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Saudi grand mufti forced into retirement?

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Sheikh Abdulaziz Al Sheikh, Saudi Arabia’s radical grand mufti

Saudi Arabia’s radical grand mufti may have been forced into retirement over his recent controversial comments, a report says.

Citing “high-ranking Saudi media officials,” a Sunday report by London-based Rai al-Youm paper said the recent remarks by Sheikh Abdulaziz Al Sheikh, the Saudi grand Mufti, describing Iranian Shias as “not Muslims” have created “a wave of discontent” among the public and some officials in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi media officially announced on Saturday that Al Sheikh would not be delivering this year’s Hajj sermon after more than three decades. He had been continuously delivering the sermon since 1981.

The Al-Riyadh newspaper said he would be replaced by another cleric but stopped short of explaining why the grand mufti would not deliver this year’s sermon.

On Sunday, Sheikh Abdul Rahman al-Sudais took to the podium to deliver the sermon.

In its report, Rai al-Youm said that Al Sheikh’s replacement may have taken place on a request by Saudi King Salman himself in an attempt to do damage control following the mufti’s remarks against Iranian Shias.

The London-based paper said speculation over Al Sheikh’s potential forced retirement is particularly strengthened in light of the comments made by his successor, al-Sudais, who on Sunday officially thanked the grand mufti for his 35 years of delivering the Hajj sermon.

Al Sheikh preaches Wahhabism, a radical “ideology” that inspires Takfiri terrorists across the world. Such terrorist groups — particularly Daesh — declare people of other faiths and beliefs as “infidels” and, based on “decrees” from Saudi “clerics,” rule that they should be killed. The word Takfir is Arabic for “declaring as an infidel.”

The Saudi grand mufti’s remarks about Iranian Shias were met by a strong response from Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who pointed to the link between Wahhabism and Takfiri terrorism and said there indeed existed no similarity between the Islam practiced by Iranians and that of the Wahhabis.

“Indeed; no resemblance between Islam of Iranians & most Muslims & bigoted extremism that Wahhabi top cleric & Saudi terror masters preach,” Zarif tweeted after the remarks by Al Sheikh.

Iranian pilgrims did not attend this year’s Hajj pilgrimage over concerns about Saudi Arabia’s failure to provide security guarantees for pilgrims.

A crush during the Hajj rituals last year killed about 4,700 pilgrims, including 465 Iranians. The incident was caused by the mismanagement of Saudi authorities, who had blocked roads and directed two columns of pilgrims toward one another from opposite directions.

Just days before the crush, a massive construction crane had collapsed onto the Grand Mosque in Mecca, killing more than 100 people, including a number of Iranians, and leaving over 200 others wounded.

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