Last month, Saudi Arabia’s highest religious authority, the Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Shaikhit, announced it is “necessary to destroy all the churches in the region. There are not to be two religions in the [Arabian] Peninsula.”This fatwa was met with dismay in the Western and Christian worlds. Via Meadia and others picked up the story. Now a senior Islamic leader has weighed in on the issue.Mehmet Görmez, the head of Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate, had this to say to Sheikh Abdulaziz:
We strongly believe that this [the Grand Mufti’s] declaration has left dark shadows upon the concept of rights and freedoms in Islam that have always been observed on the basis of its sources, and it will not be recorded as an opinion of Islam…We, therefore, entirely reject the aforementioned opinion and hope that it will be amended as soon as possible…We believe that the mentioned opinion is evidently against the aims of Islam, especially in a region that witnessed the descent of the Holy Quran and the first application of the Sunnah of the Prophet. It is against the Muslim tradition’s established practice of respecting non-Muslims’ rights as well…The opinion of the grand mufti also obviously contradicts the agreements that the Prophet of Islam signed with the non-Muslim communities both in Medina and in the region. It also plainly overlooks the right of immunity given by Islam to the holy shrines and temples of other religions on the basis of the rule of law throughout its history.
We are pleased that an important Islamic leader has slammed the Grand Mufti in this way, taking him down not only on political and moral grounds but on Islamic grounds as well.The Middle East needs more tolerance, not less.