09/07/2020, 17.06
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The imam of Makkah’s Grand Mosque attacked for favouring normalised relations with Israel

Abdulrahman al-Sudais’s latest sermon has sparked controversy and rifts. According to some, it is a prelude to diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel. In reality, he stressed the importance of "healthy” international relations. Trump and King Salman spoke on the phone. The Saudi monarch reiterated the Kingdom’s position: first comes peace with the Palestinians.

Riyadh (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Imam of the Great Mosque of Makkah Abdulrahman al-Sudais has become the centre of a controversy for seemingly justifying the normalisation of relations between Israel and Arab countries.

His latest sermon, last Friday, comes in the wake of the agreement with the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It sparked attacks and heated discussions on social media, with many seeing it as a prelude to an agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

In recent days, many Muslim religious leaders in the Middle East expressed their opposition to normalisation. One of them, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, resigned from the UAE- based Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies in protest against the organisation’s support for normalisation.

In the Friday sermon, the imam of the Grand Mosque in Makkah stressed the importance of dialogue and good relations with non-Muslims, making specific reference to Jews.

He also invited the faithful to avoid "any misconception about correct beliefs in the heart coexisting with having healthy dealings in interpersonal exchanges and international relations.”

Abdulrahman al-Sudais then cited several personal stories from the life of the Prophet Muhammad, in which the latter is seen as nurturing good relations with non-Muslims.

"When the course of healthy human dialogue is neglected, parts of people's civilisations will collide, and the language that will become prevalent is one of violence, exclusion and hatred," Sudais said. 

He went on to stress the importance of obedience to one’s leaders and authorities, and to be aware of "misguided factions and groups". 

Saudi Arabia and Israel do not have diplomatic relations. Saudi authorities recently said that a comprehensive peace agreement was one of their priorities. Establishing diplomatic relations with Israel was however conditional on solving the Palestinian question.

Over the weekend, King Salman had a telephone conversation with US President Donald Trump, during which he reiterated Riyadh's position, i.e. a permanent solution to the Palestinian question as the starting point of an "Arab peace initiative", which would include relations with Israel.

Despite the lack of official diplomatic relations, Saudi Arabia and Israel have been engaged in a political and economic rapprochement, especially aimed at containing Iran.

Middle East Eye recently revealed that Saudi Arabia's strongman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, pulled out of a planned visit to Washington DC to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Trump’s Mideast adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner had been pushing for the meeting to relaunch bin Salman's image as a young Arab peacemaker and shore up regional support for the deal between Israel and the UAE.

Bin Salman’s father, King Salman, pulled the plug on the meeting, saying that any peace agreement with Israel was contingent on a two-state deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

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