Action Alert: Saudi Arabia/Hajj/Canada – Saudi authorities physically assault and arrest Canadian Shaykh Usama Al-Atar in Mosque of the Prophet



1. Summary
2. Background
3. Action required
4. Sample letter

1. Summary

A widely respected scholar, Shaykh Usama Al-Atar, has been manhandled and arrested by Saudi religious police whilst in the Mosque of the Holy Prophet. Shaykh Usama Al-Atar holds Canadian citizenship.

IHRC calls on all its supporters and campaigners to write to the Canadian ambassador to Saudi Arabia, and their local Canadian embassies, demanding that they call on the Saudi Arabian authorities to release the Shaykh immediately.

2. Background

Shaykh Usama Al-Atar is an Iraqi-born Canadian scholar of Islam, and a professor of chemistry at the University of Edmonton.

Usama Al-Atar was leading Ziyarat for 10 Hajj pilgrims in Jannatul Baqi in the early hours of today when Saudi religious police began to hassle him, and intimidate him into stopping.

Trying to avoid confrontation, the Shaykh and these pilgrims attempted to relocate to an area outside the vicinity of the graveyard. They were nevertheless still pursued by the religious police, who drove them into the Mosque of the Holy Prophet.

It was in the Mosque of the Prophet that the religious police began to shout out that the Shaykh was a thief, and restrained him using excessive force – causing him to bleed and have the flow of blood to his head constricted. He was then arrested and taken to the Central Police Station of Medina.

The religious police have claimed that the Shaykh broke the arm of one of the religious policemen who physically assaulted him – a claim denied by many eyewitnesses. It is understood that he is to be charged tomorrow under this pretext. Many who witnessed the attack on the Shaykh have complained that the religious police have been antagonising and persecuting members of particular groups.

A vigil for the Shaykh of around 60 Hajj pilgrims outside of the police station was dispersed, allegedly at the behest of the British embassy in Medina.
3. Action Required

IHRC requests its campaigners and supporters to write letters and emails to the Canadian ambassador of your country; and to the Canadian ambassador in Saudi Arabia; demanding that they press immediately for the swift release of Shaykh Usama Al-Atar.

4. Sample letter

A sample letter is given below for your convenience. Please note that model letters can be sent directly or adjusted as necessary to include further details. If you receive a reply to the letter you send, we request you to send a copy of the letter you sent and the reply you received to IHRC. This is very important as it helps IHRC to monitor the situation with regards to our campaigns and to improve upon the current model letters. It is preferable that letters be sent via post, or otherwise by fax and/or email.


a)    Canadian Ambassador in Your Country.  If you are a Canadian National, you can address your email / letter / fax to the Minister

The Hon. John Baird PC, MP
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6


You can also call the out of hours emergency number at the Minsitry of Foreign Affairs and International Development.  The numbers can be found here:

If you are not a Canadian national, you can find the address and contact details of your local Embassy here.

[Your name]
[Your address]


Dear [Insert name of Ambassador or Minister]

Re: Arrest and detention of Shaykh Usama Al-Atar in Saudi Arabia

I am writing to ask you to demand the immediate release of Shaykh Usama Al-Atar from detention in Saudi Arabia.

As you know, Shaykh Al-Atar is a well respected Canadian national, who works at the University of Alberta.

The circumstances of his arrest have been widely reported by eyewitnesses, and the reports clearly indicate that he was harassed by Saudi security personnel, including the so-called religious police, manhandled and taken away to detention on false pretexts.  

I hope you will be making immediate representations to the Saudi authorities for his unconditional release.  

Yours sincerely,

[Your signature]
[Your name]


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“And what reason have you that you should not fight in the way of Allah and of the weak among the men and the women and the children, (of) those who say: Our Lord! Cause us to go forth from this town, whose people are oppressors, and give us from Thee a guardian and give us from Thee a helper.”
Holy Qur’an: Chapter 4, Verse 75

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Islamic Human Rights Commission
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