Riyadh: A Saudi cleric says even girls who have not yet reached puberty should be covered from head to toe, citing instances of child molestation in the ultraconservative kingdom and elsewhere.

Shaikh Abdullah Daoud made the remarks on the satellite channel Al Majd. He says many viewers watching the programme had probably come across instances of sexual harassment as children.

His comments were widely condemned as ‘disturbing’ and harmful to the religion.

Shaikh Daoud cited instances of babies being sexually molested in Saudi Arabia, and quoted unnamed medical and security sources.

He is not affiliated with the government nor considered a senior preacher.

After footage of the interview spread across the internet this week, commentators called for the cleric to be held accountable for his unregulated fatwa.

Judge Mohammad Al Jazlani, a senior cleric, said on Monday that such talk denigrates Islam and may push non-Muslims to view Islam negatively. He urged Saudis to ignore unofficial fatwas, or religious edicts.

Separately, a spokesman for Saudi Arabia’s religious police said online that the force can oblige a woman to cover her face “if her eyes are seditious.” He did not elaborate.

— AP and the Daily Mail