by WorldTribune Staff, September 7, 2016
The top religious leader of Sunni Saudi Arabia further stoked the flames of tension with Shi’ite Iran on Sept. 6 by proclaiming that the leaders of the Islamic Republic in an area once known as Persia are not Muslims.
“We must understand that they are not Muslims, as they are the descendants of the Magus, and their animosity towards Muslims – especially the Sunnis – is very ancient,”Grand Mufti Abd al-Aziz Al ash-Sheikh said.
The mufti’s comments came a day after Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused Saudi authorities of killing injured Muslims during the Hajj tragedy in Mecca last year in which at least 2,426 people died in a stampede while visiting Islam’s holiest site.
Khamenei on Sept. 5 said that “the heartless Saudi murderers trapped the injured together with the dead, and refused to give them medical treatment or even just a drink of water. They murdered them.”
In response, the Saudi Grand Mufti said Khamenei’s comments were “not surprising,” as the Iranians are the descendants of the Zoroastrians, a religious group that had assimilated elements of Islam and Christianity before being conquered by the Arabs.
Negotiations between the two countries regarding security arrangements for this year’s Hajj collapsed in May, leading Iran to declare that it will not send its citizens on the pilgrimage that begins at the end of this week.
Prior to the Hajj incident, tensions between the two countries had already been high as the two support opposing sides in the civil wars in Syria and Yemen. Saudi severed diplomatic ties with Iran earlier this year after Iranians attacked Saudi diplomatic facilities inside Iran.
Khamenei has urged Muslims throughout the world to challenge the status quo in which Saudi Arabia controls the holy sites in Mecca and Medina. He claims that the Saudis foster religious divisions and arm “the evil infidel groups,” referring to extreme Sunni organizations like ISIL, who see the Shi’ites and any other Muslim minority group as infidels deserving death.