Top Saudi cleric issues religious edict declaring Shiites to be infidels

Top Saudi cleric issues religious edict declaring Shiites to be infidels

Friday, December 29, 2006

CAIRO, Egypt A top Saudi Arabian Sunni cleric on Friday declared Shiites around the world to be infidels who should be considered worse than Jews or Christians, the latest sign of increasing sectarianism in the Middle East. Abdul Rahman al-Barak, one of the top several Wahhabi clerics in Saudi Arabia and considered close to the Kingdom’s royal family, also urged Sunnis worldwide to oppose reconciliation with Shiites. The Wahhabi stream of Sunni Islam that is followed in Saudi Arabia is conservative and views Shiites as heretics.

“By and large, rejectionists (Shiites) are the most evil sect of the nation and they have all the ingredients of the infidels,” Abdul Rahman wrote in a fatwa, or religious edict, that was posted on his web site Friday.

“The general ruling is that they are infidels, apostates and hypocrites,” he wrote. “They are more dangerous than Jews and Christians,” he wrote in the edict, which Abdul Rahman said was in response to a question from a follower.

Like most hardline Sunnis, Abdul Rahman employed the word “rejectionists,” used as a derogatory term to describe Shiites because they opted out of the Sunni school of Islamic theology. He also said the sect was the work of a Jewish conspiracy.

Abdul Rahman’s remarks comes amid concern by many Sunni Arabs about what they perceive as a Shiite revival following the 2003 war that toppled Saddam Hussein in Iraq. They include Jordan’s King Abdullah and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Earlier this month, Nawaf Obeid, an adviser to the Saudi embassy in Washington, spoke of “massive Saudi intervention to stop Iranian-backed Shiite militias from butchering Iraqi Sunnis” if the United States withdraws from the country. Saudi citizens are also reportedly raising funds for Sunni insurgents in Iraq.

Earlier this month, about 30 prominent Saudi Wahhabi clerics called on Sunni Muslims around the Middle East to support their brethren in Iraq against Shiites and praised the anti-American insurgency.

Thousands of Iraqis have been killed this year in sectarian bloodshed between the majority Shiites and the Sunni Arab minority, who lost their dominance after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Saudi Arabia, like most Arab countries, is predominantly Sunni but has a significant Shiite minority.

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