A senior Saudi Arabian cleric has issued an edict against online chatting between the sexes, equating such activity to the prohibitions on the physical mingling of unrelated men and women, the news agency Al Arabiya reported Thursday. It said the cleric, Sheikh Abdullah al-Mutlaq, a member of the Saudi Committee of Senior Scholars, had warned that such conversations were religiously forbidden and might lead to sin. Al Arabiya quoted the cleric as saying “the devil would be present when women talk to men” on social media network sites. It was unclear how seriously the cleric’s declaration would be enforced in Saudi Arabia, where roughly half the population of 27.3 million are Internet users, an estimated six million use Facebook, and online chat forums appear to be common. Social media for political messaging in Saudi Arabia is strictly forbidden, however. Reporters Without Borders, a press freedom advocacy group, has classified Saudi Arabia as among the most repressive countries in a global ranking on news and information censorship.
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(via NY Times)