Saudi Arabia’s top cleric says Iran’s leaders ‘not Muslims’

Saudi Arabia’s top cleric is revving up the kingdom’s rhetoric against Iran, saying in comments published today that Tehran’s leaders are “not Muslims,” in response to rancorous remarks from Iran’s supreme leader.

The remarks by Grand Mufti Abdul-Aziz Al-Sheik come a day after Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused Saudi authorities of killing Muslims injured during last year’s crush of crowds at the hajj pilgrimage.

In this Sept. 9, 2010 file photo, Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, and head of the Council of Senior Religious Scholars, Sheik Abdul-Aziz Al-Sheik, prays at the Imam Turki bin Abdullah mosque in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia photo credit: AP/Hassan Ammar)
In this Sept. 9, 2010 file photo, Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, and head of the Council of Senior Religious Scholars, Sheik Abdul-Aziz Al-Sheik, prays at the Imam Turki bin Abdullah mosque in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (AP/Hassan Ammar)

The top Saudi cleric is quoted by a Jeddah newspaper as saying that Khamenei’s remarks are “not surprising” because Iranians are descendants of “Majuws”— a term that refers to Zoroastrians and those who worship fire. Zoroastrianism is a monotheistic religion predating Christianity and Islam and was the dominant religion in Persia before the Arab conquest.

“We must understand they are not Muslims, for they are the descendants of Majuws, and their enmity toward Muslims, especially the Sunnis, is very old,” Al-Sheik says.

The September 2015 stampede and crush of pilgrims killed at least 2,426 people, according to an Associated Press count. Iran had the highest of death toll of any country, with the loss of 464 pilgrims.

— AP

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