A video of a man being forcibly removed from the stage in front of onlookers at a mosque has been gathering a lot of traction on social media. Many users shared the clip and claimed that it was from Saudi Arabia where a cleric who spoke about the war with Israel was arrested. Along with this, it is also being claimed that Saudi Arabia and Jordan were now protecting and helping Israel, more actively than the United States. Many users also suggested that the Saudi police had detained an imam for urging Arab leaders to stand in support of the people in Gaza and because he made this appeal from the pulpit of the mosque.
While sharing the video, a handle named Megatron claimed that the video portrayed an Imam who had spoken about the war with Israel and was arrested in Saudi Arabia. (Archived link)
The 🇸🇦Saudis arrested an Imam who called for a war with Israel.
Saudi Arabia and Jordan are now protecting and helping Israel more than the US itself. pic.twitter.com/L5djvE57MU
— Megatron (@Megatron_ron) November 8, 2023
An account named Frontal Force also shared the video and wrote that the Saudi police had detained the imam of a Saudi congregation for urging Arab leaders to stand in support of the Gaza population from the pulpit of the mosque. (Archived link)
An account named Israel War Room also made a similar claim in a tweet without sharing the footage in question. Archived link)
Several other social media users also amplified the footage with this claim.
Alt News performed keyword searches in English and Arabic on Google, Bing and Yandex search engines but did not find any recent reports about an imam being arrested in Saudi Arabia for urging Arab leaders to support Hamas and joining the war against Israel.
Using these keywords, we found a report related to the viral video published on a website named ‘Almashhad News’ dated March 3, 2018. With the help of Google Translate, Alt News translated this article from Arabic to English. According to the report, Majid al-Muhammadi, a spokesperson for the branch of the Saudi ministry of Islamic affairs, call and governance in medina, said that an elderly person had tried to take over the sermon delivered by the imam before Friday prayers (حتبة). Following this, the officials forced him to leave the stage.
The report also states that the person who tried to deliver the sermon (khatbaba) before Friday prayers was mentally ill. Friday prayers are generally conducted by the official imam of the mosque but the man in question had gone inside through the door designated for the imam and entered the mosque before the imam had reached.
Speaking about the man in the viral video, official spokesperson Major Hussein al-Qahtani revealed he was about 70 years old and was suffering from a mental illness which was corroborated by his medical records. He was escorted off the pulpit by security personnel and worshipers.
The Medina police confirmed that the man who was forcibly removed from the stage during Friday prayers in Yanbu Governorate was handed over to his family for treatment.
We also came across an article covering the viral video on a website named Almowaten dated March 2, 2018. Alt News translated this article from Arabic language to English with the help of Google Translate. The spokesperson associated with the ministry of Islamic affairs of Saudi stated that a mentally ill person had tried to deliver the sermon (حتبة) given before Friday prayers in the mosque. When he climbed the stage, officials removed the man from the stage. After this, the Friday prayers and sermon (حتبة) was conducted by the official imam of the mosque.
Saudi News 50 also posted the viral video on March 2, 2018 (Friday) and reported that an unauthorised individual had been prevented from trying to lead the prayers and give a sermon (حتبة) at a mosque in Yanbu.
— أخبار السعودية (@SaudiNews50) March 2, 2018
We also found a 2:31 long video of this incident uploaded by a YouTube channel named ‘Islamic Information’ on March 3, 2018. The title states that an imam was taken out after criticizing the Saudi government. Islamic Information also reported this in an article published on its website. We also found one such article on a website named Parhlo dated March 4, 2018.
To sum it up, a number of social media users made false claims linking the viral video to the recent Israel-Palestine conflict. The Saudi police did not arrest an imam for urging leaders of Arab countries to wage war against Israel and stand in support of Gaza from the pulpit of a mosque. This video is actually five years old and has no connection to the conflict between Israel and Palestine.
Independent journalism that speaks truth to power and is free of corporate and political control is possible only when people start contributing towards the same. Please consider donating towards this endeavour to fight fake news and misinformation.