Saudi Arabia’s radical Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al Sheikh will not be delivering this year’s Hajj sermon, Saudi media have announced.
AP cited the Al-Riyadh newspaper as saying on Saturday that Al Sheikh will not be delivering this year’s speech, without explaining why.
It will be the first time in more than three decades that someone other than Al Sheikh will deliver the sermon. Al Sheikh had continuously delivered the sermon since 1981.
The daily said Sheikh Saleh bin Hamid, the previous chairman of the so-called Shura Council and a current royal adviser, will replace Al Sheikh in the sermon, which will come on Sunday.
Earlier, the radical Saudi mufti had sparked controversy by claiming that Iranian Shias were “not Muslims.”
Al Sheikh preaches Wahhabism, a radical “ideology” that inspires Takfiri terrorists across the world.
His remarks about Iranian Shias were met by a response from Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who pointed to the link between Wahhabism and Takfiri terrorism and said there indeed existed no similarity between the Islam practiced by Iranians and that by the Wahhabis.
“Indeed; no resemblance between Islam of Iranians & most Muslims & bigoted extremism that Wahhabi top cleric & Saudi terror masters preach,” Zarif tweeted after the remarks by Al Sheikh.
Iranian pilgrims will not be attending this year’s Hajj pilgrimage over concerns that the Saudi authorities are incompetent to provide security for the pilgrims.
A crush during the Hajj rituals last year killed about 4,700 pilgrims, including 465 Iranians. The incident was caused by the mismanagement of Saudi authorities, who had blocked roads and directed two columns of pilgrims toward one another from opposite directions.
Saudi Arabia has refused to update an early death toll of 770 that it provided for the crush despite surging fatality figures from individual countries whose nationals had been among the victims of the crush.
Just days before the crush, a massive construction crane had collapsed into the Grand Mosque in Mecca, killing more than 100 people, including a number of Iranians, and leaving over 200 others wounded.