‘Palace mufti’ who courts controversy
Saudi Arabia’s grand mufti, Sheik Abdul Aziz al ash-Shaikh, 72, who declared that Gaza demonstrations are haram, has been known to make controversial rulings and statements. He is sometimes described in the west as the Islamic equivalent of the Pope — a grand description that accords him far more importance than is the case — whereas in Islamic media he is regarded as the “palace mufti” or the “court mufti” for his apparent closeness to the ruling House of Saud.
Among his controversial statements:
- Jihad in Syria
Last year, he condemned calls by Saudi youth for jihad in Syria, saying this amounted to treason against the Saudi regime; these calls would separate the “pastor” (i.e., the king) from the “flock”, and this is a real “betrayal“.
- Child marriage
In 2012, he criticised moves to raise the marriage age to 25: “Our mothers and grandmothers got married when they were barely 12. Good upbringing makes a girl ready to perform all marital duties at that age”, he is reported to have told a woman questioning child marriages.
- Destroy churches
Also in 2012, he was also reported to have held that it is “necessary to destroy all the churches” in the region, referring to a Kuwaiti MPs statement that no church should be built in the country.
The Wahabbi school of Islam known for its conservative and hardline positions, is dominant in Saudi Arabia and has been influential in the thinking of clerics in Malaysia’s Sunni majority, side by side with the rise of Salafi teachings.
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