DUBAI: Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti, the highest religious authority in the birthplace of Islam, has condemned suicide bombings as grave crimes, reiterating his stance in unusually strong language.
The Saudi cleric, whose views influence many Sunni Muslims respectful of the kingdom's strict version of Islam, denounced suicide attacks after al-Qaeda's 2001 assault on US cities, but his latest comments recast the message in sharp terms.
"Killing oneself is a grave crime and a grave sin," Sheikh Abdul-Aziz Al al-Sheikh was quoted as saying by the pan-Arab, Saudi-owned Al Hayat newspaper yesterday.
"Those who kill themselves with explosives are criminals who are hastening their way to hell."
Nearly two months ago, the mufti, who is appointed and paid by the Saudi government, urged Saudis not to travel to Syria to join Sunni rebels battling to unseat President Bashar al-Assad.
Riyadh broadly backs the rebels, but with the rise of Islamist militant factions in Syria, it has grown increasingly worried that Saudis who fight for the anti-Assad cause may one day return home to wage a jihad in the kingdom.
Saudis who fought for al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Iraq staged a violent campaign in their homeland from 2003-2006 in a failed attempt to topple the ruling al-Saud dynasty.
Although some prominent Saudi clerics spoke approvingly of suicide attacks on non-Muslims more than a decade ago, most have since argued against them.
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Original headline: Saudi mufti says suicide is a sin
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