With all world religions, there are strains between the ancient heartland and the periphery. A Catholic campus in the American Mid-West feels different from the cloisters of the Vatican; the Buddhism embraced by Californian beach-goers lacks the rigour of a monastery in Thailand or Tibet. But in Islam, tensions of this kind, and the way they are resolved, can literally be a matter of life or death.
At least 80 respected scholars and teachers of the Muslim faith, from many countries but mostly Anglophone ones, have lent their names to a plea to the Saudi authorities. It urges the kingdom to spare the lives of three well-known figures in the world of Islam. The trio have been incarcerated on “terrorism” charges since 2017. They had refused to back the kingdom’s diplomatic and economic blockade of neighbouring Qatar, at a time when this was becoming a litmus-test of loyalty and securing the support of prominent and mildly independent-minded imams seemed to have become a high priority for the regime. Prosecutors want the death penalty, and unconfirmed reports indicate they might be dispatched when the holy month of Ramadan ends on June 4th.