of the Kingdom’s drift from its authentic religious and political mission. They were arrested in 1994 and were only released in 1999 after the authorities had allegedly secured assurances from both that they would desist from public criticism of the regime. Since their release they have not been harassed by Saudi intelligence agents, leading some to conclude that they had cut a comprehensive deal with the regime.
While the apparent taming of Hawali and Auda lends credence to the idea that the Saudis have ironed out their open differences with the Sahwa movement, it would require a leap of faith to conclude with even a minimum level of confidence that the relations between the two can be adjusted along the lines that prevailed in the 1970s and 1980s. At the political and organisational level there is a profound trust deficit between the two sides, with many Sahwa leaders and activists having suffered imprisonment and other forms of harassment. But it is ideology that keeps the two sides far apart, and may under certain conditions cause an even bigger rift than the one in the early and mid 1990s. From the point of view of some Sahwa leaders and activists, the Saudi regime’s religious legitimacy has diminished considerably – for some it has disappeared altogether – leaving the House of Saud’s ability to project a veneer of Islamic authenticity in the long-term open to doubt.
However, the Sahwa’s ability to act as a coherent force for change is equally open to serious doubt. According to some of the best scholars on the Kingdom, the Sahwa is a “latent” movement, trapped by Wahhabi theology, arguing about “specific issues” as opposed to calling for “real” political change. 
Dissident Salafis and secret societies
While the Sahwa may no longer be the force it was in its heyday back in the 1980s, new forms of Salafism are continuously emerging in the Kingdom. Individual activists like Said Bin Zoair (an imprisoned scholar in his 70s), Naser al-Omar (a classical Wahhabi), Abdul Aziz al-Qasim (a former judge and intellectual) and even Ayidh al-Qarni (a preacher with mild Salafi tendencies-generally considered pro-regime) may be considered to comprise a category in their own right, one that can arguably be labelled as “dissident” Salafi. These individuals, and many other lesser known figures, were at one stage either part of the Sahwa movement or closely identified with it.
The key points about this category of activists are that they are neither part of an organised or coherent ideological tendency nor are their views and positions fixed. They tend to change their views and positions according to the prevailing political mood. In some cases even when they express an oppositional stance this is beneficial to the Saudi regime inasmuch as it casts the latter in a moderate light. For example, Nasser al-Omar has repeatedly berated the Saudi authorities for their “conciliatory” approach towards the Kingdom’s embattled Shia minority. 
Partly related to this group – inasmuch as the above category believes in the Saudi regime’s legitimacy – but of far greater significance, is a network of five secret societies that are based on the Muslim Brotherhood/Sorouri ideology. This should not be confused with the visible Sorouri trend in the country which is identified with the likes of Mohammad Al-Ahmary amongst others. 
The Sorouri trend in Saudi Arabia was started by Mohammad Sorour Zein Al-Abidine, a Syrian teacher with a Muslim Brotherhood background who immigrated to Saudi Arabia in the the late 1970s. Muslim Brotherhood affiliated groups are known to have been active in Saudi Arabia since 1954, where inevitably they have had intense ideological, intellectual and theological interaction with an assortment of Salafi groups and trends.
Mohammad Sorour is widely credited with creating the most potent hybrid form of Ikhwani/Salafi thought, albeit one with a clear tilt towards the Salafi tradition. While the precise position of the Sorouris on the question of the House of Saud’s legitimacy is not entirely clear, by most credible accounts they are in favour of radical reforms in the country, with some elements in favour of the root and branch overthrow of the Saudi regime. However, these elements haven’t defined what they want to see replace the current regime.
According to reliable sources four of these groups are quasi-Ikhwani (Muslim Brotherhood) in orientation, while the other can best be described as Sorouri. All five secret groups ultimately believe in the legitimacy of the Saudi regime but are highly critical of numerous domestic and foreign policies, including the corruption associated with the royalist elites, perceived erosion of Islamic norms in society and of course the regime’s dependence on the United States for security. All of these groups strive for comprehensive reforms to state and society within the framework of the Islamic Shariah.
