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Iraqi terrorists are Islam's enemy, Saudi cleric warns

| Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, 11:39 p.m.
AFP/Getty Images
(FILES) - A file picture taken on March 15, 2008 shows Saudi Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh listening to a speech of Saudi King in the Saudi Capital Riyadh. Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh blasted Al-Qaeda and Islamic State jihadists as 'enemy number one' of Islam, in a statement issued in Riyadh on August 15, 2014. AFP PHOTO/HASSAN AMMARHASSAN AMMAR/AFP/Getty Images

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia's top cleric said Tuesday that extremism and the ideologies of groups like the Islamic State and al-Qaida 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.

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