RIYADH — Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Aal Alsheikh on Tuesday blasted Al-Qaeda and Islamic State militants as “enemy number one” of Islam.
“The ideas of extremism, radicalism and terrorism… have nothing to do with Islam and (their proponents) are the enemy number one of Islam,” the Kingdom’s top scholar said in a statement issued here on Tuesday.
He cited militants from the Islamic State, which has declared a “caliphate” straddling large parts of Iraq and Syria, and the international Al-Qaeda terror network.
“Muslims are the main victims of this extremism, as shown by crimes committed by the so-called Islamic State, Al-Qaeda and groups linked to them,” the grand mufti said, quoting a verse from the Holy Qur’an urging the “killing” of people who do deeds harmful to Islam, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said.
Alsheikh’s stance reflects the growing international hostility toward Islamic State militants, known for their brutality.
IS militants, already well established in Syria, launched an offensive in Iraq on June 9 and rapidly seized control of vast swathes of Sunni territory there.
“In the circumstances the Islamic nation is living through, several countries have been destabilized” by extremists, who “divide Muslims” in the name of religion, Alsheikh said.
He warned: “In Islam, after heresy, dividing Muslims is the greatest crime.”
The mufti urged “tolerance, which was at the origin of Islam’s growth and longevity.”
The statement comes at a time when hundreds of young Saudis are believed to have traveled to Syria and Iraq to join rebel and militant groups.
Authorities have sternly warned Saudis against traveling outside for the purpose of fighting along side militants.
Saudi Arabia labeled Islamic State, Al Qaeda, Syria’s Al-Nusra Front and other groups as “terrorist” in March and imposed long prison terms for offering them public support or giving them moral or material aid.
Recently, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah vowed “not to allow a handful of terrorists, using Islam for personal aims, to terrify Muslims or undermine our country and its inhabitants.”
The King urged Muslim scholars and leaders to fight against militant groups bent on creating havoc in society.