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IS enemy of Islam: cleric

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, Aug 19, (Agencies): Saudi Arabia’s top cleric said Tuesday that extremism and the ideologies of groups like the Islamic State and al- Qaeda are Islam’s No. 1 enemy and that Muslims have been their first victims. Grand Mufti Sheik Abdul- Aziz Al-Sheik also said in his public statement that terrorism has no place in Islam, and that the danger of extremists lies in their use of Islamic slogans to justify their actions that divide people. “These foreign groups do not belong to Islam and Muslims adhering to it,” he said, adding that unity around the word and rank of Saudi Arabia’s king and crown prince is necessary to avoid the type of chaos seen elsewhere in the region. King Abdullah has been pressing clerics to publicly condemn Islamic extremist groups since the government made it illegal for citizens to fight in conflicts abroad.

Clerics who do not condemn terrorism in traditional Friday sermons could face penalties, such as having their licenses to preach revoked. Local media have reported that the Saudi Interior Ministry may require clerics to pass a security screening before they can preach, and that around 3,500 clerics in Saudi Arabia have been dismissed since 2003 for their sermons.

The Islamic State group’s advances in Iraq and Syria have heightened security concerns in neighboring countries like Saudi Arabia. They have also prompted a number of articles and discussions in the local press about how to confront the spread of “Takfiri” ideology, which shuns anyone who does not adhere to a stringent interpretation of Islam. Saudi Arabia follows a puritanical interpretation of Islam known as Wahhabism. A decade ago al-Qaeda militants launched a string of attacks in the kingdom aimed at toppling the monarchy. A fierce crackdown by Saudi Arabia’s security services forced many militants to flee to neighboring Yemen, which now has one of the world’s most active al-Qaeda branches.

Meanwhile, Iraqi forces battled Sunni militants along a string of fronts on Tuesday, including at Saddam Hussein’s hometown Tikrit, as the United Nations readied a massive aid operation for displaced Iraqis. Kurdish and federal forces, who wrested back control of Iraq’s largest dam, fought jihadists in the country’s north, buoyed by intensifying US air strikes and Western arms deliveries. Other security forces backed by militiamen and tribesmen are also fighting jihadists in flashpoints north, west and south of Baghdad, officials said. The counter-offensives against the militants came as the UN refugee agency said it was launching a major operation this week to help “close to half a million people” who have been displaced. US President Barack Obama hailed the recapture of the Mosul Dam but warned Baghdad that “the wolf is at the door” and said it must move quickly to build an inclusive government.


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