A well-known Muslim cleric in Saudi Arabia has declared that chatting between males and females over the internet is anti-Islamic, or haram.
Sheikh Abdullah al-Mutlaq, a prominent member of the Saudi Committee of Senior Scholars, has said the online conversations between different genders are prohibited and would eventually lead to committing a sin.
Middle Eastern newspaper Al Arabiya reports, citing Saudi daily al-Eqitisadiya, the cleric labelled the online conversations as "khulwa," an Islamic term referring to circumstances where a male and a female are in private, which is prohibited in the religion.
He said: "The devil would be present when women talk to men," alluding to a prophetic saying which asserts that "a man and a woman cannot unite without having Satan in their midst"
Hence women should not converse with men online, even if they are simply trying to obtain basic information, rather than strike up a relationship or arrange a date.
His remarks have evoked mixed reactions on Saudi social media, where many users took a dig at the statement. Few people have praised the cleric for his remarks.
According to the Daily Mail, one commentator even remarked: "Why don't they (religious clerics) just ban women all together?"