Manama: A Saudi religious figure whose "bitter and painful" criticism of Iraq's top religious leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani has sparked outrage among Shiites in several countries, has been barred from entering Kuwait, a local paper has said.
"Shaikh Mohammad Al Oraifi has been informed by a Saudi security officer that he could no longer enter Kuwait and a friend in Kuwait City confirmed the ban," Al Watan newspaper said, adding that the ban did not originate from the Islamic Affairs Ministry.
Al Oriaifi travelled every Saturday via Kuwait to Qatar to present a television programme on a channel there. He used the stopover in Kuwait to meet friends and followers.
But now under the ban, he will have to find an alternative route for his weekly trip and another option to meet his Kuwait-based sympathisers.
Kuwaiti Salafi MP Mohammad Al Hayef blasted the decision, saying that he too had a list of religious figures who could be banned from entering the country. The lawmaker did not mention names, but he was most likely referring to Shiite scholars.
"The decision to bar the scholar is in fact interference in matters between non-Kuwaiti entities," he said.
On Sunday, Kuwaiti MP Saleh Ashoor had urged the authorities not to allow Al Oraifi into Kuwait, saying that he needed to "review his positions".
Al Oraifi had waded into controversy after referring to Al Sistani in a Friday sermon as "a depraved man."
Addressing worshippers in a mosque in Riyadh, Al Oraifi blasted the Yemen-based Al Houthi rebels, engaged in an all-out war against government troops.
"In the war they waged against the Yemeni government, the Houthis have insisted that Al Sistani be the intermediary in solving the conflict. They did not want august religious scholars to be the intermediaries, but rather chose an atheist and a depraved old man somewhere in Iraq," he said.
Al Oraifi also attacked Shiites, claiming that they have attacked pilgrims in Makkah and would have done much more in Saudi Arabia if they had had the possibility.
Saudi Shiite leader Hassan Al Saffar promptly lashed out at Al Oraifi, saying that he was a radical and that his speeches included negative and extremist views that propagated hatred.