The size of these secret societies is difficult to gauge as they are by definition highly security conscious. They have allegedly penetrated every sphere of national life, including the most sensitive security organs in Saudi Arabia. While the Saudi regime is aware of their existence (if not the full scope of their secret activities) it avoids harassing them in the belief that these groups ultimately serve its interests by quietly manufacturing legitimacy and consent across state and society. This may yet prove to be a stunning miscalculation.
A readily identifiable category of dissidents are the organised Islamists who emerged following the first Persian Gulf War of 1991. This phenomenon is bound up with two individuals in particular, Saad al-Faqih and Mohammad al-Massari, both of whom are currently exiled in the United Kingdom. Both played important roles in organising the Letter of Demands and the Memorandum of Advice. In 1993 Faqih and Massari formed the Committee for the Defence of Legitimate Rights (CDLR), arguably the first organised Islamic-orientated opposition group in modern Saudi Arabia. Following their exile to the United Kingdom in the mid-1990s Faqih and Massari briefly revived CDLR but soon fell out and went their separate ways.
Faqih formed the Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia (MIRA) in 1996, an openly disloyal opposition group. Faqih – whose underlying political-religious philosophy is a mix of Muslim Brotherhood and core Salafi beliefs – can be described as the most committed and recalcitrant non-violent enemy of the House of Saud. In a recent interview with Religioscope Faqih said that he aspires to the root and branch overthrow of the Saudi regime and its replacement with an Islamic Republic. 
Hizbut Tahrir Al-Islami (The Islamic Liberation Party – HuT) can be considered as an organised Islamist opposition force inside the Kingdom, even though it is a non-indigenous international pan-Islamic ideological party. According to a HuT source the pan-Islamic group worked closely with Sahwa activists in the 1960s, 70s and 80s and fully exploited the political opening generated by the first Persian Gulf War of 1991.  It appears that HuT was well-entrenched at the universities of Riyadh, Dahran and Jeddah. Mohammad al-Massari (who went on to form a partnership with Saad al-Faqih in the 1990s) was one of the leading Arabian members of HuT. 
The Saudi regime regards HuT as dangerously subversive and cracks down harshly whenever it discovers activities related to the group. The most recent well-documented crackdown occurred in 1995 when Saudi intelligence arrested six HuT activists led by the Taif-based Dr. Mohammad Saif al-Turki. This was swiftly followed by another round of arrests, this time targeting the HuT network at the King Saud University in Riyadh.
HuT poses a security concern to the Saudi authorities, as evidenced by the harsh methods the regime employs against party members. The Saudis fear HuT not for its organisational capacity but because of the party’s ability to direct more mainstream Islamist trends towards a more subversive path.
Jihadis: opposition or stalking horse?
Although terrorism is not new to Saudi Arabia (the seizure of the Grand Mosque of Mecca in November 1979 and a few violent acts attributed to Shia militants in the 1980s are noteworthy examples), the advent of violent Jihad beginning in May 2003 targeting foreigners and symbols of Saudi authority alike, was a major shock to Saudi society. These so-called Jihadis were operating mostly under the umbrella of “Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula”, which allegedly drew inspiration from the wider Al-Qaeda phenomenon founded and led by the deceased Osama Bin Laden.
By early 2007 the Saudi authorities had effectively crushed the Jihadi campaign, but there was a major terrorist incident in Jeddah in August 2009 when a suicide bomber attempted to assassinate Prince Mohammad bin Nayef, the deputy interior minister in charge of counter-terrorism. It is important to note that nearly all of the religiously-based opposition groups, trends and individuals categorically condemn the violence of the Jihadis and regard their methods as not only un-Islamic and immoral but also self-defeating and counter-productive. Indeed, the Saudi regime made enormous propaganda gains during its much vaunted counter-terrorist campaign of 2003-2007 and managed to position itself as indispensable to the wider Western struggle against Jihadi-inspired terrorism, with all the political and strategic benefits that brings.
Non-violent Saudi dissidents can point to the draft of a proposed new counter-terrorism law which empowers Saudi authorities to categorise any activity which they deem to be a danger to national security and harmful to the reputation of the state as “terrorist” crimes, as evidence of the regime’s calculated conflation of legitimate dissent with terrorism. 
Nevertheless, the Jihadis may be considered as a distinct category of religiously-inspired opposition, despite the fact their methods are universally reviled by other religious oppositionists, and are judged to subvert the ultimate aims of either overthrowing the House of Saud, or reforming it beyond recognition.
