First Published: 2009-05-12

 
Saudi Shiites call for Sheikh Kalbani dismissal
 

Shiites urge Saudi government to sack, try Grand Mosque Imam for ‘inciting hatred’ against their community.

 

Middle East Online

By Habib Trabelsi - PARIS

Under the spotlight

Saudi Shiites called for the dismissal of Sheikh Adel Al-Kalbani, the first black imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, and his trial for inciting hatred against their community.

During a live interview on the BBC Arabic Television last week, Sheikh Kalbani, who was appointed nine months ago as the Imam of the first shrine of Islam, called Shiite clerics "heretics" and insisted they were not entitled to join the Supreme Council of Ulema, the highest religious body in Saudi Arabia.

Shiite Clerics’ ire

These statements have angered religious Shiite dignitaries, writers and journalists, calling for his dismissal and trial. Some even urged the Saudi government "to officially apologise to Shiites."

Even the moderate Shiite leader, Sheikh Hassan Al-Saffar, condemned these "takfiri sentiments" and asked Sheikh Kalbani to be present an "official apology" or be dismissed, while several other Shiite clerics simply called for his dismissal and trial.

Sheikh Abdel Karim Al-Habil accused Sheikh Kalbani of "religious terrorism" and demanded an official apology from the government, stressing that Sheikh Kalbani’s words were "a blow to all the initiatives of inter-religious dialogue" initiated by the King Abdullah.

Sheikh Hassan Al-Nimr Al-Saegh warned against "a possible implosion like what happened in some neighbouring countries or in many other Muslim countries,” with a particular reference to inter-community violence in Iraq.

Threats of prosecution before international tribunals

More recently, some 160 Shiite personalities, including religious and intellectuals, urged the government in a communique to enact a law criminalizing "any religious hatred" in the kingdom while they made it known that "Sheikh Kalbani’s statements should not go unpunished."

The Grand Mosque Imam has also been the target of criticism by many Shiite writers and journalists.

Mohamed Al-Shioukh offered Sunday Shiites a series of practical measures to combat "Takfiri fatwas", especially "the pressure on governments, including that of Riyadh, to compel them to enact anti-takfiri laws” and "lawsuits against takfirists before international tribunals."

The same day, the London-based Arabic daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported that two Shiite associations of "Ahl Al-Beit" in Cairo and Baghdad were about to "prosecute 22 Saudi clerics before international tribunals.

These clerics are accused of "war crimes against humanity, for having promulgated takfiri fatwas, responsible for killing thousands of innocent people, particularly in Iraq,” Mohammed Al-Drini, the President of the one of these associations, told the newspaper.

Embarrassment in Riyadh

The Saudi government has so far been silent about the outcry provoked by Sheikh Kalbani’s statements.

However, last Saturday, Prince Misha’al bin Abdulaziz, Chairman of Allegiance-Pledge Commission and also the King’s half-brother, reiterated that "all Saudis are Muslims." "No to racism, not sectarianism!" Prince Misha’al said in a statement to Okaz.

The next day, Turki Al-Sudeiri, the influential managing director of the pro-government Al-Riyadh newspaper, rejected Sheikh Kalbani, deploring the “shameful” Sunni-Shiite rifts.

"I am stunned by the statements of Sheikh Kalbani who damned Shiite clerics," Sudeiri said.

More explicitly, Sheikh Osama Khayat, the imam-preacher of the Grand Mosque, warned in his Friday sermon against "any behaviour harmful to the unity of Muslims and against any verbal excess.”

"I advise Muslims not to publish statements, make declarations or give interviews on various media, which may harm Muslims," Sheikh Osama said in his weekly sermon.

Sheikh Kalbani on the trail of Sheikh Luhaidan?

Last February, King Abdullah, firmly committed to interfaith dialogue, conducted a major government reshuffle, marked by the dismissal of Sheikh Saleh al-Luhaidan, former head of the Supreme Judicial Council and member of the Supreme Council of Ulema, was the "old guard" of the religious establishment.

The government had been undermined by a fatwa issued last September by Sheikh Luhaidan, which sounded like a call to kill the owners of satellite TV stations which are "spreading depravity and lust."

That is why many internet surfers are wondering if Sheikh Kalbani will sooner or later know the same fate as Sheikh Luhaidan.

Translated and edited by Dr. Saad Guerraoui, a senior editor at Middle East Online

The article is also available in Arabic and French at

www.saudiwave.com

 

British PM joins GCC summit for trade talks

Morocco PM statement on Russia’s ‘destructive’ role in Syria angers Moscow

Kerry accuses right-wing Israelis of sabotaging peace process

Qatar to invest up to $13bn on 'mega projects' in 2017

Moroccan TV programme on battered women provokes outcry

Regime forces seize five Aleppo districts from rebels

Israeli artist erects golden Netanyahu statue in protest

Russia says US stalling on Aleppo rebel pullout

Saudi sentences 15 to death for being Iranian spies

US defence secretary says Mosul battle could end before Trump

US, NATO stress 'unity' as Trump raises doubts

Greece to extradite three Turkish coup officers

Egypt arrests 25 human organ traffickers

Israel far right hails bill to 'legalise' settler homes

Merkel says Aleppo situation ‘disgrace’

Iranian president says sanctions renewal proves US still ‘enemy’

Yemen arrests eight IS suspects in Aden

Turkey arrests opposition advisor over alleged Gulen links

Russia says OPEC, non-OPEC countries to meet in Vienna

Israel government nears deal that could 'legalise' settler homes

Yemen's Hadi would only give way to 'elected' leader

Russia says medic killed, others injured in Aleppo fighting

Greek court rejects extradition of Turkey officers

Sudan court frees 26 protesters

Syria rebels to reject Aleppo withdrawal plan

Libya loyalist forces capture Sirte

Israeli envoy to Turkey resumes work after 2010 fallout

New Iraqi law legitimising militias sparks controversy

Israel lifts ban on parcel post to Gaza

Russia, US to hold talks on rebel pullout from Aleppo

UN appeals for $22.2 billion in global aid

Air strikes kill at least 46 in Syria's Idlib

China warns against obstruction of Iran nuclear deal

First buses take Aleppo residents back to ruined homes

Kurdish restrictions cause ‘unnecessary harm’ to Iraq Yazidis

Heavy fighting shakes eastern Aleppo as army advances

Blocked news website accuses Qatar government of censorship

Yemen prepares assault on Iran backed rebels near key strait

Palestinian Fatah conference ends with boost for Abbas

Egypt court strikes down part of protest law

Syria army advances deeper into east Aleppo

US rules out military intervention in Libya

Saudi Arabia names new Labour Minister, reshuffles councils

Eight arrested in Morocco over alleged ties with IS

Syria regime seizes half of rebel parts of Aleppo