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IUMS urges Saudi Arabia to free Muslim scholars

Preachers and scholars arrested in Saudi Arabia 'should not be used as pawns in political crisis', Doha-based IUMS says.

The International Union of Muslim Scholars

The International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS) has condemned the reported arrest of Muslim preachers and scholars in Saudi Arabia, urging Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz to order their release.

Salman al-Auda, a prominent Muslim preacher and member of the IUMS's board of trustees, and more than 20 others "should not be used as pawns in political disputes", said IUMS in a statement issued late on Monday, referring to the dispute between Qatar and four other Arab states - Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt.

"In regards to the crisis [with] the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states, al-Auda has done nothing but call for unity between these brotherly countries," the statement read, noting that his last tweet urged GCC members to "come together for the sake of their people".

The IUMS is an organisation of Islamic theologians headed by chairman Yusuf al-Qaradawi, and headquartered in Qatar. 

About 90,000 Muslim scholars are connected through the union, which claims to bring together Sunni and Shia Muslims.

Ali Qara Daghi, IUMS secretary-general, was quoted in the document as saying that Auda was known for his "moderate positions".

Saudi Arabia is yet to issue any official statement regarding the reported arrests.

The incident came to light on Twitter after Khalid bin Fahd al-Auda tweeted on Sunday that the Saudi authorities had arrested is brother Salman.

He did not elaborate on the time of the arrest or the possible reasons behind it.

READ MORE - Qatar-Gulf crisis: All the latest updates

On Monday, activists reported on social media that the Saudi authorities had detained more than 20 Muslim preachers and scholars for unspecified reasons.

Alongside Auda, those reportedly detained include prominent Saudi preachers Aaidh al-Qarni and Ali al-Omari.

The Gulf crisis that their arrests are linked to broke out on June 5 when Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting "extremists".

Qatar strongly denied the accusation.

The quartet imposed air, land and sea blockade on Qatar before handing over a list of 13 demands to Doha.

The move was seen by Doha as a direct attack on Qatar's sovereignty.

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