Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh, the highest religious authority in the country, has said the militant groups Islamic State and al Qaeda are “enemy number one of Islam” and not in any way part of the faith.
The mufti has condemned the Islamist groups before but the timing of his statement on Tuesday is significant given the gains by militants in Iraq, Reuters reports.
“Extremist and militant ideas and terrorism which spread decay on Earth, destroying human civilization, are not in any way part of Islam, but are enemy number one of Islam, and Muslims are their first victims,” he said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.
He later compared them to the Kharijite movement in early Islam, which assassinated the Prophet Mohammed’s son-in-law Ali for making compromises to a rival Muslim faction, and has been seen as heretical by most subsequent Muslim sects.
Saudi Arabia follows the extremist Wahhabi school of Sunni Islam but sees Islamist militants, who staged attacks in the kingdom last decade, as posing a threat to its own stability. Earlier this month King Abdullah made a speech attacking militant groups that used Islamic justifications, and urged Muslim scholars and leaders to fight against them.