In view of modern Saudi history (the legacy of the early 20th century Ikhwan militia still looms large) it is entirely conceivable that violent groups will continue periodically to emerge to protest loudly against what they see as the more outrageous excesses of the House of Saud. But even if we accept their sincerity at face value, these groups will fail to achieve their declared aims unless they can gain recognition from other Islamists and wider society. This is extremely unlikely, at least for the foreseeable future.
The advent of liberal Islamists
A marginal but increasingly important phenomenon is the emergence of what can best be described as liberal Islamism in the Kingdom. The emergence of this trend can be traced to the early 1990s with the advent of open dissent in the Kingdom. Indeed, most of the individuals described as “liberal” by Western scholars and journalists have backgrounds in the Sahwa movement and some were hardcore Salafis.
Some of the key individuals associated with this trend are Abdullah al-Hamed (an imprisoned septuagenarian professor of Arabic language), the scholar Hassan al-Maliki and the provocative Mansour al-Nuqaidan, who in his youth was so extreme as to be labelled a “Kharejite”, i.e. an individual whose religious extremism and its implications are so grave that the Islamic community excommunicates him altogether. 
Broadly speaking, the liberal Islamists not only seek reforms to Saudi society but in some cases they seek to reform Saudi Arabian Islam (i.e. Wahhabism) altogether. Some, like Abdul Aziz al-Qasim, seek to re-define Wahhabism from a more liberal Wahhabi perspective by insisting on the original “internal plurality” of the Wahhabi tradition.  Note that the precise religio-political position of many of these thinkers and activists is not fixed; therefore Abdul Aziz al-Qasim who was earlier identified as a dissident Salafi can also be considered a liberal Islamist, at least in a Saudi Arabian context.
In the eyes of the hardcore dissidents the liberal Islamists lack credibility, not so much for their lack of organisation and ideological coherence, but primarily because their reform discourse tends to coincide with the official regime reformist narrative. Moreover, the liberal Islamists strive to bring about reforms by respecting the political red lines set down by the regime. This inevitably blunts their political impact no matter how original and innovative their ideas. Nevertheless, the Saudi liberals may in the long-run act as important catalysts for socio-cultural change and may unwittingly prepare the ground for more courageous and committed dissidents.
Arabian Shias: caught between accommodation and opposition
Saudi Arabian Shias, who are largely concentrated in the Eastern Province, are often in the limelight because of the severe discrimination imposed on them by the Saudi state and society alike, and the resulting opposition that this discrimination attracts. In recent months, in stark contrast to the majority Sunni population, the Shias of the Eastern Province came out on to the streets to defy Saudi security forces, in an act of solidarity with the spirit of revolt that has engulfed much of the Arab world. Arabian Shias were particularly inspired by the (thwarted) mini-revolution in neighbouring Bahrain, which was ultimately crushed by a Saudi-led Gulf Cooperation Council military intervention in March.
The Shia opposition in the Eastern Province is closely identified with Sheikh Hassan al-Safar, the leader of the Islamic Reform Movement, who signed a controversial deal with the Saudi regime in 1993, enabling Safar and his circle to return to the Eastern Province, where they are still based. But according to a veteran Arabian Shia activist and leader, Fouad Ibrahim, none of the main terms of that deal have been implemented leaving many Shia activists disillusioned and demoralised.  Instead the Saudis have sought to divide the Shia activists by empowering Safar’s group at the expense of more committed activists.
In 2008 a new opposition group called Khalas (Deliverance) was formed, with many of its leaders (including Fouad Ibrahim) being originally associated with Safar’s group. Other groups include the Khat al-Imam (i.e. Khomeini) which is formed by the remnants of the former Hezbollah al-Hejaz organisation, an openly pro-Iranian militant group. But unlike the latter Khat al-Imam eschews violence in favour of more long-term secret political and religio-cultural activities.
The Saudi regime has not only deftly divided the Shia opposition but, more importantly, it skilfully exploits the Shia issue to divide and suppress the wider opposition movements in the country, by depriving them of mass public support. By appealing to exaggerated majority Sunni fears of Shia empowerment in the Arabian Peninsula, the Saudis are able to discredit and de-legitimise calls for serious reforms, lest those reforms end up strengthening the Shia position.
