JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti, the highest religious authority in the birthplace of Islam, issued a condemnation of demonstrations that appeared to blame Iran for unrest among Shi‘ite Muslims in Gulf Arab states.
“The Arab Gulf is being targeted by attacks seeking to discredit religion and eliminate the material interests and wealth it holds,” Al-Watan newspaper quoted Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Abdullah Al al-Sheikh as saying in his Friday sermon in Riyadh.
Al-Sheikh warned people not to follow “enemies” who called on them to protest, saying they aimed to divide the people of the region.
Unrest has erupted among majority Shi‘ites in Bahrain and minority Shi‘ites in Eastern Saudi Arabia in the last two years. Sunni authorities have repeatedly blamed Shi‘ite Iran, which denies involvement.
Tension has also run high over Iran’s disputed nuclear programme, which Gulf Arab rulers fear could help Iran acquire nuclear weapons.
The al-Saud dynasty rules in alliance with clerics who back the royal family and have wide influence over Saudi society.
Al-Watan said al-Sheikh also lashed out at what he called “satellite channels that broadcast evil” and urged owners to use them to promote security and obey their country’s rulers.
Reporting by Asma Alsharif; editing by Andrew Roche