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Saudi ex-Imam of Mecca 'no longer considers Shia Muslims as heretics' Open in fullscreen

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Saudi ex-Imam of Mecca 'no longer considers Shia Muslims as heretics'

The cleric changed his view after reading a book[Twitter]

Date of publication: 25 March, 2019

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The cleric and former imam of the Grand Mosque said despite his previous opinion on Shia scholars being apostates, he changed his mind after reading a book.
A prominent Saudi cleric has publically backtracked on his view which considered Shia Muslim scholars non-Muslims, going against a mainstream belief peddled by many clerics in the conservative kingdom.

Adel al-Kalbani, former imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, revealed his newly-polished views during an interview with Saudi broadcaster MBC.

The cleric said despite his previous opinion on Shia scholars being 'heretics', he changed his mind after reading a book by a former Shura Council member and a professor of Sharia at Umm al-Qura University, Hatem al-Awni, which discussed the issue of 'heresy'.

Kalbani reportedly intended to publish an article in which he announced his view of Shia scholars but failed to do so after government pressure.

"I no longer declare apostasy on those who believe in one God, eat our [halal] meat and prostrate toward our Qibla [direction of Mecca],” he said.

"This is what I owe God today - no one forced me to say anything and no one spoke to me,” he added.

The remarks comes as Riyadh continues its mission to to adopt a "moderate" state-sanctioned interpretation of Islam, with women recently being granted the right to drive.

In 2017,  the kingdom said it would establish an authority to monitor interpretations of the Prophet Mohammed's teachings to prevent them being used to justify violence or terrorism.

Despite the efforts to modernise, senior Wahhabi clerics - who strongly influence the royal family - endorse execution by beheading for offences that include apostasy, adultery and sorcery. They also often describe Shia Muslims as heretics.

While activists online hailed the cleric for his newfound enlightment, many questioned whether it would be enough to fix the damage already caused by years of anti-Shia narrative that has inspired large-scale attacks against the community worldwide.

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