Wither the House of Saud?
As this article has set out, the Saudi regime is faced with a wide range of religious-based opposition movements, groups and individuals. While the religious opposition has developed considerably over the past two decades, it is noteworthy that a profound clear-cut division between loyal and disloyal dissidents has not taken shape. The majority of the dissidents can still be classified as “loyal” inasmuch as they don’t – publicly at least – irrevocably reject the legitimacy of the House of Saud.
Nevertheless, there is a growing public debate in the country about all aspects of national life and it is not clear at this stage if the regime’s official reform discourse is able to manage and submerge this debate in the long term.
In any case, the House of Saud should never be under-estimated. Apart from the vast oil reserves and the deep security alliance with the United States, the Saudis have proven to be masters of managing dissent and discontent. Through a skilful mix of coercion, suppression, bribery, accommodation and ultimately co-option, the regime has managed to destroy or sideline its most committed opponents whilst creating embattled and inherently unstable spaces for the expression of “safe” dissent.
At this stage the root and branch overthrow of the House of Saud is difficult to envisage in the light of the royal family’s total domination of all aspects of national life. Nor is it clear if such an outcome is desirable, since a fundamental shift, re-alignment and distribution of power and resources will inevitably throw up unexpected scenarios, including that of civil war, and in view of the centrifugal forces boiling beneath the surface in the Arabian Peninsula, the eventual breakup of the country.
The more likely scenario is a painfully slow expansion of political spaces, as the Saudis incrementally lose the ability to control debate. The long-term challenge for the entire spectrum of the religiously-based opposition is not the overthrow or emasculation of the House of Saud, but the extent to which the opposition can match its religious discourse and programme to the rising socio-cultural and political aspirations of the Arabian public.
 Refer to author’s interview with Saad Al-Faqih of the Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia: “Arabia: Protest and Revolution – An Interview with Saad Al-Faqih“, Religioscope, 10 March 2011.
 Note that petitioning senior Saudi officials is a well-established custom in the Kingdom.
 Interview with MIRA leader, Saad Al-Faqih, 20 April 2011.
 According to the well-known Saudi Arabian scholar, Professor Madawi Al-Rasheed (King’s College, London), the official religious field “is fragmented and any attempt to put people and institutions in clear cut categories will not be successful”. Interview with Madawi Al-Rasheed, Department of Theology and Religious Studies, King’s College (London), 18 July 2011.
 Ondrej Beranek, “Divided We Survive: A Landscape of Fragmentation in Saudi Arabia“, Crown Center for Middle East Studies (Brandeis University), No. 33, January 2009.
 Stéphane Lacroix, “Fundamentalist Islam at a Crossroads: 9/11, Iraq and the Saudi religious debate” , CSIS Middle East Program Gulf Roundtable, 29 May 2008.
 Interview with Madawi Al-Rasheed, 18 July 2011.
 Interview with Mohammad Al-Massari, 4 May 2011.
 The information contained in this section has been provided by sources within and outside the Kingdom who wish to remain anonymous.
 It is important to note that some observers reject any association between Al-Ahmary and the Sorouris. These critics point to Al-Ahmary’s unorthodox views, in particular his promotion of Islamic democracy. The critics argue that the Sorouri trend is traditional in nature and rejects an overly modernist Islamist stance.
 “Arabia: Protest and Revolution – An Interview with Saad Al-Faqih“, Religioscope, 10 March 2011.
 Interview with “Abu Shakker”, a leading Middle East-based HuT activist, July 2011.
 Note that Massari is no longer associated with HuT.
 “Rights Group Condemns Draft Saudi Anti-terror Law”, The Wall Street Journal, 23 July 2011.
 This should not be confused with the Kharejites as a distinct religious school in Islam. Today the Kahrejites as a distinct religious community are foremost represented by the Ibadis of Oman. There are also small Kharejite communities in Zanzibar and Algeria.
 Stéphane Lacroix, “Post-Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia?“, The Gulf Monarchies in Transition (Colloquium), Sciences Po (Paris), January 2005.
 Interview with Fouad Ibrahim, 23 April 2011.
Mahan Abedin is an academic and journalist specialising in Islamic affairs.