Abu Dhabi: Saudi Arabia’s grand mufti has heaped praise on Yousuf Al Qaradawi, the Sunni cleric, for a speech attacking Hizbollahin a rare show of unity between the Saudi religious establishment and a leading figure in the Muslim Brotherhood.
In a sign that the Syrian conflict is bringing rival Sunni clerics closer, the grand mufti, Shaikh Abdelaziz Al Al Shaikh, said on Thursday that he was informed of statements by “our brother” Shaikh Al Qaradawi in which he agreed with the opposition to Hizbollah by Saudi clerics.
Shaikh Qaradawi is considered by some to be the spiritual leader of the Arab uprisings because of his early support of the protests in Tunisia and Egypt. He and other brotherhood members are viewed with suspicion by the Saudi clerical establishment, which believes that religious figures should not seek political power.
Along with the majority of Sunni clerics, Shaikh Qaradawi backed Hizbollah and its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, as a symbol of resistance against Israel’s occupation of south Lebanon and in its 2006 war against the militant group. However, in a highly charged speech delivered in Doha, the Qatari capital, last week, the shaikh rescinded his support for the group.
“He, god save him, changed his opinion and applauded our historic views regarding this hateful, sectarian party,” the mufti was quoted as saying in comments carried by Saudi state media. “In this historic moment, we declare our support for the shaikh [Qaradawi] and call upon all Muslim clerics to take steps to stop the aggression of this hateful, sectarian party - and whoever is behind it.”
In his speech, Shaikh Qaradawi called for jihad in Syria as he lashed out at Hizbollah for fighting alongside the Syrian regime against the rebels, describing the group as “the party of Satan”.
“The leader of the party of the Satan comes to fight the Sunnis... Now we know what the Iranians want. They want continued massacres to kill Sunnis,” Shaikh Qaradawi said. “I defended the so-called Nasrallah and his party, the party of tyranny... in front of clerics in Saudi Arabia... it seems that the clerics of Saudi Arabia were more mature than me.”
Saudi Arabia and its religious establishment have long been wary of Iranian-backed Hizbollah, even when the party was considered a symbol of resistance against Israel by most Sunnis in the region.