By Ahmed Yusuf
The International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS) on Tuesday criticized the reported arrest of Muslim preachers and scholars in Saudi Arabia.
Those said to have been detained included Salman al-Auda, a prominent Muslim preacher and member of the IUMS's board of trustees.
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.
On Sunday, Khalid bin Fahd al-Auda said on Twitter that the Saudi authorities had arrested his brother Salman. He did not say when the arrest took place or speculate about the reasons for the move.
Saudi Arabia is yet to issue any official statement regarding the reported arrests.
In a statement issued late Monday, the Doha-based IUMS suggested the arrests were related to an ongoing diplomatic crisis -- now in its fourth month -- pitting Qatar against a four-nation Arab bloc led by Saudi Arabia.
"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.
It went on to quote IUMS Secretary General Ali Qara Daghi as saying Auda was known for his "preaching efforts" and "moderate positions".
The statement also noted that Auda, in his last tweet, had urged GCC members to "come together for the sake of their people".
Along with Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the six-nation GCC includes Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Oman.
The IUMS also urged Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz to order the release of the preachers and scholars, who it asserted "should not be used as pawns in political disputes".
In early June, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain severed diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorist groups in the region.
The four countries also imposed an embargo on Qatar and issued a long list of demands, including the closure of Doha-based news broadcaster Al Jazeera, under the threat of further sanctions.
Qatar has refused to submit, denying charges that it supports terrorism and describing the bloc's efforts to isolate it as a violation of international law and an infringement of its national sovereignty.
During a call with UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, U.S. President Donald Trump discussed attempts to address the diplomatic dispute, underscoring "the importance of unity among United States partners in the region and the need for all countries to do more to cut off funding for terrorist groups, discredit extremist ideology, and defeat terrorism," the White House said.
*Michael Hernandez contributed to this report from Washington